Matt Hagan continued his dominance of the NHRA New England Nationals by racing the MOPAR Express Lane Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat to its third consecutive Funny Car triumph at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H. on Sunday.
To notch his 31st career Funny Car victory, Hagan was forced to take down the hottest competitors in the class. His run to the finals started with a match-up versus fellow DSR Hellcat pilot Jack Beckman, who defeated Hagan in recent first rounds at Richmond and Topeka. Hagan and his Dickie Venables-led team turned up the wick and unloaded with a monster run of 3.958 seconds, the quickest Funny Car E.T. of the weekend, to defeat a stout 4.016 run by Beckman and set the tone for a long day of turning on win lights.
“We can’t seem to get away from our teammates in the first round, and they’re the hardest to get around and beat,” said Hagan of facing a DSR Dodge in the opening round at five of the last seven events. “I have so much respect for them; the drivers, the crew chiefs and the caliber of their cars. They’re always tough, but that’s the thing about Dickie Venables, when you give him a couple of runs, and he gets some confidence in himself it’s game over. We came in here, and it was brutally hot throughout qualifying, but we were getting down the race track, and that bred a lot of confidence in myself and our team going into today.”
Facing another teammate in the quarterfinals, two-time 2019 winner Ron Capps, Hagan and Venables were once again up to the task. Hagan left the line first and never trailed, posting a run of 3.991 to advance and face Bob Tasca III in the semifinals. Against Tasca, Hagan snagged the early lead and drove away to capture his 350th round win, and reach his 57th career final and third in 2019.
The two-time Funny Car champion was not going to be denied of an Epping three-peat, and his .033 reaction time in the final was proof. Hagan powered his way to victory over Shawn Langdon with a winning pass of 4.014 at 322.81-mph to give him 12 consecutive round wins at the Epping track.
“My guys were flawless putting the car together today, and I’m really proud of Dickie Venables and Mike Knudsen and the decisions they were making together today. We didn’t just get lucky; the car went down the race track every single time. There’s a lot of good cars out there, a lot of good drivers, but I feel like this is the most consistent car I’ve had underneath me in a long time.
“I’m really excited that we were able to pull down another win for MOPAR. We needed this race to be a turning point for our season, and now we have the Western Swing coming up and then Indy and the Countdown, and you want to have that momentum. With this new combination we have in our bellhousing, I feel like we’re making the right steps to move forward.”
The triumph for Hagan was the fifth win by a DSR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver in 2019, and 338th overall victory for Don Schumacher Racing.
Qualified: No. 6 (4.051 E.T. at 318.47 MPH)
E1: 3.958 E.T. at 326.24 MPH defeated Jack Beckman 4.016 E.T. at 322.04 MPH
E2: 3.991 E.T. at 325.22 MPH defeated Ron Capps 4.101 E.T. at 262.64 MPH
E3: 4.000 E.T. at 324.05 MPH defeated Bob Tasca III 4.478 E.T. at 219.12 MPH
E4: 4.014 E.T. at 322.81 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 4.046 E.T. at 317.49 MPH