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Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car Driver Hagan Triumphs at Season-opening NHRA Winternationals

Pomona, CA – Matt Hagan started the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series the same way he began his 2017 season — driving the Mopar and Dodge//SRT brands to victory at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California.

The two-time NHRA Funny Car champion wrapped up a dominant weekend in which he also claimed the pole in his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car by outgunning Robert Hight in the final round at Auto Club Raceway. The victory was Hagan’s second straight at the NHRA Winternationals and the 27th of his career in 48 final rounds.

Adding to the Mopar and Dodge//SRT Sunday celebration was a runner-up showing by Hagan’s Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) teammate Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel and an NHRA Stock Eliminator win by Larry Gilley in a 1969 Dodge Dart GTS 340. Hagan was also joined in the Funny Car semifinals by two of his Mopar-powered DSR Dodge teammates, Jack Beckman and Ron Capps.

After earning the No. 1 qualifying spot on Saturday with a 3.822-second elapsed time (ET), Hagan recorded the second quickest run of the first round on Sunday to defeat Dodge Charger R/T driver Jim Campbell. The DSR driver next bested Cruz Pedregon before winning a tight all-Mopar Dodge match against Capps. In the final, Hagan’s 3.823/335.90 run was enough to hold off Hight’s strong 3.866/336.99 pass.

Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Beckman posted impressive numbers in the first two elimination rounds. The 2012 Funny Car champion opened his day by using the third-quickest run of the round to best Bob Tasca, and then was quickest in the quarterfinals in trailering Tim Wilkerson. That ended in the semis, when Beckman’s car went quiet shortly after launch, ending his day.

Capps’ run to the semifinals included a first-round win over Shawn Langdon and an interesting battle with Jonnie Lindberg in the quarterfinals. Lindberg took the red light foul loss after leaving too early, which also caused Capps to launch a tad too soon as well. The fourth DSR Funny Car team member, Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T driver Tommy Johnson, was unable to move past the first round after smoking the tires and losing to Cruz Pedregon.

Tony Schumacher raced his Mopar HEMI-powered U.S. Army dragster to his first final round since the 2017 Atlanta event. Schumacher outran Terry McMillen, Terry Haddock and Antron Brown before falling to Doug Kalitta in the money round. Mopar Dodge NHRA Top Fuel dragster driver Leah Pritchett will look to rebound from an early first-round exit at Pomona. Starting from the No. 4 spot in the first round against Scott Palmer, Pritchett’s parachute popped out prematurely during the burnout, ending the DSR star’s Winternationals title defense before it could truly begin.

Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series: Notes & Quotes

Pietro Gorlier, Head of Parts and Service (Mopar), FCA

“Congratulations to Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T driver Matt Hagan on starting off the 2018 NHRA season with a visit to winner’s circle. The Mopar and Dodge brands are working even closer together this year to expand our commitment to NHRA, and this is a great early return on that teamwork. We’re hopeful this is the first of many Sunday celebrations at the drag strip for our brands this year.”

Steve Beahm, Head of Passenger Cars, Dodge//SRT, Chrysler and FIAT, FCA North America

“Matt Hagan’s win in his Mopar-powered Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at Pomona today is a terrific way for our brands to kick off this year’s NHRA season. By expanding our sponsorship and partnering with Mopar, now for our third year, Dodge//SRT continues to connect with the growing number of drag racing fans in the stands, watching on TV and competing at drag strips around the country in their Chargers and Challengers.”

Matt Hagan, Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 1 Qualifier – 3.822 ET)

Rd. 1: (070-second reaction time, 3.902 seconds at 331.53 mph) beat No. 16 Jim Campbell (.117/4.387/213.77)
Rd. 2: (.057/3.954/329.34) beat No. 8 Cruz Pedregon (.010/4.006/322.11)
Rd. 3: (.059/3.938/330.07) beat No. 5 Ron Capps (.074/3.968/320.81)
Rd. 4: (.055/3.823/335.90) beat No. 2 Robert Hight (.034/3.866/336.99)

“To watch my guys come together and work, everything is clicking so nice — you can tell the extra prep they put in during the off-season. It’s not so much just the parts and pieces, it’s looking at those parts and pieces, and putting your hands on them.

