GLENDORA, CA – November 8, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Matt Hagan will arrive at historic Auto Club Raceway in Pomona for this weekend’s Auto Club NHRA Finals with an impressive list of accomplishments during his 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and a shot – albeit a long one – to win his third career Funny Car world championship.
But trailing Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps by 86 points, Hagan knows he would need one of the most fortunate weekends in class history in his 10,000-horsepower Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T to deny Capps his first career world title. A few different results during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship might have meant a different story, but Hagan can also appreciate the type of season Capps has enjoyed leading into the 2016 finale.
“Honestly, it’s a long shot and we know that,” Hagan said. “If we would have won Vegas, then maybe we roll in with a licking our chops-type feeling, but it’s a tall order now. There’s some rounds in the Countdown that just didn’t go our way. At the end of the day, I want it to be me (that wins a championship), but if it can’t be me, I’m glad it’s Capps. He was one of the first guys who picked up the phone when I joined DSR. The dude is genuine and legit, and hats off to them, they’ve done a great job all year.”
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will air for the first time on FOX Sports 1. On Sunday, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (ET). It is the final race of a 2016 season that checked off almost all the boxes for Hagan, a 22-time event winner in Funny Car.
The world championship might have slipped out of Hagan’s grasp with a handful of close losses in the Countdown to the Championship, but he also won four times, including his first Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, and set both ends of the national record (3.822 seconds and 335.57 mph). He’s also part of a DSR group that includes Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. that could finish in the top four spots in points.
“We’ve basically dominated Funny Car and that’s what Don wants,” said Hagan, who has four of DSR’s 13 Funny Car wins in 2016. “You can’t ask for anything more that. For us, it’s not been a bad year. Winning the U.S. Nationals is a feather in our cap and we’ve got a real strong shot at finishing second with a possibility for first. We just never hit that point where we dominated. But I’m super proud of every one of these guys and we have nothing to hang our heads about. Everyone here gave 100 percent all season.”
Hagan continued to mesh almost flawlessly with crew chief Dickie Venables this season, providing another strong result for a duo that has finished fifth, first and second over the past three seasons. Their performance took another step forward in 2016, which gives the team more positive signs for 2017. But Hagan also has designs on closing out this season with a victory in Pomona, which is one reason why Capps isn’t celebrating anything yet, even with a big points lead.
“It’s certainly not a done deal,” said Capps, who has five wins and 10 final round appearances in 2016. “It’s by far not over. We still need to get there and do our business and clinch it. I’ve seen some pretty miraculous things happen at Pomona over the years, and we definitely don’t want to be one of those statistics.”
Antron Brown clinched his second straight Top Fuel world championship in Vegas and will try to end his banner year with his eighth win in 2016.
Two former Pro Stock champions, Greg Anderson and Jason Line, are in a tight points battle, with Line and his eight wins this season leading Anderson by just 19 points.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, one of the trio of defending champion Andrew Hines, Krawiec and Jerry Savoie will be crowned champion. Hines and Krawiec are both tied for the points lead, while Savoie’s win in Vegas has him just three points back.
The Auto Club NHRA Finals also features competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. As always, fans have the opportunity to 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 feature two rounds at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 11, and two final qualifying rounds on Saturday, Nov. 12, at 12:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Nov. 13.
Tickets are available at NHRA.com/tickets or by calling 1-800-884-NHRA. Kids 12 & under can see it all for free with a general admission ticket, while all students can save 50 percent on general admission at the gate with a student ID.
AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 52nd annual Auto Club NHRA Finals, the final of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the final 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: Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Pomona, Calif. Track is located off I-10 at Fairplex Drive. From I-10, go north on Fairplex drive and follow the signs to Auto Club Raceway at the Fairplex.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 1,100 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Nov. 10-13
THURSDAY, Nov. 10 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Nov. 11 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 3 p.m.
SATURDAY, Nov. 12 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at noon and 3 p.m.
SUNDAY, Nov. 13 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday Nov. 11, FS1 will televise one hour of live qualifying coverage at 11:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday Nov. 13, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Nov. 13, FS1 will televise three hours of live finals coverage starting at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS:
Shawn Langdon, Top Fuel; Del Worsham, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
John Force, FC, 8; Kenny Bernstein, TF-FC, 6; Greg Anderson, PS, 5; Bob Glidden, PS, 5; John Myers, PSM, 5; Warren Johnson, PS, 4; Dave Schultz, PSM, 4; Tony Schumacher, TF, 4.
Top Fuel – 3.700 sec. by Shawn Langdon, Feb. ’14 and 332.34 mph by Langdon, Nov. ’15
Funny Car – 3.884 sec. by Jack Beckman, Nov. ’15 and 331.45 by Matt Hagan, Nov. ’15
Pro Stock – 6.480 sec. by Erica Enders, Nov. ’14 and 213.84 mph by Drew Skillman, Nov. ’15
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.766 sec. by Andrew Hines, Nov. ’12; 198.29 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Nov. ’12
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: For tickets call (800) 884-NHRA (6472). Tickets also available online at www.NHRA.com/tickets.
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 16th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 23rd of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Antron Brown, 2,581*; 2. Steve Torrence, 2,424; 3. Doug Kalitta, 2,413; 4. Brittany Force, 2,366; 5. Shawn Langdon, 2,365; 6. J.R. Todd, 2,352; 7. Leah Pritchett, 2,334; 8. Tony Schumacher, 2,332; 9. Clay Millican, 2,232; 10. Richie Crampton, 2,227.
1. Ron Capps, 2,546; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,460; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr., 2,433; 4. Jack Beckman, 2,395; 5. John Force, 2,387; 6. Del Worsham, 2,373; 7. Courtney Force, 2,334; 8. Robert Hight, 2,313; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,262; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 2,184.
1. Jason Line, 2,532; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,513; 3. Shane Gray, 2,438; 4. Vincent Nobile, 2,394; 5. Drew Skillman, 2,371; 6. Bo Butner, 2,369; 7. Chris McGaha, 2,275; 8. Allen Johnson, 2,245; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 2,177; 10. Erica Enders, 2,167.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. (tie) Andrew Hines, 2,509; Eddie Krawiec, 2,509; 3. Jerry Savoie, 2,506; 4. Angelle Sampey, 2,399; 5. Chip Ellis, 2,359; 6. LE Tonglet, 2,340; 7. Cory Reed, 2,281; 8. Matt Smith, 2,277; 9. Hector Arana, 2,245; 10. Hector Arana Jr, 2,236.
* Clinched Top Fuel Championship
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