Hagan Heroics = NHRA Points Podium
In a very dramatic turn of fate – Matt Hagan has vaulted into the overall NHRA Mello Yello World Championship points lead for Fuel Funny Cars following a dramatic and speedy version of the NHRA Nationals at Pennsylvania’s Maple Grove Raceway…….
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the fourth of six playoff events during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship.
Hagan crossed the finish line in spectacular fashion when his Rocky Boots Dodge Charger’s engine exploded following a 4.333-second pass at 215.00 mph, defeating Tommy Johnson Jr. in the final round. He was appearing in his third Countdown final and picked up his second win in the playoffs.
Matt Hagan drove his Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) Dodge Charger R/T to a memorable title win at the 30th annual National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Nationals at Reading, as well as the points lead in the “Countdown to the Championship” with just two national events left in the six-event playoff series. The title win was Hagan’s first at Reading, a second in the playoffs, his third of the season and the lucky number 13th of his career as evidenced by turning the win lights on while crossing the finish line in a fireball.
“It is just a wild way to win,” said Hagan, who took a 36 point lead over 16-time NHRA Champion John Force with the title victory. “That’s probably the wildest way I’ve ever won out here on the NHRA circuit. Getting the points lead is huge but we showed up here to win a race. The points lead can change but these Wally [trophies] don’t, so we did what we set out to do this morning and that was turn on four win lights.”
“Congratulations to Matt Hagan from everyone at Mopar on another big win and the points lead in the Countdown,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO of Mopar, Chrysler Group LLC’s service, parts and customer-care brand. “What a great way to show everyone that the 50 year legacy of the HEMI continues to live on by winning playoff races and making Mopar a serious contender for this year’s NHRA championship once again.”
Hagan began his race day assault with a 4.035-second elapsed time pass at 319.37 miles per hour with a solo run on his first lap after Tony Pedregon couldn’t get his Funny Car started. He then beat his DSR teammate Jack Beckman with a 4.039/315.05 while his opponent lost traction. In the semifinal match up against Alexis DeJoria, Hagan used a holeshot and a 4.043/319.60 pass to reach the strip ahead of a quicker 4.043/319.64 to advance to his third final round appearance of the playoffs.
In an exciting all-Mopar final, DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. lost traction early as Hagan’s Rocky Boots Mopar powered past before his fiery finish.
“The guys did a great job today,” said Hagan. “Our guys, they are busting their humps out here and they didn’t make any mistakes. They’re flawless. You can’t have mistakes in the Countdown and they aren’t making them. I’m grateful to have a great racecar underneath me.
With his runner-up finish, Tommy Johnson Jr. moved his DSR Make-A-Wish Mopar into fourth place behind rivals John Force and Courtney Force.
Hagan’s major move to the points lead came following a shocking round one development when both John Force and daughter Courtney Force, who entered Reading one-two in the points, both fell in the first round: John to Bob Tasca III and Courtney to Jeff Arend.
Seven-time world champ Schumacher extended his Top Fuel points lead after he held off Brittany Force in a thrilling final round where both cars lost traction early and were on and off the throttle all the way downtrack. It was the third Countdown victory this season for Schumacher, his fifth win of the season and 77th of his career. Schumacher, who has five career victories at this event, increased his series lead to 134 over Doug Kalitta heading to Las Vegas.
“Luckily I don’t have the give up attitude,” said Schumacher, who took early round wins over Bob Vandergriff, Steve Torrence and Kalitta. “I got back in it. I think I pedaled it twice and finally got it to hook up a little bit. I’ve been working on that a long time. That’s the first one of those I’ve won in a long time, I’ve been taken a beating. You’ve got to win those.”
Force was contesting her fourth final of the season and is still seeking her first career win. Her Castrol EDGE dragster was strong all weekend, defeating Terry McMillen and two-time season winners Richie Crampton and Spencer Massey en route to the final.
In Pro Stock, Brogdon secured his second career victory with a 6.516 at 212.13 in the Owens Corning Chevy Camaro, defeating Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson in the final. Brogdon won from the No. 11 qualifying position, upsetting Richie Stevens in the opening round and then knocking off series points leader Jason Line and four-time world champ Greg Anderson in the next two rounds.
“I think that we can’t be taken for granted,” said Brogdon, who picked up his first career win at Bristol last season. “We’re working on hopefully a three-year deal with Owens Corning and this win definitely had to help.”
Johnson was looking for his fifth win of the season in the Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart. Despite the loss, he moved to fourth in Pro Stock points. Points leader Line exits Maple Grove Raceway with a 35-point advantage over Reading No. 1 qualifier and semifinalist Erica Enders-Stevens.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Krawiec picked up his fourth win of 2014 with a 6.793 at 197.13 on the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson, beating Scotty Pollacheck. It was Krawiec’s 27th career victory and third at Maple Grove Raceway. He cut teammate Andrew Hines’ points lead to 25.
