One factor is for certain: You possibly can by no means rely out Matt Hagan.
With a lot of the main target early within the Countdown to the Championship falling squarely on the battle between Robert Hight and a resurgent Bob Tasca III, the three-time Humorous Automotive world champion was able to remind the world that he’s removed from out of this factor.
Hagan returned to the thick of the playoff hunt two weeks in the past with an exhilarating victory on the Midwest Nationals in St. Louis, then backed that up with a second straight victory Sunday on the Texas NHRA FallNationals on the Texas Motorplex to take over the Humorous Automotive factors lead with two races remaining.
“What a beautiful day at this time,” Hagan stated. “It was all the things that we may hope for. Some heavy hitters went out early, and we have been capable of capitalize on that this weekend. It speaks volumes to have the ability to return to again in Humorous Automotive. To win six races out right here is unimaginable, simply shy of what Robert (Hight) did final yr with eight. It’s exhausting to win one race in Humorous Automotive, and to have the ability to pull down six wins this yr is unimaginable. My objective this yr was to win six or eight races, and right here we’re at six with two races left to go.”
Hagan defeated motorsports icon John Pressure in Sunday’s Humorous Automotive remaining, powering his American Insurgent Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to victory with a 3.883-second cross at 332.25 mph. With the win, Hagan now sits one victory shy of fifty for his profession whereas additionally tying Hight for essentially the most Countdown wins (15) for the reason that inception of the postseason program.
Pressure, in his 266th profession remaining spherical, misplaced traction early within the run and was compelled to get out of the throttle and accept his second runner-up end of the season. Pressure had wins on the day over Jeff Diehl, Cruz Pedregon and J.R. Todd.
It was removed from a straightforward path to victory for Hagan, however with a powerful crew assembled by Tony Stewart — a crew which doubled up Sunday with Leah Pruett claiming the Wally in High Gasoline — Hagan was capable of finding the help wanted to proceed to make the decision and go rounds.
“I don’t know that we ran the very best on the market,” Hagan stated. “We had some points with the gasoline pump falling off the automobile as a result of it was so bumpy down there and stuff like that. We went by means of three gasoline pumps, and we ran out of tires and you might be pondering, ‘Oh, my gosh, I hope we’ve received sufficient components and items.’ The blokes stole some stuff from Leah’s crew, however it’s a nice group, and all people is prepared to assist and share, which makes it really feel like household. That’s one thing that Tony actually tried to instill with this group that we’ve got over right here. We’re constructing a legacy within the sport with what we’ve executed and all the races we’ve gained. Now we’re enthusiastic about making an attempt to get TSR the primary championship, and also you simply understand it’s doable.”
With fellow contenders Hight, Tasca and defending class champion Ron Capps falling out within the opening two rounds Sunday, Hagan took full benefit. Hagan defeated Paul Lee and Alex Laughlin within the opening rounds with passes of three.895 and three.868, respectively, after which formally regained the factors lead for the primary time since August with a win over Tim Wilkerson within the semifinals.
Hagan reached his eighth remaining spherical of the yr and the 87th of his profession with a 3.875 at 328.85 within the semifinal win, getting away cleanly and simply driving round Wilkerson’s 3.897, 328.95.
Two weeks in the past, Hagan additionally had wins over Pressure, Tasca and Capps to earn the victory in St. Louis, giving him 10 spherical wins in his final 11 aggressive passes and, extra importantly, maintaining his closest rivals from gaining floor.
“Having the ability to capitalize on one thing like that doesn’t occur fairly often,” Hagan stated. “For Capps, for Robert, for even Tasca to exit within the first two rounds, it simply doesn’t occur. They’re such a very good group of automobiles that they’re going to be aggressive and go rounds. So in St. Louis, I stated, ‘Now we have to win St. Louis or we’re actually not going to have a shot at this.’ And to come back right here and win this race, too, it places us the place we have to be.
“Somebody stated to me final weekend it’s like a knife struggle in a telephone sales space, it’s going to be tight. I’m actually pleased with my guys, pleased with Leah’s crew, pleased with all the things we completed at this time.”
Hagan was particularly proud to have the ability to double up alongside his High Gasoline teammate and supply crew proprietor Tony Stewart one other win within the sport. Hagan boldly acknowledged that with Stewart serving to information this crew, there is no such thing as a cause this group can’t win the championship this yr.
“What a fantastic group we’ve got over right here,” Hagan stated. “Tony Stewart, I simply can’t say sufficient about him. The man is unimaginable. He’s an unimaginable driver. He’s an unimaginable particular person, he’s unimaginable to work for, and he’s a fantastic crew proprietor. It’s truly taking strain off of me as a result of he can relate to what we’re doing within the wheelhouse as a driver. Tony has put a fantastic group round us and provides us all the things we’d like. There’s not been something that Tony has stated that we couldn’t get, so there’s no cause aside from us that we shouldn’t win this championship.”
Now the main target shifts to Vegas in two weeks with solely two races remaining within the 2023 NHRA Tenting World Drag Racing Sequence season. Hagan left Dallas with a 36-point benefit over Tasca, whereas Hight dipped to 3rd, 69 markers off the tempo.
“Two races to go, it’s anyone’s ballgame on the market,” Hagan stated. “We’ve all the time executed fairly good in Vegas. We’ve all the time executed rather well right here, so I used to be excited to get right here and hopefully do what we simply did at this time. We all the time say that it’s important to win two races within the Countdown to actually have a shot at successful the championship. It’s nonetheless tremendous shut, however we’ve received two [race wins] within the Countdown already. Dickie [Venables] has been pushing exhausting and placing a fantastic automobile beneath me, and my guys have been doing a fantastic job. You possibly can’t ask for something greater than that.
“We turned on win lights and took over the factors lead once more. We led the factors just about all season, however you may have some moments the place stuff slips by means of the cracks and different folks step up. We actually rose to the event at this time and [at St. Louis] as properly.”