Matt Hagan was less than a hundred points short of winning the NHRA Funny Car Championship in 2022, finishing in third place with his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. Seeing as how it was his first season with the new Tony Stewart Racing team, finishing in the top three in the championship race – well within striking distance of the title during the final few events – was an incredible accomplishment. However, Hagan and his TSR team have come out of the gate hard for the 2023 season as they make another run at the title, taking home the win at three of the first four events.
Today, we bring you a look at Hagan’s success this year, including some information on the competitors and the top times at each event. As you can see, we have included what the competitors drive at their first mention in this piece, to provide an idea of what other vehicles are in the class. As you can see, there are lots of Ford Mustangs in the field this year, but as has been the case in recent years, they are barely competitive. Ford really should stick to forms of motorsport where a “balance of performance” system helps to keep them competitive.
Stacking Up Wins Early
The 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series opened in Florida with the Gatornationals. After qualifying in the 5th spot, Matt Hagan and his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat beat Tim Wilkerson (Ford Mustang), Bob Tasca III (Ford Mustang) and Alexis DeJoria (Toyota Supra) before beating JR Todd (Toyota Supra) in the final round (3.926). Hagan had the quickest elapsed time in the class in the second (3.882), third (3.896) and final rounds of competition along with the fastest trap speed of the class (335.82) during the first round.
The second event of the year was the Arizona Nationals and after qualifying in the fourth spot, Hagan and his Charger beat fellow Dodge driver Cruz Pedregon in the first round, but he lost to Chad Green (Ford Mustang) in the second round while Chevy Camaro driver Robert Hight raced to the event win.
The third stop of the NHRA season took the teams to Pomona, California for the Winternationals. For the first time this season, Matt Hagan qualified in the bottom half of the ladder, but that didn’t stop him from racing to another Wally with his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat funny car. After beating Blake Alexander (Ford Mustang) in the first round, Hagan went on to knock off Alexis DeJoria, Terry Haddock (Ford Mustang) and Ron Capps (Toyota Supra) – running the quickest ETs in the second (3.950), third (3.955) and final (3.967) rounds as well as laying down the fastest top speed (330.07) during his first round win.
Finally, this past weekend saw the NHRA teams head to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the Four-Wide Nationals. This time, Hagan and his Charger SRT Hellcat race car started in the third spot on the ladder of the unique event, with four vehicles competing head-to-head on every pass. In the first round, Hagan beat Jeff Diehl (Toyota Solara), Alex Laughlin (Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat) and Robert Hight. In the second round, Hagan beat John Force (Chevrolet Camaro), Alex DeJoria and Jeff Diehl. In the final four-car round, Hagan and his Charger out-sprinted Tim Wilkerson, John Force and Chad Green. Hagan had the quickest ET in the second (3.968) and final rounds, with his final round pass of 3.943 being the quickest of the class for the event.
So far in 2023, Matt Hagan has gone down the track 13 times in competition. He has crossed the finish line first on 12 of those runs, leading to three event wins in four attempts. Through the 13 rounds of competition in which he has participated, Hagan’s Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat was the quickest car in the Funny Car class in 8 of those rounds. A few years back, Matt Hagan was part of a four-car team that collectively dominated the NHRA Funny Car class, but in 2023, he is dominating the class on his own.
As a result of winning three of the first four events of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, Matt Hagan sits atop the leaderboard for the championship chase. With 394 points, Hagan leads second place competitor Ron Capps – who won the class championship in each of the past two seasons – by 105 points. That is a big lead to have so early in the season, but with the NHRA “playoff” program at the end of the season which resets the point totals for the top 10 competitors, the size of Hagan’s lead during the regular part season is more or less irrelevant.
The next event on the 2023 NHRA schedule is another four-wide event later this month at ZMax Dragway in North Carolina.