“I’m really just proud of them, but I’m proud to crawl in that race car that Don Schumacher owns. It’s a car that these guys have put together, that I know I can win on any given Sunday. That’s a crazy feeling. It’s a cool feeling. Everything on this car goes back to Dickie Venables, and at the end of the day him and Mike Knudsen have a game plan. It just shows you how smart they are.

“These things are very humbling. We feel great right now, but we could roll into Phoenix and it could be a different story. We just have to keep it upbeat and positive, and no matter what happens, keep it rolling.”

Tony Schumacher, U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 8 Qualifier – 3.732 ET)

Rd. 1: (.066-second reaction time, 3.696 seconds at 332.18 mph) beat No. 7 Terry McMillen (.083/3.752/328.06)
Rd. 2: (.097/3.717/331.85) beat No. 13 Terry Haddock (.121/9.851/84.16)
Rd. 3: (.064/3.711/331.45) beat No. 6 Antron Brown (.048/3.737/324.28)
Rd. 4: (.057/4.715/145.93) lost to No. 8 Doug Kalitta (.083/3.779/TBD)

“That was a lot of fun – the whole day. It was a fun deal in every way except for what happened at the end. Still, we go on to Phoenix with absolute confidence in a great race car and a bunch of smiling U.S. Army boys. Kalitta and I have battled for a long, long time. They’re a great race team. Congrats to them for getting it done. They did a great job and they deserved to win today.”

Leah Pritchett, Mopar Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
(No. 4 Qualifier – 3.687 ET)

Rd. 1: (No time) lost to No. 11 Scott Palmer (.085/6.489/117.35)

“We thought we had it figured out last night, but it looks like there were more major issues. I want to give big thanks to my guys working their tails off. They did everything they could to find the issue, but it obviously reared its ugly head again, so we have some work to do. Ultimately, I have all the confidence in the world in Todd (Okuhara, crew chief), Scott (Okuhara, assistant crew chief) and the entire DSR/Mopar/U.S. Army team.”

Ron Capps, NAPA Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 5 Qualifier – 3.882 ET)

Rd. 1: (.085-second reaction time, 4.833 seconds at 167.53 mph) beat No. 12 Shawn Langdon (.062/10.060/79.68)
Rd. 2: (-.055/4.001/324.75) beat No. 13 Jonnie Lindberg (-.310/9.716/104.61)
Rd. 3: (.074/3.968/320.81) lost to No. 1 Matt Hagan (.059/3.938/330.07)

“We knew we were up against a good car being my teammate in Hagan with Dickie (Venables, Hagan’s crew chief). But it was a great comeback for Tobler to go back up there and not beat ourselves and go down the track like we did.”

Jack Beckman, Infinite Hero Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 3 Qualifier – 3.860 ET)

Rd. 1: (.065-second reaction time, 3.907 seconds at 333.0 mph) beat No. 14 Bob Tasca (.074/4.016/324.12)

Rd. 2: (.075/3.901/330.23) beat No. 6 Tim Wilkerson (.079/4.253/220.51)

Rd. 3: (No time) lost to No. 2 Robert Hight (.074/3.899/329.10)

“I want to pack my bags and fly to Phoenix tomorrow because I think we have one of the best cars there is out here. Once we dive in and eliminate these little bugs, we’re going to start reeling off race wins.”

Tommy Johnson Jr., Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car
(No. 9 Qualifier – 3.932 ET)

Rd. 1: (.066-second reaction time, 4.504 seconds at 267.69 mph) lost to No. 8 Cruz Pedregon (.051/4.363/246.17)

“It wasn’t what we expected coming into the first race of the season. We tested well. We’re still kind of in a test mode, because of the (new) six-disc (clutch). We’re trying stuff to make us better later in the season, and just never quite got it together this weekend. We’ll learn from it and go into Phoenix a lot stronger. We ran good there in testing, and have a lot more data there. The more data we can get, the better we’ll run.”

 

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