The NHRA big leagues head to Kansas on August 12th for the Menards Nationals after a three-race swing to the West Coast that couldn’t have gone much worse for Matt Hagan. After qualifying in the top spot at the Dodge Power Brokers Mile High Nationals, he qualified in the bottom half of the ladder at the Sonoma Nationals and Northwest Nationals – losing in the first round of each of those events.
“The Western Swing wasn’t very kind to us. It was tough having three first-round losses in a row. I think we have some problems with our fuel management system, where we are dropping cylinders. That’s something that is uncommon for us, so we have to use this next week off to take a look at some things. We’ll look at what we’ve changed from the beginning of the season to now and go back to where the car is running on all eight cylinders again. We have to get back on top of where we were and how we were doing it, said Hagan.
Our Dodge Power Brokers crew wants to perform well in qualifying to set us up for a great day on Sunday. The car had a cylinder out at the step and it was one of those rounds that could have gone either way and today, things didn’t go our way. I always love racing John (Force). He’s a character and I like getting up on the wheel for him because I get excited to race him. He’s one of those guys you just want to beat because he’s John Force. I’m looking forward to the week off to see my family and get back to the farm. The week off will allow us to hit the reset button and get focused to race in Topeka.”
Matt Hagan got off to a rough start at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceway, landing in the 10th spot in the short 12-car field with a 4.20 at 251 miles per hour – about a quarter-second behind Bob Tasca III’s top spot run of 3.965 at 319mph. After a throw-away run in Q2, Hagan ran a 4.031 at 311.2 miles per hour, leaving him in the 10th spot as the teams headed into eliminations. Bob Tasca III held onto the top spot and fellow Team Dodge driver Cruz Pedregon put his Charger funny car in the 4th spot.
In the first round of eliminations, Matt Hagan lined his Dodge Charger up against John Force’s Chevrolet Camaro. Hagan had the early advantage, but he ran into engine issues and limped across the finish line with the loss. That makes Hagan’s third-straight loss in the first round.
Also in the first round, Pedregon and his Dodge Charger took on Tim Wilkerson in a Ford Mustang, with Wilkerson grabbing the starting line advantage and never looking back. Cruz had issues of his own, leading to a slow run and a first round exit.
“We qualified in the No. 4 spot with a four flat and we felt good going into race day against Tim Wilkerson. We had some solid qualifying runs at 4.07 [seconds], 4.05 and a 4.0, so heading into race day in the early morning we felt like the track was going to be good. Unfortunately, we went out there, spun the tires, and it really ended our weekend prematurely,” said Pedregon. “We’re disappointed that that was our end result, but we’ll go back and regroup. We’re going to debut a new car this coming weekend at the ‘Night under Fire’ special match race in Norwalk (Ohio) next Saturday. It’s a completely new car so we look forward to getting that dialed in with some test runs to get it ready for Topeka. We’re optimistic with a lot of big races coming up. We’re looking forward to continuing our qualifying efforts and carrying that through the next few race days.”
Robert Hight would go on to beat JR Todd in the finals, with the Chevrolet Camaro beating the Toyota Camry in a thrilling side-by-side drag race.
Although Hagan has lost in the first round for the past three races, he still sits in the second spot, 228 points behind Robert Hight. Cruz Pedregon is in the 7th spot, 564 points back of the leader.
There are three events left before the end of the “regular season”, at which point the standings will reset to bring the top 10 closer together. In other words, so long as Hagan and Pedregon stay in the top 10, they will both have a real shot at the 2022 Funny Car Championship.
As for Leah Pruett in the Dodge Power Brokers Top Fuel dragster, after qualifying 12th, she beat Antron Brown and Doug Kalitta to advance to the semifinals, where she met Brittany Force. Unfortunately, Pruett had issues shortly after the launch, giving the easy win to Force. She sits in the 6th spot, 410 points behind leader Brittany Force.