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Matt Hagan remains No. 1 in Funny Car as four-way title fight looms Sunday

Matt Hagan held onto his Friday No. 1 in Funny Car as teams mostly put away their hero tune-ups in favor of getting ready for a warmer Sunday as the four-way championship battle heads into Sunday's final eliminations.
16 Nov 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Race coverage
Matt Hagan

Matt Hagan held onto his Friday No. 1 in Funny Car as teams mostly put away their hero tune-ups in favor of getting ready for a warmer Sunday. Jack Beckman was the only one who got a real good swing at Hagan’s field-leading 3.872 with a 3.876 in the cooling air of the final session.

Eight of the 16 qualified made their run in that final qualifying session to set the field and another two made their best run of the meet in Q3 after the majority of the team -– save for Hagan’s Dickie Venables-led group -– struggled Friday and Venables used Saturday as a tune-up day for Sunday.

“I asked Dickie if we were going to go for some more qualifying [bonus] points today and he said not at all; we’d already made sure that we did what we needed to do -– to not let Robert [Hight] put another round on us –- and so he was just going to back everything down and try to figure out where the racetrack was going to be and where he could push," said Hahan. "Our runs were real safe, very raceable. I’m proud to see him do that; he’s a smart racer and the reason we’ve won so many races. I love that he’s a racer at heart and not out here just trying to stroke his ego trying to throw down all of the time.

“I’m excited. I’m hungry for it. We all live to be in this position but we’re not going to do anything stupid, We’re just going to race our racecar and stay in our lane and do what we’ve been doing to get here.”

Beckman ended up No. 2, slipping by Tim Wilkerson, who had the same e.t. as a slower speed Friday, while Shawn Langdon slipped one spot to No. 3 after failing to improve on his Friday best of 3.893.

Points leader Robert Hight, who struggled through three qualifying rounds with a best of 4.199, went from No. 14 to No. 5 with a 3.895. He’ll take on his boss, John Force, in round one. Force sits fourth in points, 76 out of the lead.

Entering Sunday, Hight still leads the points by 38 over Beckman and 44 over Hagan.

Bob Tasca III went from outside the field to No. 5 with a 3.910 that was the best of Q3 then improved to a 3.902 in Q4.

Reigning world champ J,R. Todd, who clinched his championship a year ago at this event, was almost a spectator this Sunday as his DHL Toyota had been bumped from the field by the time he pulled up for his final pass. Jon Oberhofer and Todd Smith calmly tuned the champ to a 3.972 to jump into the middle of the pack.

Blake Alexander, who had been in the field with his opening pass of 4.017, solidified his spot with a 3.998 in Q4 to make it 11 three-second qualifiers.

Jonnie Lindberg, runner-up at the most recent stop on the tour, in Las Vegas, barley held onto his spot in this field with a last-ditch, pedaling 4.394 in Jim Head’s entry. Steven Densham, son of class veteran Gary, also qualified for the second time in a row in his young career, slotting No. 14 with a 4.12 best.