NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Reigning Funny Car champ Matt Hagan after continued Gatornationals success

It wasn’t long ago that Funny Car standout Matt Hagan struggled at legendary Gainesville Raceway, the site of this weekend’s 55th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, and now, he's looking for a third straight win there.
05 Mar 2024
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Matt Hagan

It wasn’t long ago that Funny Car standout Matt Hagan struggled at legendary Gainesville Raceway, the site of this weekend’s 55th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.

But the reigning world champ and star driver for Tony Stewart Racing has enjoyed an impressive turnaround at the historic facility, winning the last two years in Gainesville. The victory in 2022 was his first in Gainesville and the first overall victory for Tony Stewart Racing, while he opened 2023 with another Gatornationals triumph.

That was the first of six wins for Hagan, who ended the year with his fourth world title, also claiming the first title for Tony Stewart Racing. A third straight Gatornationals win in his 11,000-horsepower TSR Direct Connection Dodge//SRT Hellcat to kick off the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season would also give the four-time world champ his 50th career win and a significant place in Gatornationals history.

Only five other drivers (John Force, Don Prudhomme, Warren Johnson, Jason Line, and Eddie Krawiec) in NHRA history have won three straight years in Gainesville, adding another significant detail to the weekend. Hagan will also race with Stewart, who is making his Top Fuel debut in Gainesville, for the first time as a teammate, which adds plenty of intrigue and excitement as well.
“It would be really unbelievable to be able to win Gainesville a third time,” Hagan said. “It’s so hard to win any of these races, and anything can happen. We’re going to go out there and work really hard to kick the season off. Gainesville has come around and been a better track to me the last few years. We have a lot of data to go off of, so we’ll go out there and see what we can do. I have confidence in Tony and his TSR dragster team, just like my Funny Car squad. I’d love to win Gainesville for a third time.”

Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Hagan (Funny Car), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all won in Gainesville last year. The Gatornationals will be broadcast on FS1 in 2024, including qualifying action, the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, live coverage on Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and continuing finals coverage at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday.

A fast start was certainly beneficial to Hagan a year ago, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see another one in Gainesville in 2024. His team, led by longtime crew chief Dickie Venables, remains well intact, and that consistency has played a huge role in Hagan’s success over the years.

The six wins and eight final rounds were a major accomplishment in the loaded Funny Car ranks last year, and Hagan has his sights set on plenty of milestones in 2024, including a 50th career win and a possible fifth world championship. Last year, he joined Force, Kenny Bernstein, and Prudhomme as the only drivers to win four or more Funny Car world championships in NHRA history, but nothing will come easy in a class loaded with talent, including Ron Capps, Bob Tasca III, class newcomer Austin Prock, J.R. Todd, Chad Green, Daniel Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon, and Alexis DeJoria.

“We have a group that is well-oiled with a lot of chemistry, synergy, and energy,” Hagan said. “I'm super confident in everything that my guys do. They've earned my trust over the years, and I trust them with my life. That’s not taken lightly, I really mean that. I know that when we drag it up there, it is done up and put together as well as possible. We’re champions, and we know what we have to do to work hard and get back on top. I’m excited for the season and (also) having Tony as my teammate.”

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying features two rounds at 2 and 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 8, and the final two qualifying rounds on Saturday, March 9 at noon and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 10.

To purchase tickets to the 2024 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general-admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket. Get your tickets now for the Top Eliminator Club because these will sell out.