There’s been plenty of magic at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the fall for Matt Hagan in recent seasons, including last year when Hagan won the final race of the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season to claim his third career Funny Car world title. In the middle of a tight and thrilling championship hunt this year, the reigning world champ returns to Las Vegas hoping to again strike it big at this weekend’s Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil.
This year’s stop in Las Vegas comes in its traditional spot as the penultimate race in the Countdown to the Championship, and Hagan finds himself in quite a battle heading down the stretch in his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. After leading the points for two straight races, his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps jumped one point ahead with two races remaining. With J.R. Todd 83 points back, and Cruz Pedregon and John Force both 101 points behind, it’s setting up quite a showdown for Las Vegas and Pomona. Hagan is ready for it, having won the past two fall races in Las Vegas and three of the past four.
“I’ve got a lot of confidence heading into Las Vegas,” said Hagan, who has 39 career wins. “Last year, we won the race and the championship there, so we’ve done well there in the past. The track is great, and we feel good about everything, but it’s going to be a challenge. Capps was right there with us last year, and he’s back in the thick of it again, but if we can come out of Vegas with the lead, we’ll feel better heading into Pomona. We’ll just roll up and do the best job we can. The points have been changing around all year in Funny Car, and we’re just going to keep battling.”
For Hagan, it’s an opportunity to finish strong and possibly become the first back-to-back world champion in Funny Car since Force in 2002.
That would be another major accomplishment for Hagan, but it won’t be easy in a loaded class that also features Bob Tasca III, Robert Hight, Tim Wilkerson, and Bristol winner Alexis DeJoria. Hagan and his team, led by standout crew chief Dickie Venables, have been sensational for most of the year, and it’s been an aggressive mindset that has been the catalyst. Heading into two massively important races to close the year, Hagan doesn’t expect that mindset to change.
“We’ve got that mentality of we’re in a fight, so it’s time to bite down on that mouthpiece and just throw down,” Hagan said. “I hope Dickie continues to be aggressive, and I’m confident that’s going to be our mentality. That’s how we won the championship last year. We never let up, and I hope we keep that up. That’s the type of mentality we need to continue to have. But I’m enjoying all this, and I’m not letting the pressure get to me. We’re ready to get after it this weekend.”
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 3:00 p.m. PT on Friday, Oct. 29 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 30 at noon and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11:00 a.m. PT on Sunday, Oct. 31.
Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) includes qualifying action from 7-8 p.m. ET on Friday and 4-5 p.m. on Sunday, with live action during eliminations to follow from 5-8 p.m. ET.
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