MADISON, IL – September 20, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Matt Hagan, a two-time Funny Car world champion, had never won the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals before breaking through this season. After conquering that first, Hagan hopes to repeat that trend at another race – this weekend’s fifth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park.
Hagan dropped to fifth in points following a second-round loss at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship opener last weekend in Charlotte, N.C. He knows he needs a big performance this weekend in his 10,000-horsepower Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T to remain in the championship hunt, and replicating his Indy performance in St. Louis would do just that.
“Charlotte was tough,” said Hagan, who has three wins in 2016. “When we won the U.S. Nationals we couldn’t do anything wrong. Last weekend we couldn’t do anything right. That’s drag racing. I still don’t think Charlotte defines the way this race car runs and how good this team is. We just struggled from the word go. We’re looking forward to St. Louis. We’ve still got a very, very competitive car. We’ve never won there, so let’s unload it and win it.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 for the first time. The race is the second of three straight race weekends in the six-race playoffs and Hagan expects big things in St. Louis.
He sits 72 points behind leader and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps, who has five wins this season, meaning a championship is still well within reach. In Hagan’s march to a title in 2014, the 21-time event winner came back from an 80-point deficit, and a big weekend in St. Louis would go a long way in closing the current gap.
“There’s still a lot of racing left to play out and see what happens,” Hagan said. “You just have to put yourself in the right situations and then capitalize. The biggest thing is not missing when you have a chance to capitalize. When those opportunities come you have to take advantage. A champion is someone who gets excited for these moments.”
Hagan has repeatedly shown those championship characteristics in his standout career, which has taken another step in recent years with his current team led by crew chief Dickie Venables.
To track down the likes of reigning champion Del Worsham and 16-time world champion John Force, who opened the Countdown with the win in Charlotte, Hagan knows last weekend’s qualifying struggles will have to change in St. Louis.
“When it’s crunch time we’re confident we’re going to make it happen,” Hagan said. “Everyone has confidence in Dickie and we’re going to race as hard as we can. We just have to qualify better. You have to go down in the first session on Friday and set yourself up right. That takes a lot of the pressure away and then you can just build on that. We have the skills and mentality to get it done. It’s a team effort and we just have to focus on our part and control what we can.”
Top Fuel points leader Antron Brown started his title defense with a Charlotte victory and has four straight St. Louis wins. Doug Kalitta, eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher and Steve Torrence will try to prevent him from earning a fifth consecutive victory.
Skillman earned his first Pro Stock victory last year and this year will try to stop the dominant season of points leader Jason Line, who won in Charlotte to push his 2016 win total to eight.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Chip Ellis started the Countdown with a win, knocking off points leader Andrew Hines in the Charlotte final, and Arana Jr. is after back-to-back wins at St. Louis.
The AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals will also feature competition in the NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 23, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 24, at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 25.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 855-RACE-TIK (722-3845). Tickets are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. For more info, visit www.NHRA.com.
AAA INSURANCE NHRA MIDWEST NATIONALS
WHAT: Fifth annual AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, the 20th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the second of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Gateway Motorsports Park, Madison, Ill. – located five minutes from downtown St. Louis at the intersection of Interstates 55/70 and Ill. Route 203 (Exit 4).
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 445 feet above sea level; Track direction is south to north.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 23-25
FRIDAY, Sept. 23 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2:15 p.m. and 4:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:45 and 5:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 24 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
NHRA J&A SERVICE PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 1 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 3:45 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:45 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 25 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, Sept. 23, FS1 will televise an hour of live qualifying coverage at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 25, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 2 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 25, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 2 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Del Worsham, Funny Car; Drew Skillman, Pro Stock; Hector Arana Jr., Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel – 3.718 sec. by Steve Torrence, Sept. ‘15; 329.99 mph by Dave Connolly, Sept. ‘15
Funny Car – 3.883 sec. and 330.47 mph by Matt Hagan, Sept. ‘15
Pro Stock – 6.492 sec. by Greg Anderson, Sept. ’15; 213.47 mph by Jason Line, Sept. ‘12
PS Motorcycle – 6.796 sec. and 198.58 mph by Hector Arana, Sept. ‘13
Top Fuel – 3.671 sec. by Steve Torrence, July ’16, Sonoma, Calif.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.822 by Matt Hagan, Aug. ’16, Brainerd, Minn.; 335.57 mph by Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at 855-RACE-TIK (855-722-3845). Tickets also are available online at www.gatewaymsp.com.
GLENDORA, CA – Point standings (top 10) following the ninth annual NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway, the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and first of six rounds in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs –
1. Antron Brown, 2,226; 2. Doug Kalitta, 2,184; 3. Steve Torrence, 2,126; 4. Brittany Force, 2,110; 5. Tony Schumacher, 2,099; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,074; 7. Shawn Langdon, 2,067; 8. Leah Pritchett, 2,054; 9. Clay Millican, 2,052; 10. Richie Crampton, 2,046.
1. Ron Capps, 2,194; 2. Del Worsham, 2,152; 3. John Force, 2,144; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,132; 5. Matt Hagan, 2,122; 6. Courtney Force, 2,094; 7. Robert Hight, 2,093; 8. Jack Beckman, 2,084; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,067; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2,036.
1. Jason Line, 2,233; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,183; 3. Vincent Nobile, 2,129; 4. Bo Butner, 2,123; 5. Allen Johnson, 2,095; 6. Chris McGaha, 2,082; 7. Shane Gray, 2,081; 8. Drew Skillman, 2,073; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 2,052; 10. Erica Enders, 2,020.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Andrew Hines, 2,205; 2. Chip Ellis, 2,161; 3. Angelle Sampey, 2,156; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,120; 5. LE Tonglet, 2,106; 6. Jerry Savoie, 2,099; 7. Hector Arana Jr, 2,083; 8. Hector Arana, 2,052; 9. Matt Smith, 2,042; 10. Cory Reed, 2,032.
About National Hot Rod Association
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 23 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and NHRA J&A Service Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates five racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville in Florida; National Trail Raceway in Ohio; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California. For more information, log on to NHRA.com, or visit the official NHRA pages on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.
Source: National Hot Rod Association