Matt Hagan qualified his Mopar Dodge Charger in the top spot at the first two races of the season in Pomona and Phoenix but had little to show for it other than a semifinal loss in Pomona. The two-time champion quickly rectified that by winning his 34th career Funny Car title at the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at Indy. Hagan exploded a supercharger well before the finish line in his final round match against teammate Tommy Johnson Jr., but held on for the victory as the Don Schumacher Racing team completed a sweep of the season’s first three races.
“I’m all good, I just had some parts come up there and tag me pretty good but I’ve been kicked by cattle harder than that anyway,” said Hagan. “We’re so glad to be doing this with NHRA and fans in the stands. Thanks to Mopar, Pennzoil, Sandvik and all the folks that support us. I just can’t say enough about NHRA. These guys are my family. My crew chief, Dickie Venables; what an amazing job this weekend.”
The final-round explosion notwithstanding, Hagan turned in a masterful performance en route to his first win since last November’s Las Vegas race. Entering Sunday’s eliminations as the No. 6 qualifier, Hagan stopped Daniel Wilkerson and then survived a close wheel-to-wheel battle against teammate Jack Beckman in the quarterfinals. Hagan drove to a 3.94 to edge Beckman’s game 3.96. A 3.95 in the semifinals was enough to get past Tim Wilkerson.
Still riding high after his win in Phoenix nearly five months ago, Johnson was also solid in his John Collins-tuned MD Anderson Cancer Center Dodge. Johnson topped the strong 18-car field with a 3.983 and rolling his 54th career nitro final with wins against teammate Ron Capps, who qualified No. 16. Johnson also got past Blake Alexander, and 2018 champ J.R. Todd. Johnson knocked the tires loose and slowed before half-track in the final, allowing Hagan to get the win even after his engine expired before the finish line.