Matt Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables had Friday’s best Funny Car run in a session where few of their peers got down the track, and even though they both made it look easy, it was anything but, especially after a total track scrape by the NHRA Safety Safari after a deluge of rain earlier in the day.
“You just want to go down the track, and, obviously, there's not been a lot of cars go down and play a lot of rubber down and not a whole lot of groove,” he said. "It made a pretty good move and was dancing around, and I was just like, ‘Come on, baby, just hang tight, just a little bit longer.’
“I'm happy with the run, you know, and it could have gone so far the other way. You walk a razor blade out there and it's such a fine line that these crew chiefs walk and if I had yarded car it might have come loose, too, so everything has to line up and we just hit it right and got lucky and got down through there.
“That's why you see a lot of these cars that run five-disc [clutches], they knock the tires off out there because it goes 1:1 so hard. Back in the day when I used to run a five-disc, it sounds like you broke a 2x4 in half when it would weld 1:1. The first time it ever did that, I was like, 'Something broke,’ but it just was one of those things, that's just how they slam together and weld, and the six-discs are a lot more forgiving with that kind of application out there.”
Getting the tune-up right to get down the track is one thing, but the driver doing his or her part is another big piece of the equation.
“These cars make 8,000 pounds of downforce and when the clutch and engine] go one-to-one in the middle of the racetrack and you see the most g-force, your vision gets blurry and that's where it tries to pick the front end up out and it's dancing around<’ said Hagan.
“I've made hundreds and hundreds of run in one of these cars, so you kind of get an idea where you're at on the racetrack, but it's always tricky when the clutch is locking up and the nose is dancing around out there, and your vision gets blurry and you're seeing the most Gs that you've seen on the run. It really makes it tough when we test and everybody's like ‘Cut it off at half-track,’ and I'm just like, ‘Damn, I can hardly see half-track,’ so I like when I tell him to make full pulls because I can see the finish line a whole lot better.
“After half-track it's like ‘OK, I'm along for the ride,’ unless it's putting cylinders out down there on the big end and you're wrenching on it. But that's why we drive Funny Cars -- you never know what you're gonna get.”