Matt Hagen finished at the top of the Funny Car qualifiers Friday, Aug. 16, at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.
Hagen, who finds himself currently seventh in the Funny Car countdown points standings, ran an ET of 3.890 and traveled at 328.46 mph to claim the top spot of Friday’s qualifiers. He has a lot of confidence heading into the weekend.
“We got a great race car right now,” Hagen said. “We have just come off some semifinals and finals on the western swing and if you throw Denver out of the mix we’ve had a great combo that’s gone a lot of rounds right now.”
Hagen has yet to clinch a spot in the countdown, but his Friday performance puts him in good shape to possibly clinch this week at BIR.
“To roll in here and run two great laps right off the bat gives us a lot of confidence right now,” he said. “This is the momentum we need going into the countdown.”
Hagen already has two wins to his name in the 2019 season. He won the trophy at Phoenix beating J.R. Todd in the finals. Most recently, he won at Epping July 5-7 at NHRA New England Nationals.
Hagen has proven he knows what it takes to win this year and after Friday he feels Brainerd might be another chance to get in the winner’s circle and move up in the countdown standings.
“If we can make up a couple points in a couple of rounds here and move ourselves up to a fifth or fourth in our position we got a good chance to hunt for that championship,” Hagen said. “Everyone wants to do the best they can, but for us and what I’ve seen in the last three or four races coming off that Epping win it really feels like we are starting to peak at the right time.”
Hagen does not want to look too far ahead into the countdown. He knows to win the championship he must win two of the six races in the countdown, but Lucas Oil Nationals is the focus this weekend.
“Right now, we need to look towards Sunday and trying to win this race,” Hagen said. “But to have two good runs down both lanes at this racetrack is looking really good going into tomorrow.”
Hagen wasn’t watching the scoreboard on his second run, but he had a feeling that it was a good one when he saw his crew coming back. However, he doesn’t think his number Friday will stay on top after Saturday.
“As the track improves and as more rubber gets out, there is probably going to be an opportunity for more high 80s, low 90s runs out there tomorrow depending on the weather,” Hagen said. “I am not confident that my run will stick tomorrow.”
It’s his confidence overall in his car and crew that Hagen hopes to capitalize on this weekend at BIR.
“My confidence is huge,” Hagen said. “My lights have been great and the car is running well and the windows the crew chief have found makes it so the car is so much more forgiving. He can miss a little here, a little there and the car still goes down the race track. The amount of times that we have been going down the race track instead of smoking the tires has been huge the last four or five races.”
Last year’s Funny Car champion at BIR Jack Beckman posted a 3.908, which was good enough for second in the Friday qualifiers. Despite his victory last year at BIR, Beckman has yet to claim a victory in the 2019 season.
John Force came into the second qualifier as the leader after his 3.993 in the opening qualifier, but his 3.963 run in the second qualifier was only good enough for eighth heading into the weekend.
Robert Hight, current Funny Car points leader, finished third in Friday’s qualifiers.