Matt Hagan drove to his first win of the season and backed up his national record-setting run in the process as eliminations came to an end Sunday at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at zMAX Dragway. Antron Brown, Kurt Johnson and Eddie Krawiec were also winners in their respective categories at the first of six races in the NHRA Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, the six-race playoffs to determine the world championships.
Hagan began his week of domination Friday night when he became the first Funny Car driver in NHRA history to make a three-second run. After taking the No. 1 qualifier with a 3.995sec run, Hagan then backed up that pass with a first round win Sunday at 4.018sec to secure the national record and the 20 bonus points that come with it. Hagan then powered his Die Hard Dodge Charger past points leader Mike Neff in the final round with a run of 4.130sec at 301.07mph to secure his fourth career win and move up to the second spot in the point standings, just 22 points behind Neff.
"It's something else to sit in a racecar when it has that kind of potential,” said Hagan. “This is the third national record we've set with this car and that's phenomenal to me. To have a group of guys around you like (crew chief) Tommy DeLago, (assistant crew chief) Glen Huszar, and all the guys who beat this thing up and put it back together is phenomenal. It's truly a fairy-tale deal to go out there, set the record and win the race.”
Hagan's Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman also set the new national record for speed this weekend with a pass at 318.99mph, but lost to Hagan in the semifinal round. Countdown to the Championship contenders John Force, Robert Hight, Bob Tasca and Ron Capps all lost in the first round of eliminations.
In Top Fuel, Mac Tools U.S. Nationals winner Brown continued his streak of success when he held off teammate Spencer Massey in the final round to secure his third race win in a row. Brown powered his Macto Tools dragster to a 3.784 at 325.14 to secure his fifth win of the season and take over the points lead for the first time this season.
“The radar is on us now, so we have to dig harder with all these guys gunning for us,” said Brown. “When we raced Tony Schumacher (in the semifinals), we had nothing to lose. He was running on a whole ‘nother level. Our Aaron's Matco Tools guys threw the kitchen sink at it and threw the whole tractor-trailer with it. We threw our other tractor-trailer at it again for the final.”
Brown's Don Schumacher Racing teammate Schumacher set the national record for speed when he drove his U.S. Army dragster to a 327.90 pass, while Brown's other teammate and runner-up finisher Massey took over the second spot in the points standings, just 16 points behind Brown.
In Pro Stock, after over three years since his last race win, Johnson held off Jason Line to get the win. Johnson powered his Johnson Racing Chevy Cobalt to a 6.545 at 210.97 past points leader Line to get his 40th career win.
“It's been a real battle and we finally figured out that maybe we needed a new car,” said Johnson. “I brought this car out in Bristol and didn't qualify, but we've been adapting and it really started to thunder in Brainerd. It's totally different than anything we've had since about 2003, but I think we know what to do with it now and it's proved itself today.”
Krawiec kept his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson at the top of the pack all weekend when he picked up the No. 1 qualifier Saturday and raced to his third win of the season Sunday. Krawiec rode to a 6.870 at 196.42 past runner-up Karen Stoffer and strengthened his points lead over the competition.
“I came into the Countdown as the points leader, and my attitude changed,” said Krawiec. “I struggled a lot on the Tree this year and gave up a couple of race wins in my mind. I feel like I've been riding well but not racing well. When you have low e.t. and set national records but lose rounds because of bad riding, it wears on you. I shook it off coming into the Countdown and told myself, ‘You're leading the points. You're obviously a good rider and a good racer.'”
NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing will return to action next week at the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals, Sept. 22-25 at Texas Motorplex in Dallas.
1. Antron Brown; 2. Spencer Massey; 3. Tony Schumacher; 4. Larry Dixon; 5. Brandon Bernstein; 6. Bob Vandergriff; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Rod Fuller; 9. Morgan Lucas; 10. Shawn Langdon; 11. Terry McMillen; 12. T.J. Zizzo; 13. Dom Lagana; 14. Del Worsham; 15. David Grubnic; 16. Clay Millican.
1. Matt Hagan; 2. Mike Neff; 3. Jack Beckman; 4. Johnny Gray; 5. Cruz Pedregon; 6. Tim Wilkerson; 7. Jeff Arend; 8. Jim Head; 9. Tony Pedregon; 10. Ron Capps; 11. Bob Tasca III; 12. John Force; 13. Melanie Troxel; 14. Robert Hight; 15. John Smith; 16. Paul Lee.
1. Kurt Johnson; 2. Jason Line; 3. Steve Kent; 4. Vincent Nobile; 5. Erica Enders; 6. Shane Gray; 7. Greg Stanfield; 8. Mike Edwards; 9. Greg Anderson; 10. Ronnie Humphrey; 11. Buddy Perkinson; 12. Warren Johnson; 13. Rodger Brogdon; 14. Larry Morgan; 15. V. Gaines; 16. Allen Johnson.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
1. Eddie Krawiec; 2. Karen Stoffer; 3. Matt Smith; 4. Michael Ray; 5. Jim Underdahl; 6. Shawn Gann; 7. Andrew Hines; 8. Hector Arana Jr; 9. Justin Finley; 10. Angie Smith; 11. Jerry Savoie; 12. Chip Ellis; 13. LE Tonglet; 14. Steve Johnson; 15. Michael Phillips; 16. Hector Arana.