Three-time defending event champion Matt Hagan earned his 41st No. 1 qualifier and first of the 2021 season on Saturday at the NHRA New England Nationals. Hagan, the 2020 NHRA Camping World Series champion, is vying for his first win of the year in pursuit of his title defense. The driver of the DSR Performance Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car has come close, finishing as the event runner-up in Vegas and a semifinalist at Atlanta, but has yet to seal the deal and hoist a Wally trophy this year.
Hagan has been tremendously successful at New England Dragway, having finished his day in the winner’s circle the last three times the NHRA tour has visited the Epping, N.H. facility. He’s hoping for more of that same New England luck on Sunday as he attempts to capture his first triumph of the season and extend his Epping streak to four-in-a-row.
Hagan secured the No. 1 spot when he powered the DSR Performance Dodge to a blistering 3.891-second pass at 331.53-mph on Friday night. While the majority of the Funny Car field improved upon their Q1 runs during Saturday’s two qualifying sessions, no one was able to successfully outrun Hagan and knock him from his spot at the top of the ladder.
“Epping has always been very kind to us,” said Hagan, a 36-time Funny Car winner. “Dickie Venables has a great setup for this track and these conditions. The car is responding well to what he’s asking it to do. We’ve got DSR Performance and the DSR.parts website on the car and when you combine those pieces with Dickie’s knowledge, it’s a tough combination. The car just handles so well. Kudos to our DSR fab shop. It goes straight down the race track. I’m excited. We have a Bye and that’s maybe the first time I’ve had a first-round Bye. I’ll try hard not to screw that up. Like anything, you go out and work hard and when you do, it pays dividends and we hope to go rounds tomorrow. We’re excited and let’s get it done.”
Starting from the pole position, Hagan will take on the winner of the Blake Alexander/Tim Wilkerson match-up in round two after his E1 Bye.