NHRA Don Schumacher Racing 350th victory
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Matt Hagan gives Don Schumacher Racing its 350th NHRA victory

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INDIANAPOLIS — Funny Car driver Matt Hagan gave Don Schumacher Racing its 350th victory, beating teammate Jack Beckman in the final round of the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals.

The rain-delayed July event was completed during final qualifying Saturday for the DENSO Spark Plugs U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway.

Hagan raced to his second victory of the season and 35th overall, making a 3.919-second pass at 328.54 mph in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat.

“This is amazing and what a huge milestone to get for Don,” Hagan said about the 350th NHRA victory for the team owner of Don Schumacher Racing. “I was probably as nervous as I am running for a championship because you want to get it done for Mopar. This car is running so well, I’m just trying to do my job on the starting line.

“Don has been a big part of my career and to get a Wally on a Saturday, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Justin Ashley raced to his first Top Fuel win, going 3.958 at 267.96 to beat T.J. Zizzo in the final round of the Summernationals. Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Matt Smith won the $25,000 Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle all-star bonus race Saturday, knocking off Scotty Pollacheck with a 7.244 at 175.75.

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Pollacheck (Pro Stock Motorcycle) topped qualifying for the U.S. Nationals.

Langdon had a 3.728 at 313.22, Johnson a 3.878 at 326.40 in a Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Anderson a 6.549 at 209.52 from Friday in a Camaro, and Pollacheck rode his EBR to a 6.789 at 200.29 to breakithe track speed record.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.