October 29, 2017, Las Vegas – Dodge Funny Car driver Matt Hagan finally broke through in the Nevada desert, winning the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the first time. Hagan and several of his Mopar®-powered teammates dominated in so many ways.
Hagan put his HEMI®-powered, Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) in the winner’s circle at the 17th annual NHRA Nationals to take his fourth victory of the season and 15th for Mopar-powered Funny Cars in 2017. It was also the 20th time at least one Mopar Dodge Funny Car from DSR has appeared in the final round through 23 events to date this year.
Hagan has struggled for stretches this year, but the team found its stride in Vegas. “Obviously, these Funny Cars are kind of finicky. Sometimes they love you and sometimes they rip your heart out and step on it,” said Hagan. “There’s no replacement for the feeling of winning. That’s a fix you can’t get anywhere else, man.”
With just one event remaining in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, which includes the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs, Mopar vehicles have now claimed victory a total of 20 times across the Funny Car and Top Fuel categories. Additionally, five Mopar-powered drivers across both categories are still mathematically eligible to win the 2017 championship in two weeks at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
During this weekend’s NHRA Nationals, Hagan, a two-time Funny Car champion, defeated Courtney Force from the right lane in the final round. Hagan turned in a pass of 3.942 seconds at 329.42 mph paired with a .050-second reaction time to better Force’s 4.020 at 320.05. She left the line with a reaction time of .069. The duel at the Vegas track, surrounded by desert mountains and lying 15 miles north of the famed Strip, was a re-match of both this year’s NHRA Winternationals and New England Nationals. Each of those final rounds were also won by Hagan.
Hagan, whose team has struggled in the Countdown, opened his day by pushing past Gary Densham in round one on a clean pass as Densham smoked his tires near the 300-foot mark. The round win was the 300th of Hagan’s career. He next bested Del Worsham, who also struck the tires to put Hagan into the semifinal round against his DSR Mopar teammate Jack Beckman. Hagan advanced to the final by turning in his third consecutive clean pass as Beckman instantly went up in smoke.
Hagan’s victory was the 26th of his career.
Beckman also had a very successful weekend in Las Vegas, first re-setting both ends of the track record with a 3.854-second pass at 335.57 mph during qualifying to capture the No. 1 spot in his Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T. He first bested fellow Dodge driver Jim Campbell in round one on a very solid pass as Campbell struck the tires. He next took down teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. on another clean pass as Johnson went up in smoke. His day was then ended by Hagan.
Johnson and the Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team from DSR defeated Jonnie Lindberg in round one on a clean pass in the center of the groove while Lindberg struck the tires. Johnson then fell to Beckman in round two, meaning he was unable to repeat in Las Vegas after winning the spring event at the track.
Funny Car points leader Ron Capps took a hit in his bid for a second consecutive championship behind the wheel of his Dodge Charger R/T from DSR, losing to John Force in round one. Both cars went up in smoke soon after they left the starting line, but Force made it to the finish line first when Capps suffered an engine explosion, ending early his bid for a ninth win of 2017. He fell to 15 points behind Robert Hight entering the final event of the season.
In Top Fuel, Leah Pritchett drove her Mopar Pennzoil Dodge Top Fuel dragster from DSR past T.J. Zizzo by half a car length in round one, setting up a matchup with her teammate Tony Schumacher. The cars were side-by-side before Schumacher ultimately dropped a cylinder, allowing Pritchett to get away and setting up a showdown with Brittany Force. Pritchett fell to Force after a side-by-side race.
Schumacher also set a track record (3.673/332.67) during qualifying to begin his day from the No. 1 position. He first powered his Mopar-backed U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster past Troy Buff when Buff went red. He was then defeated by Pritchett in round two.