Matt Hagan completed a dominant season of Funny Car competition for Don Schumacher Racing by clinching his third NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series championship at the season-ending Dodge NHRA Finals presented by Pennzoil.
In a year dominated by DSR's fourFunny Car drivers, who monopolized all the wins throughout the 11-race season, Hagan won the final slugfest at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by outlasting teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman.
Beckman was upset in round one by Paul Lee and Johnson was knocked off in the semifinals by their other teammate, low qualifier Ron Capps, in the semifinals. Even though the title was decided before Hagan’s semifinal run, Hagan added an exclamation point by reaching the final round, which would have clinched the title no matter what Johnson did.
“It’s been a dogfight the whole time; this championship was for my brother that I lost three years ago,” said an emotional Hagan. “Dickie Venables and the guys … I can’t say how proud I am of each and every one of my guys. They bust their damn asses each and every day and I try to drive the wheels off of this thing. I can’t say enough about everyone who’s been a part of this and our NHRA fans who support our sponsors.”
Although Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables looked like champions from the start of the season, qualifying No. 1 at both the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals and the NHRA Arizona Nationals, he went winless at the first two events. His loss at the Arizona Nationals was especially galling in that he crossed the centerline while beating Jeff Diehl.
The second hardest part of that loss was that racing was halted not long after due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Hagan to chew on his bitter pill of defeat for four months until racing resumed with four straight events at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Hagan and Venables came back with a vengeance, defeating Phoenix winner Johnson in the final to win the first Indy event and Winternationals champ Beckman at the second event.
A second-round loss to Bob Tasca III at the third Indy event was the last time this season that he wouldn’t reach the semifinals. He reached the final four at both the U.S. Nationals and Gatornationals, then went to the final in St. Louis. Although he lost the trophy dash to Johnson, Hagan had his first points lead of the year.
Hagan added another runner-up, this time behind Beckman in Dallas and reached the semifinals in Houston before falling to eventual winner Johnson to set up the final showdown in Las Vegas.