Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals: Hagan sits in top spot on first day
The first two days of racing in a NHRA event are not a head-to-head battle, but it is a contest against the light tree, and to getting your personal-best time.
However, Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca III acted like they were in the final round of eliminations on Sunday as they ran together in the second round of qualifying to gain the top two spots on Friday night at Brainerd International Raceway.
Running in the left lane, Hagan scored an elapsed time of 4.101seconds, which was just a little bit better than Tasca’s time of 4.149 seconds to gain the top spot heading into the second day of qualifying on Saturday.
Hagan admitted that a run like the one that he and Tasca had can send a message early in the weekend.
“Sometimes in qualifying you are more focused on staging the car and keeping it in the groove, but you want to set the precedent early on in the weekend,” Hagan said.
“Anything that you can do to get in someone’s head so they maybe step it up and do something they wouldn’t normally do, that’s what you want to do,” he added.
After coming off a stretch of driving which is hot and dry, the opportunity to race in cooler weather can bring about some fast times.
That was certainly the case on Friday night with several drivers improving their times and positions. No move was bigger then the one that Robert Hight made as he moved from the No. 15 spot to the No. four spot with a time of 4.152 seconds in his second run.
Melanie Troxel also jumped up four spots from 11 to seven after getting an ET of 4.183 in her second pass.
However, Ron Capps went the other way as he slipped from the No. 1 to the No. 3 spot when his car was unable to make its second run. John Force also dropped from fourth to 13th.
Mike Neff stands in first place in the season points race, but he had a disappointing first day with an 14th-place finish. Defending champion Bob Bode inished the day in 17th place and will have a challenge on Saturday to make it to the eliminations on Sunday.
Hagan pointed out that in the Funny Car class, a thousandth of a second can make a huge difference in a competitive class.
“Everybody on my team wants to dominate out there. The Funny Car class is a tough class and there are no gimmes,” Hagan said. “Some of the races out there that we are winning and loosing by thousandths of a second. When you go back home and think about that it really is a hat’s off to the people that put these cars together. I just can’t say enough about my team.”
Hagan also knows that his crew will need to get back to work Saturday to keep that No. 1 spot through Saturday.
“It would be wonderful if that time sticks, but it all depends on whether or not it is a cloudy day (Saturday),” he said.
“This track is coming around and the left lane is getting a lot better. It’s really showing a lot of promise out there for us. We have been trying a new car combination and it has taken a while to get a handle on it. We are not there yet, but it shows a lot of promise.”