Hagan Takes Mopar Express Lane to Runner-Up Finish at NHRA Midwest Nationals
· Matt Hagan drove his Mopar Express Lane Funny Car to a runner-up finish at the third annual AAA Insurance National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Midwest Nationals
· Second final round appearance for Don Schumacher Racing’s (DSR) Hagan in the first three of six-event NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” playoff series
· Hagan remains third in the Countdown points standings and in the hunt for his second NHRA Funny Car Championship
· Pro Stock semifinal finish for Jeg Coughlin Jr. and his JEGS.com Dodge Dart at Gateway Motorsports Park
Madison, Illinois (Sept. 28, 2014) – For the second time in the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) “Countdown to the Championship”, Don Schumacher Racing’s Funny Car driver Matt Hagan battled his way to a final round appearance, this time earning a runner-up finish in the Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T at the third annual AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals at Gateway Motorsports Park near St. Louis, Missouri. Hagan previously won the opening round of the six-event playoff series with the Carolina Nationals title victory, and with Sunday’s runner-up finish, retains his third place standing in the battle for the NHRA Funny Car championship with three national events remaining in the Countdown.
Hagan beat Alexis DeJoria, Jeff Arend and Chad Head to advance to his second consecutive final round appearance at Gateway Motorsports Park and his fourth of the 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing series season. Hagan lined up his Dodge Charger R/T against Courtney Force and beat her off the starting line with a .056 to .076 second reaction time, but the Mopar driver’s 4.121 second elapsed time run at 309.77 mile per hour was not quite enough to beat his opponent’s 4.094 second run at 313.44 mph. Courtney Force’s title win moves her ahead of Hagan and behind her father, points leader John Force, in the Countdown standings.
“All in all it was a very productive day, we stayed third (in points) which is tough to do with only three races left,” said Hagan who is now just 42 points behind the leader. “”We made some good moves, had some good rounds today and obviously we would’ve liked to gotten the win but it just didn’t happen today so we will move on to (the next event at) Reading and hopefully qualify well there and get the job done on race day.”
Hagan now has three more national events to try to better his runner-up finish in the Funny Car points last season and match his 2011 NHRA World Championship finish.
Fellow DSR driver Ron Capps (4.122/308.50) defeated his teammate Jack Beckman (4.153/306.19) in an evenly matched Mopar versus Mopar first round battle. It was Beckman’s fourth straight event with an opening round loss.
Capps moved on to the quarterfinals to face points leader John Force, but despite leaving first, his 4.166/308.92 could beat a 4.111/312.50. With the loss, Capps remains in fifth place and 126 points behind the points leader.
After defeating Tim Wilkerson in the first round, DSR’s Tommy Johnson Jr. saw any hopes of advancing his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T past the quarterfinals cut short following his burnout when his race car wouldn’t shift into reverse. That forced him to abandon an attempt at running, but the Mopar driver moves from seventh to sixth in the standings.
In Pro Stock action, after No.2 qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr. drove his JEGS.com Dodge Dart to a first round win over Deric Kramer, and Allen Johnson’s “Magneti Marelli Offered by Mopar” Dodge Dart took the opening round win over Richie Stevens, the HEMI-powered teammates would unfortunately meet in the quarterfinals for all-Mopar showdown. The two had almost identical .02 second reaction times but Coughlin took the victory after Johnson made a sudden move toward the centerline before pushing in the clutch.
“We had a good car but made some bad adjustments for that run,” said Johnson who falls to the eighth spot in the Pro Stock points standings. “It wasn’t what we needed to do to win this championship. Now we’re really behind the eight ball we’ll have to go to the next one and see if we can win three in a row because that is what it is going to take.”
That set up the JEGS.com Mopar with a semifinal battle against Jason Line, and while Coughlin had the quicker elapsed time run with a 6.573/212.13 to his opponent’s 6.595/211.53, his .050-second reaction time was beaten by Line’s .024-second reaction time. Coughlin came up just 0.0042 seconds short at the finish line to advancing to the final round but his semifinal appearance helped him move up one spot in the countdown standings to seventh place with three events left in the playoffs to defend his 2013 NHRA Pro Stock world championship crown.
With a .041-second reaction time, V. Gaines (6.562/211.16) gave his Dodge Avenger a holeshot win in the first round over Shane Gray (6.546/211.30), beating him to the stripe to send the Mopar to a quarterfinal pairing against Dave Connolly. Gaines once again had a starting line advantage a .039 reaction time to his opponent’s .060, but after an incredible close race down the quarter mile track, the battle was won by Connolly by just .0003 seconds or approximately one inch. Connolly went on to win the Midwest Nationals title with a final round elimination against Pro Stock points leader Jason Line.
Up next for Mopar’s drivers next weekend is the 30th annual NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway near Reading, Pennsylvania, for the fourth stop on the six-event NHRA “Countdown to the Championship” in as many consecutive weeks. Mopar’s three Pro Stock drivers —Coughlin, Allen Johnson, and Gaines — are still battling to earn the brand’s third consecutive Pro Stock crown with just three events left in the playoffs. DSR’s drivers Hagan, Capps, and Tommy Johnson Jr. are still in the hunt to capture the third championship for Mopar in the last four years.