Matt "Hulk" Hagan backed up his last win back capturing another one this weekend in New Hampshire. Matt was joined by Chris McGaha in Pro Stock, and Steve Torrence in Top Fuel.
While the news is dominated right now by the shocking news that Army will not be coming back in 2019 as a sponsor of the DSR Tony Schumacher Top Fuel ride, let's not forget that there were three other drivers that took to the winners stage to celebrate their weekend accomplishments tonight.
Starting over in Pro Stock, where it has really been a who's going to win it this weekend type of scenario all season. Greg Anderson, yet again qualified number one, but exited early, as did his teammate Jason Line. Chris qualified number nine on the sixteen car ladder. The first round of eliminations saw Chris face off against the yellow monster of Jeg Coughlin Jr. Chris took the holeshot win over Jeg, which meant he was going to face another performance parts company in the second round. Greg Anderson was in the other lane during the second round, and yet again Chris got the win light on a holeshot. In the semi-finals Chris faced Kenny Delco, and got the win before the race started when Kenny went heavy red. This led him to facing the two-time World Champion Erica Enders in the finals. Yet again, Chris took the win before the race started, as Erica redlit for the first time in a P/S final.
Two weeks ago in Norwalk, OH Matt Hagan took the win, and this weekend was different. Matt was dominate all weekend. Matt qualified number one and managed to run the table this weekend. He hasn't suffered a round loss since Bristol almost a month ago. Matt's path to the win had him facing off against Terry Haddock. Terry had some issues and Matt cruised to the win. Round two, Matt faced Tommy Johnson Jr. which was really a driver match-up and Matt got the better of TJ. The semi-finals had Matt running against Ron Capps and his Napa car. This was a hell of a race, as Ron ran a 4.12 to Matt's 4.11. This sent Matt to the finals against Tim Wilkerson's Mustang. The finals were all Matt from start to finish. He got the jump on Wilk and held him off all the way through.
“We've just got a good race car. I think the biggest thing is (crew chief) Dickie Venables," said Hagan, who gained almost 100 points on category leader Courtney Force over the course of the race weekend. "The guy is smart. If you give him enough runs and enough opportunities at whatever it is, he’s going to figure it out. I think that’s why he’s been in the sport for over 50-some years. He’s been doing it since he was hanging on his dad's leg. He’s somebody that I want to keep myself around as long as possible. He works hard, this is his life and it goes to show on the race car. There’s also luck, that last lap it was like a dirt track. My rear-end was sideways and coming back around and I could hear (opponent) Timmy (Wilkerson) over there and you’re looking around to see where they’re at. That’s what makes it exciting in a fuel Funny Car, man. You never know what you’re going to get. I’ve never had the same lap back-to-back.
"This car has just been going down the race track. We turned four win lights on in Norwalk and we turned four win lights on here and we went down every lap in Norwalk and we went down every lap in qualifying here. We just pretty much have what you would call a bracket car in a fuel Funny Car. It’s just responding well to what they’re asking it to do. It makes my confidence grow. As a driver, it makes my lights come back around. I’m more focused on that and I’m not thinking about whether the car might come lose or what it’s going to do if I have to slap the tires. I can get up there and tell myself 'leave on time, keep it in the groove, turn the win light on.' You’re focused on what you have to do versus what everything else is going to do.
"I’m proud of my guys. They just haven’t had any mistakes. This whole year my crew has really not faltered. They haven’t had any whoops. They’ve been doing a great job wrenching. They’re very thorough on touching the parts and pieces and making sure they’re going together."
It was two of the best drivers in all of Top Fuel, and two great friends facing off in the finals. Steve Torrence and Antron Brown were the ones we saw compete for the wally, but first Steve had to get around Dan Mercier, Shawn Reed, and The Sarge Tony Schumacher. The closest race that Steve had heading into the finals was the semi's against Tony, where Steve went a 3.942 to Tony's 3.963. Just like the finals in Funny Car, Steve held the win from tree to stripe.
This is what Antron had to say about his weekend...
“We’re taking it one step at a time and we’re constantly getting better and better. Our car has been running well, we just needed to be in the right spot at the right time. We thought this was our weekend and we’re just bummed (after losing in the final). This entire Matco Tools/U.S. Army/Toyota team has just been working so hard together. We have the Western Swing coming up – Denver’s first and I’m just looking forward to getting back to the race track. Our team is coming together at the right time and by the time Indy comes up we’ll be hitting full swing. That’s our game plan.
"We had three good runs to close out the day, but we were trying to make them a little better. We just have to learn our bearings. We were able to pedal the car today in the first round and still go down the race track. We’ve got a lot of things that are positive that we’ll take out of today. We just need to keep focusing on that. We’re getting better and the other teams are seeing it. We just have to keep getting after it. We moved up to sixth today and our focus is just to keep picking away at the gap to fifth. That’s our goal to try to get into the top five. Then we’d like to see if we can move up to fourth before the Countdown. We love going to the Mile High in Denver. It’s always a challenge, but we’ve got the brain trust and the people to run well there."