Matt Hagan drove to his first win of the season and backed up his national record-setting run in the process as eliminations came to an end Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Antron Brown, Kurt Johnson, and Eddie Krawiec were also winners in their respective categories at the first of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoffs to determine the world championships.
Hagan began his week of domination Friday night when he became the first Funny Car driver in NHRA history to make a three-second run. After taking the No. 1 qualifier with a 3.995-second run, Hagan then backed up that pass with a first-round win Sunday at 4.018 seconds to secure the national record and the 20 bonus points that come with it. Hagan then powered his DieHard Dodge Charger past points leader Mike Neff in the final round with a run of 4.130 seconds at 301.07 mph to secure his fourth win and move up to the second spot in the points standings, just 22 points behind Neff.
“It’s something else to sit in a race car when it has that kind of potential,” said Hagan. “This is the third national record we’ve set with this car, and that’s phenomenal to me. To have a group of guys around you like [crew chief] Tommy DeLago, [assistant crew chief] Glen Huszar, and all the guys who beat this thing up and put it back together is phenomenal. It’s truly a fairytale deal to go out there, set the record, and win the race.”
Hagan’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman also set the new national record for speed this weekend with a pass of 318.99 mph but lost to Hagan in the semifinal round. Countdown to the Championship contenders John Force, Robert Hight, Bob Tasca III, and Ron Capps all lost in the first round of eliminations.
In Top Fuel, Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil winner Brown continued his streak of success when he held off teammate Spencer Massey in the final round to secure his third race win in a row. Brown powered his Matco Tools dragster to a 3.784 at 325.14 mph to secure his fifth win of the season and take over the points lead for the first time this season.
“The radar is on us now, so we have to dig harder with all these guys gunning for us,” said Brown. “When we raced Tony Schumacher [in the semifinals], we had nothing to lose. He was running on a whole ’nother level. Our Aaron’s/Matco Tools guys threw the kitchen sink at it and threw the whole tractor trailer with it. We threw our other tractor trailer at it again for the final.”
Brown’s Don Schumacher Racing teammate Schumacher set the national record for speed when he drove his U.S. Army dragster to a 327.90 mph pass, and Brown’s other teammate and runner-up finisher Massey took over the second spot in the points standings, just 16 points behind Brown.
In Pro Stock, after more than three years since his last race win, Johnson held off Jason Line to get the win. Johnson powered his Johnson Racing Chevy Cobalt to a 6.545 at 210.97 mph past points leader Line to get his 40th career win.
“It’s been a real battle, and we finally figured out that maybe we needed a new car,” said Johnson. “I brought this car out in Bristol and didn’t qualify, but we’ve been adapting, and it really started to thunder in Brainerd. It’s totally different than anything we’ve had since about 2003, but I think we know what to do with it now, and it’s proved itself today.”
Krawiec kept his Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson at the top of the pack all weekend when he picked up the No. 1 qualifier Saturday and raced to his third win of the season Sunday. Krawiec rode to a 6.870 at 196.42 mph past runner-up Karen Stoffer and strengthen his points lead over the competition.
“I came into the Countdown as the points leader, and my attitude changed,” said Krawiec. “I struggled a lot on the Tree this year and gave up a couple of race wins in my mind. I feel like I’ve been riding well but not racing well. When you have low e.t. and set national records but lose rounds because of bad riding, it wears on you. I shook it off coming into the Countdown and told myself, ‘You’re leading the points. You’re obviously a good rider and a good racer.’ ”
Leah Pruett raced to her first win in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Pruett drove her ProCare Rx ’10 Mustang to a 5.843-second pass at 253.52 mph to defeat her R2B2 Racing teammate Melanie Troxel and collect her first Pro Mod career win at the same track where Troxel collected her first Pro Mod win a year earlier.
“It’s just now starting to sink in,” said Pruett. “I think I’ll really realize it when Roger Burgess flies in and kicks the party off. Nothing really compares to this. This is my first national event win. Having the [Nostalgia Funny Car] championship last year was amazing, but a national event win doesn’t get any better than this.”
Current points leader Khalid Balooshi lost in the first round of eliminations to Donald Martin, and second-place driver in the points standings, Danny Rowe, lost just one round later to Pete Farber.
The Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series racers will return for their final race of the season, the NHRA Nevada Nationals Oct. 27-30 at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
In NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series action, Michelle Furr just missed scoring a rare double, winning in Super Comp and finishing as the runner-up in Super Street. Furr ran right on the 8.90 index to defeat Shane Carr for the Super Comp Wally. In the Super Street title round, Furr broke out while Dennis Hill ran an on-the-index 10.90 to turn on the win light.
Van Puckett defeated Glen Treadwell in Comp. Joe Tysinger won Super Stock over Ronnie Courtney. Victor Guilmino III bested Brian Rowe for Stock honors, and Jason Kenny defeated Sherman Adcock Jr. in the Super Gas final.
Friday: Hagan makes history on way to provisional FC No. 1; Dixon, Line, Krawiec also pace opening day
Saturday: Schumacher moves to top of TF order; Hagan, Line, Krawiec remain No. 1 in other classes