After stumbling in the first two races of the Countdown to the Championship, winning just one round, the Mopar team of driver Matt Hagan and tuner Dickie Venables have come alive and inserted themselves right back into the points battle with his second straight win. In front of a packed house that included executives from both of his primary sponsors, Dodge and Pennzoil, Hagan defeated upset-minded Jonnie Lindberg in the final, 3.87 to 3.94, to climb to third in points.
After early outs in Reading and St. Louis that dropped them to ninth in points, the DSR Dodge Charger Hellcat Widebody entry came alive in Charlotte with a semifinal finish then won all four rounds two weeks ago in Dallas to keep themselves in the title fight.
“A think a lot of people wrote us off after St. Louis,” said Hagan. “Everyone was kind of moping around and when we bounced back it was, ‘Wow, guys, we can still do this. I’m going to get my pom-poms out and start cheering because we’re still in this thing. It’s hard to win back to back races and to do this just shows you what we’re capable of. I've learned over 10 years of driving that you have to believe in your abilities and hone your skills, and if it's meant to be =, it's meant to be, Everyone around you has to do their job to their fullest extent but all I can control is leaving the starting line on time, keeping it in the groove, and turning on that win light.
“I’m excited, man, just fired up. When you have the opportunity to come into Pomona still I the championship hunt, that’s why we do this and that’s what gets my adrenaline pumping. I wish Pomona was tomorrow.”
Hagan carved his way to the final the same way he did in Dallas with a steady string of runs: 3.90 to beat Paul Lee, 3.86 to defeat Tommy Johnson Jr., and a 3.881 to put the brakes on Bob Tasca III’s hopes to continue to climb the points ladder. The final round was the 64th of Hagan’s career.
Hagan took advantage of the early outs by the top two drivers in points, Jack Beckman and Robert Hight, to pull to within 56 points.
Beckman and Robert Hight squared off in round two, where Beckman eked out a win by .009-second on a 3.907 to 3.891 holeshot after gaining a.047 to .072 starting-line advantage to cut Hight’s lead to 46. Beckman wasn’t able to take ultimate advantage of that victory as he died by same holeshot sword to Lindberg, 3.930 to 3.915.
The last time that Lindberg and car owner Jim Head were in Las Vegas for the Four-Wide Nationals earlier this year, they didn’t even qualify. Entering the weekend, Lindberg had just two round wins this season, both in a semifinal finish in Richmond in May and also had sat out 10 of the season’s first 16 races. Since returning in Brainerd, the team had lost in the first round six straight times.
After struggling in qualifying with mechanical issues, the team hit its stride Sunday. Lindberg ended J.R. Todd’s 12-round win streak at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, improving five-hundredths on his best qualifying effort to a 3.89 that sat down Todd’s 3.91. Lindberg put Jim Head’s Toyota in the semifinals with another 3.89 to send Cruz Pedregon down to defeat and advance to his fourth career final and his first in more than two years.