“We were joking around that it looks like it’s going to come down to a two hog (Harley) race instead of a two horse race,” said Krawiec, who beat Shawn Gann, Adam Arana and defending world champ Matt Smith en route to the final. “I knew that this was an important day for me personally. If I wanted to stay in championship contention I have to make sure I can make up every round.”
Pollacheck was 0-4 in previous final round appearances and was trying to reverse that trend aboard his Petrolhead Apparel Buell. Despite the loss, the Matt Smith Racing driver moved to sixth in points and is within striking distance of fourth place Steve Johnson and fifth place Smith.
Event Essentials: 30th NHRA Nationals (Oct. 2-5th, 2014)
Name E.T. MPH Career Win
Top Fuel: Winner: Tony Schumacher 4.440 291.13 77th
Runner-Up: Brittney Force 4.652 269.94 Low ET: Doug Kalitta 3.718 Top Speed: Brittney Force 329.91 Bump Spot: 7.358 Funny Car Winner: Matt Hagan 4.333 215.00 13th
Runner-Up: Tommy Johnson Jr. 5.456 151.31 Low ET: Cruz Pedregon 3.991 Top Speed: John Force 323.97 Bump Spot: 5.029 Pro Stock Winner: Roger Brogdon 6.516 212.16 2nd
Runner-Up: Allen Johnson 10.27 90.64 Low ET: Erica Enders-Stevens 6.465 Top Speed: Greg Anderson 213.60 Bump Spot: 6.599 Pro Stock Motorcycle Winner: Eddie Krawiec 6.793 197.13 27th
Runner-Up: Scotty Pollacheck 6.853 193.82 Low ET: Andrew Hines 6.770 Top Speed Andrew Hines 197.71 Bump Spot 7.309
The NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs continues Oct. 30-Nov. 2 with the NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown
Double Victories = Lucas Oil World Titles!
In the final results from the 30th Annual Auto-Plus NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway, Chris Demke, Tujunga, Calif., and Steve Harker, Gainesville, GA., took home the wins in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny car respectively.
After just winning the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals and clinching the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series World Championship on Saturday, Demke worked his way through the field and ran 5.262 seconds at 272.45 mph in his final round victory over Duane Shields, Boulder City, Nev., who clocked in at 5.392 seconds at 255.92 mph. Demke had a great reaction time of 0.005 off the line and made another great looking pass down the track to take the win. In the first round of eliminations, Demke added to his record of scoring his season best elapsed time and speed of 5.217 seconds at 277.94 mph. This was Demke’s fifth national event win this year and his 15th Top Alcohol Dragster win of his career.
Harker, who also won the Pep Boys NHRA Carolina Nationals, faced off against John Lombardo Jr., Brea, Calif., and posted a winning run of 5.429 seconds, 267.69 mph in his ’13 Mustang. Lombardo drove to a 10.494 second, 80.78 mph lap for his runner up finish. Harker has one previous win against Lombardo and this was the first time they faced each other in a final round. Lombardo had the starting line advantage over Harker but Lombardo smoked the tires off the starting line. Harker had a great looking pass down the track scored his career best ET for his second national event win of the weekend and his third national event win in a row. This was also his eighth national event victory. Harker faced off with Dale Brand in the semifinals as both drivers were in contention for winning the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series World Championship in Top Alcohol Funny Car. Brand had the lead in points over Harker coming into the event, but with Harker’s win over Brand in the semi-final round he was able to pass Brand in points and clinch the National Championship in Top Alcohol Funny Car.
In Comp Eliminator, Arnie Martel, Tewksbury, Mass., won the trophy by taking out Joseph Carnasciale, Sunbury, Pa. Martel, with his 0.016 reaction time made a winning run of 7.665 seconds at 159.44 mph. Carnasciale posted a runner up finish of 8.873 seconds at 139.99 mph. Martel received his 14th national event win in Comp Eliminator with this win over Carnasciale.
Another driver adding another win to their already long list of national event wins is Dan Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y. Fletcher faced Doug Chervanik, Sunbury, Pa., and posted a winning run of 10.903 seconds at 98.29 mph in his ’69 Camaro. Chervanik went red on the tree and Fletcher picked up his 91st national event win and his 47th in Super Stock.
Other racers visiting the winner’s circle this weekend were Russel Linke, Old Bridge, NJ., in Stock Eliminator; Steve Martel, Schaefierstown, Pa., in Super Comp; and Jason Lynch, Pleasant View, Tenn., in Super Gas.
Posted with files from Pat Caporali & NHRA Communications
Photos by: Bruce Biegler – Steve Embling – Dave DeAngelis
To view DragRaceCanada’s extensive Photo Gallery from Maple Grove Raceway click: HERE