BROWNSBURG, Indiana – Matt Hagan finished what he started.
The former two-time NHRA Funny Car champ came into this weekend’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals with 20 career wins – but he had never won the sport’s biggest race.
Scratch that off his bucket list now.
Hagan started Monday’s final eliminations at Lucas Oil Raceway as the No. 1 qualifier, showed great consistency and power throughout all five rounds of qualifying, and then capped things off by finally earning his first career win in the U.S. Nationals.
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When asked his reaction to winning the race, Hagan channeled wrestler Rik Flair’s trademark line: “Wooooooooo!”
But seriously ….
“We made it right here at Indy when it counts,” said Hagan, who defeated defending series champ Del Worsham in the final round. “I’m just tickled to death to be up here. This is something I’ve been wanting to check off the list for a long time.
“This is something incredible, something we’ve been trying to accomplish for the last nine years with DSR (Don Schumacher Racing). It’s not an easy task. But we have the parts and pieces and people around me – especially (crew chief) Dickie Venables, who put a great hot rod under me all weekend.”
Hagan won his third race of the season with a strong performance of 3.964 seconds at 327.43 mph. Worsham was a very close second at 3.958 seconds at 324.20 mph.
“The car was just on kill the whole weekend,” Hagan said. “That’s what it takes to win championships, to win races. I really feel this car is really starting to peak at the right time.”
Hagan took home $100,000 for the win, while Worsham won $30,000. Hagan also made it a sweep for Don Schumacher Racing in the two Nitro classes (Tony Schumacher won the Top Fuel race Monday).
“I can’t believe we won the U.S. Nationals,” Hagan said. “I’m on cloud nine right now. It’ll probably take me a couple days to process.”
More importantly, Hagan enters the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship as the No. 3 seed (of 10 drivers).
After earning the 22nd win of his Funny Car career, Hagan now looks ahead to going for his third championship (won in 2011 and 2014).
“Championships define careers,” Hagan said “This is a huge race and something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. But championships to me, is what it all comes down to.
“I’ve been able to win a few (championships), but I’ve also been able to set some milestones in history and win a lot of races. But people remember the championships.”
Hagan was also philosophical about how the entire day played out.
“It was a bad-ass show for the fans,” Hagan said. “They got what they paid for today. … There’s a lot of things that define great people and great moments. … When those moments come into play, you can’t fold. You have to be that person that stands out and makes it happen.”
Among other highlights from the four rounds of eliminations:
* Ron Capps remains the leader as the points are reset for the Countdown. Capps will enter the first race at Charlotte in two weeks with 2,110 points. Del Worsham is second (2,080 points), followed by Matt Hagan (2,070), Courtney Force (2,060), Jack Beckman (2,050), Robert Hight (2,040), Tommy Johnson Jr. (2,030), 16-time Funny Car champion John Force (2,020), Tim Wilkerson (2,010) and Alexis DeJoria (2,000).
* It was a rough day for John Force Racing. Sixteen-time Funny Car champion John Force lost in the first round to Chad Head. Daughter Courtney Force and JFR president Robert Hight both lost in the quarterfinals. Courtney was defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr., while Hight fell to Hagan.
* Hagan becomes the 30th different U.S. Nationals winner in Funny Car. He earned $100,000, while Worsham won $30,000.
* Alexis DeJoria made her return to competition after missing the last two races due to a fractured pelvis suffered in a crash a month ago at Sonoma. DeJoria lost in the first round of eliminations Monday to teammate Del Worsham.