Matt Hagan ended a 17-month winless drought by racing to the Funny Car victory Sunday at the Dollar General NHRA Four-Wide Nationals fueled by Full Throttle at zMAX Dragway.
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners of the only NHRA Mello Yello Series Drag Racing event that features competition in four lanes simultaneously.
The Southwest Virginia cattle rancher powered his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger to the final round win over fellow Virginian Blake Alexander, veteran driver Tim Wilkerson, and rookie Chad Head to take his sixth career victory.
Hagan covered the distance in 4.071 seconds at 315.34 miles-per-hour and finished in front of Alexander’s Charger, which ran 4.156 at 294.56 in his first ever runner-up finish. Wilkerson and event top qualifier Head both lost traction in their machines early in the four-wide final.
“This was a big win for us,” Hagan said. “It’s been a year since we won, or longer; I don’t know. It’s been too long, and that feeling is just great to have back.
Hagan moved through eliminations as the quickest in each of his first two rounds and it was a great turnaround at this track for the 2011 world champ who has endured several spectacular explosions here in the past.
“We finally put some gremlins to rest here at the racetrack at zMAX,” Hagan said. “I love this track. It’s home for me, three hours away from home. It’s one of those deals where it’s a great track. Bruton Smith does a great job with it, and it’s a fast facility. Our car just ran phenomenal in lane two all day long, and that says a lot for [crew chief] Dickie Venables. He’s kind of been passed over and looked over the past couple of years as a crew chief. It’s one of those deals where he’s got two rings on his fingers, and he just hadn’t found a home yet. Don Schumacher gave him an opportunity to go out here and do his own thing. The guy came in and is doing his own thing, and he’s taking notes home and doing what he’s supposed to be doing, and that drives me to do what I’m supposed to do and step up to the plate.”
With the victory, Hagan moved into the series lead, 50 ahead of second place Cruz Pedregon. It is the first time Hagan has led the points since winning the 2011 world championship title.
“We took over the points lead, but it’s too early to start counting that stuff,” Hagan said. “But anybody who tells you they don’t count it is foolish; everybody’s counting points.”
In Top Fuel, Massey earned his first victory in nearly a year and won his second consecutive title at this event by holding off Tony Schumacher at the finish line. Top qualifier Shawn Langdon and Brandon Bernstein finished third and fourth. Massey’s Schumacher Electric dragster led all the way with a 3.771 at 325.45, while Schumacher was just behind in his U.S. Army dragster, finishing in 3.778 at 320.81.
“The last two years we’ve taken home the Wally, but if you think about it, [crew chiefs] Todd [Okuhara] and Phil [Shuler] have had an awesome car and an awesome team for a number of years,” said Massey, also the winner of his first two rounds. “Back when Cory McClenathan drove that FRAM car, Cory owned this racetrack. The first four wide was won by my crew, so it bleeds over from the old team, which is my team now. Whenever there’s a racetrack that you do well at, you just seem to do well at it. It doesn’t seem to make sense, but you just seem to do well. When you have confidence, it really seems to help, and when I roll up here, I know that we can win. We’ve won here before, so we just get out there and do what we know how to do and have fun.”
With his 11th career victory, Massey moves up to third in the points standings, trailing leader Schumacher and second place Antron Brown.
Pro Stock top qualifier Edwards led wire-to-wire to put an end to a mini-slump, powering his I Am Second Chevy Camaro to a 6.495 at 213.67. Erica Enders-Stevens finished second in her GK Motorsports Camaro with a 6.521 at 211.76, while Greg Anderson and Shane Gray were third and fourth in their respective Camaros.
It is the 35th career victory for Edwards, who opened up an 84-point lead on defending world champ Allen Johnson in the series standings. The Oklahoma native picked up an additional 20 points during the weekend for setting the national elapsed time record at 6.471 seconds during qualifying.
“It does feel satisfying to close the deal,” said Edwards, who finished first in each of the first two rounds of eliminations. “We’ve had numerous opportunities, and anytime you can run really good and win, it’s a phenomenal day. We ran good but we were really conservative. I’ve been shooting myself in the foot, but today, I thought if we get beat it’s not going to be because we squared the tires up and not because of the lame-brained driver we have. I’m off to a better start than my championship season. Our team is coming together, and it’s a long season, but another [title] would be great.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Jr. claimed his second straight victory of the season and fifth of his career with a final round performance of 6.896 at 190.73 to defeat defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, who rode his Harley-Davidson to a 6.924 at 190.65. The semifinalists in the four-wide final were Scotty Pollacheck and Jim Underdahl.
“This feels excellent,” said Arana Jr., who finished second in the opening round and was first in the second round. “This just goes to show that we really wanted to get wins, and after last year, we’re making up for lost time. To win the four wide my first time, I love this race. My bike was fast. Since last year it has been super-fast and very consistent. We do our routine maintenance, and we stay on top of our parts a little better this year.”
Arana Jr. increased his series lead to 93 over second place Scotty Pollacheck in points standings.
The Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues with the NHRA SpringNationals presented by Super Start Batteries, April 26-28 at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston.
Pro Stock Championship point standings
1. Mike Edwards 494 2. Allen Johnson 410 3. Erica Enders-Stevens 396 4. Jeg Coughlin 369 5. Vincent Nobile 309
Funny Car Championship point standings
1. Matt Hagan 399 2. Cruz Pedregon 349 3. Courtney Force 347 4. Johnny Gray 311 5. Ron Capps 309
Top Fuel Championship point standings
1. Tony Schumacher 479 2. Antron Brown 405 3. Spencer Massey 370 4. Shawn Langdon 326 5. Morgan Lucas 274