CHARLOTTE, N.C. — NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car driver Matt Hagan has already put together a banner season in Funny Car, winning four times and he will enter the Countdown to the Championship as the top seed when the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts takes place at zMAX Dragway, Sept 13-15.
It’s an enviable position heading into the six-race playoff, but don’t expect Hagan and his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger team to alter an approach that has already led to immense success in his 8,000-horsepower Funny Car.
“It's the Countdown to the Championship, and it sure puts pressure on you, but you can't allow that to have an effect on you,” Hagan said. “You have to do what you've done all year long to get you to position where we're sitting number one. So why change everything just because someone says it's the Countdown? I absolutely feel like we have the opportunity to go out and win another championship. I feel like as long as we continue to do or continue to be as consistent as we have been all year long, there is no reason we shouldn't win it.”
Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champion, is certainly confident heading into the most important stretch of the year but he has every right to be during what has been a tremendous turnaround season.
A year after not even making the Countdown, vast changes were made to Hagan’s team and seemingly every button new crew chief Dickie Venables and his team has pushed this season has been the right one. In a class that has featured impressive balance and competitiveness, Hagan has been a step ahead for the first 18 races, sitting as the points leader for the past three months.
“Dickie Venables is probably one of the smartest guys I've worked with,” Hagan said. “Everybody that I've worked with has been top brass, but this guy is above and beyond. He’s just been awesome all year long and has been a great team leader. It pumps me up and drives me to put my helmet on, get focused, and get up on the wheel and make things happen.”
That leadership has fueled Hagan to reach new heights and his work ethic has been infectious on a team that started its 2013 momentum in Charlotte. Hagan won the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in April, following it up with victories at Englishtown, Chicago and Seattle. Hagan has advanced to seven final rounds in all, showing a strong knack to get the car down the track in any weather conditions. That fact has given him a boost heading into the Countdown as well.
“There is a reason our car has been number one for the majority of the year and it's because it's been consistent,” Hagan said. “You capitalize on the little things and make sure you're taking advantage of the small opportunities. Dickie runs a smart race car. He's not out here trying to do anything crazy or reinvent the wheel. He's just been rubbing on this combination, and he just wants to keep moving forward. I feel confident, cool, calm, and collected about everything, and just super excited to be a part of it.”
Hagan is also ready for a grueling six-race stretch where everyone will be chasing him at the start. That group includes a bevy of talented drivers, including Ron Capps, Johnny Gray, John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Courtney Force, defending world champion Jack Beckman, Tim Wilkerson, Robert Hight and Del Worsham.
“We've got six races and it's going to be a dog fight out there,” Hagan said. “These cars that we're competing with are the top in the world and you have to remember that. You can't take anybody lightly. But you still have to continue to focus and not let that pressure get to you and just focus on what you can control."
Hagan was brilliant at zMAX Dragway in the spring and has a strong history at the track, but that only makes him more determined leading into the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts.
“We won Charlotte in the spring, but that doesn't mean that you're going to win it in the fall,” Hagan said. “I think that we have some great notes to go off of coming into Charlotte. But that was spring, and this is fall. It's totally different conditions. We have to keep doing what we're doing and keep moving forward.”
In Top Fuel everyone continues to chase top seed and Al-Anabi Racing driver Shawn Langdon, who is looking to start the Countdown on a strong note. Among that group hoping to upend him includes defending world champion Antron Brown, seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher and other standouts like Doug Kalitta, Spencer Massey, Clay Millican, Morgan Lucas, Khalid alBalooshi, Steve Torrence and Bob Vandergriff.
Mike Edwards is leading the Pro Stock charge in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro, while defending world champ Allen Johnson, Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile are in hot pursuit in their Dodge Avengers. Local favorites Greg Anderson and Jason Line will be looking to get back on the winning track at zMAX Dragway.
In the 190 mph Pro Stock Motorcycle category, Hector Arana Jr. enters the race as the top seed with four season victories, followed closely by Indy runner-up Matt Smith and two-time season winner Michael Ray. Indy winner John Hall, defending world champ Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Sr. and Scotty Pollacheck are also among the pre-race favorites in the two-wheel class.
The Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts is sure to be a crowd-pleaser. In addition to all of the drama and excitement going on in the Countdown playoffs, fans will also enjoy a brilliant night qualifying show on Friday, some powerful exhibition runs by two jet dragsters and an incredible fireworks display to close out Friday’s racing.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. No other sport offer fans an up close and personal experience like NHRA.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA's popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Be a part of the action all weekend with a 3-Day Pass to the Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts. Purchase a 3-day package for just $99. Bring the kids along for an even better ticket offer: Children 13 and younger will receive free general admission with a paid adult all weekend.
Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts qualifying opens on Friday, Sept. 13, with sessions at 4:15 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, Sept. 14, at 12:15 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 15.
The race will be televised on ESPN2 HD with qualifying coverage on Saturday and three hours of eliminations coverage on Sunday beginning at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
To purchase tickets, call zMAX Dragway at 800-455-FANS (3267) or visit www.zMAXdragway.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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CARLYLE TOOLS NHRA CAROLINA NATIONALS PRESENTED BY NAPA AUTO PARTS FACT SHEET
WHAT: Sixth annual Carlyle Tools NHRA Carolina Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts, the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the first of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: zMAX Dragway- Track is located on Hwy 29 off I-85 at exit 49 (Speedway Blvd.) in the Concord, N.C. area.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Sept. 13-15
FRIDAY, Sept. 13 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 3:30 and 6:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:15 and 6:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 14 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m.; first round of eliminations at 4:15 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:15 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 15 - Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon.
Sunday, Sept. 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise 90 minutes of qualifying coverage at 3:30 a.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, Sept. 13, 9 - 9:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 3C
Saturday, Sept. 14, 5:30 - 6 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 3C
Sunday, Sept. 15, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 3C
(3760 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Shawn Langdon, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Jason Line, Pro Stock; Andrew Hines, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Top Fuel - 3.749 seconds by Tony Schumacher, Sept. ’12; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12.
Funny Car - 3.995 seconds by Matt Hagan, Sept. ’11; 322.27 mph by Hagan, Sept. ’11.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13; 213.91 mph by Line, April ’12.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.810 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, Sept. ’11; 196.79 mph by Krawiec, Sept. ’11.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March ’11, Gainesville, Fla.
TICKETS: Order tickets by phone at (800) 455-FANS. Tickets also are available online at www.zmaxdragway.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO COUNTDOWN TO THE CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- The following are the reset point standings (top 10) for each Mello Yello Drag Racing Series driver, following 18 regular season races and prior to the start of the six-race Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s playoffs -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 2,110; 2. Spencer Massey, 2,080; 3. Tony Schumacher, 2,070; 4. Doug Kalitta, 2,060; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 2,050; 6. Antron Brown, 2,040; 7. Clay Millican, 2,030; 8. Morgan Lucas, 2,020; 9. Steve Torrence, 2,010; 10. Bob Vandergriff, 2,000.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 2,110; 2. Ron Capps, 2,080; 3. Johnny Gray, 2,070; 4. John Force, 2,060; 5. Jack Beckman, 2,050; 6. Cruz Pedregon, 2,040; 7. Courtney Force, 2,030; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 2,020; 9. Robert Hight, 2,010; 10. Del Worsham, 2000.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 2,110; 2. Allen Johnson, 2,080; 3. Jeg Coughlin, 2,070; 4. Vincent Nobile, 2,060; 5. Shane Gray, 2,050; 6. Jason Line, 2,040; 7. Greg Anderson, 2,030; 8. V Gaines, 2,020; 9. Erica Enders-Stevens, 2,010; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 2,000.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 2,110; 2. Matt Smith, 2,080; 3. Michael Ray, 2,070; 4. John Hall, 2,060; 5. Hector Arana, 2,050; 6. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,040; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 2,030; 8. Adam Arana, 2,020; 9. LE Tonglet, 2,010; 10. Shawn Gann, 2,000.