Jul 4, 2014 10:00 AM by Jordan Mason
MORRISON, Colo. - Matt Hagan isn't going to make any bold claims following his first win of the season. But heading into a crucial stretch of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season it was precisely the type of performance the Funny Car standout wanted to see.
Hagan picked up a hard-earned victory at the most recent event in Chicago, giving the team a noticeable burst of energy heading into this weekend's event in Norwalk. It also sets up Hagan and his 10,000-horsepower Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger favorably for the three-week NHRA Western Swing that begins with the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, July 18-20.
The pivotal three-race stretch is a major opportunity for drivers to make an impressive move in the points standings with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship right around the corner. Hagan is well aware of that and talked about the importance of doing well in Denver, which marks the 14th of 24 races on the 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit.
"You definitely want to kick off Denver and the Western Swing in the right direction," Hagan said. "It's huge to do well in this three-race swing. It's a dream of mine to sweep the swing, but you have to take it one race at a time. We'll take that momentum from Chicago into this race, but you have to stay humble with these cars. You need consistency and a bunch of good runs, and then you can talk about a championship. You can't get too excited from one win."
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Shawn Gann (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were winners of the 2013 event. The race will once again be televised on ESPN2 HD.
With a string of solid performances as of late Hagan, the 2012 Funny Car world champion, has re-entered the championship conversation. He climbed to eighth in the points standings with his 11th career win and appears to have erased the early-season struggles that produced three straight first-round losses.
That was a far cry from the Hagan of 2013 who started out white-hot and had three wins and five final round appearances by this point in the season. But Hagan's talented team, led by crew chief Dickie Venables have started to put the right pieces in place.
"John Force proved it last year that you can struggle at the beginning of the year and come on strong at the end to win a championship," Hagan said. "It's definitely special to see it come together like it did in Chicago. It's been tough and everyone wants to win. It was definitely a shot in the arm. The smile on all the guys' faces lifts everyone's spirits. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves so when it does come together that pressure is just lifted."
But as Hagan talked about, he knows one fantastic performance and one victory doesn't equate a championship. The next step is building on the Chicago victory, where he knocked off Don Schumacher Racing teammates Jack Beckman, Ron Capps and Tommy Johnson Jr. during eliminations.
That consistency gets even more difficult to produce thanks to the challenges Denver presents. At an elevation of more than 5,800 feet, the Bandimere Speedway altitude affects everything from engine tune-ups to aerodynamics, meaning set-ups must be completely overhauled for the race. Hagan also has to deal with the talented Funny Car ranks that includes defending winner Pedregon, current points leader Robert Hight, six-time Denver winner John Force, Courtney Force, two-time season winner Alexis DeJoria and Tim Wilkerson.
But Hagan, who also does an impressive amount of promotional work for the Mopar-sponsored event, knows the mindset necessary to succeed in Denver.
"Denver is just tough," Hagan said. "The altitude changes everything up but it all goes away when you get in the seat. Up until that point it's a crazy, chaotic event, but when you get in the car, that all fades away. It's just about leaving the starting line, keeping it in the groove and turning on that win light. In that four seconds, it all slows down for you. That's your time right there. It's hard to block out everything that's going on, but it's my job to focus and not let my guys down."
Massey is after a second straight win at Bandimere Speedway in Top Fuel and currently has two wins in 2014. He will be challenged by Antron Brown, who has two wins at the Denver event and won the most recent event in Chicago, and seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, as well as points leader Doug Kalitta, reigning world champ Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd, sophomore-sensation Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, Khalid alBalooshi and rookie Richie Crampton.
Team Mopar/Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart driver Allen Johnson took the Pro Stock win in Denver last year, giving him five career victories at Bandimere Speedway. His main threats include teammate and reigning champion Jeg Coughlin, points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who is after her first win in Denver, Vincent Nobile, who is the most recent event winner, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, V Gaines, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, the Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec sit first and second, respectively, in the points standings and will face strong competition from the likes of reigning world champion Matt Smith, John Hall, Hector Arana Jr., who won the most recent event in Chicago, Michael Ray and Scotty Pollacheck.
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. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans will also 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.
To purchase tickets for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, please call Bandimere Speedway Box Office at (800) 664-8946 or visit www.bandimere.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
Before the NHRA Mello Yello Series arrives in Colorado for the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the circuit will visit Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, July 3-6 for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. Keep up with all the action on ESPN2.
MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS
WHAT: 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals, the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle - earn points leading to 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Bandimere Speedway, Morrison, Colo. The track is 10 miles west of Denver, just north of the historic town of Morrison. From Denver, take Interstate 70 west to C-470 and travel south to the Morrison Road exit. Take Morrison Road west to Rooney Road and go north to the track.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 18-20.
FRIDAY, July 18 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:45 and 7:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 19 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 3:15 and 5:45 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 20 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Saturday, July 19, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 11 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 29, ESPN will televise three hours and 30 minutes of elimination coverage starting at 2:30 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE: (Digital HD feed)
Saturday, July 19, 12 - 12:30 a.m. (ET), AMC 2 / Transponder 18C
Saturday, July 19, 10:30 - 11 p.m. (ET), AMC 2 / Transponder 18C
Sunday, July 20, 7 - 7:30 p.m. (ET), AMC 2 / Transponder 18C
(4060 MHz, vertical; 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.
2013 EVENT WINNERS:
Spencer Massey, Top Fuel; Cruz Pedregon, Funny Car; Allen Johnson, Pro Stock; Shawn Gann, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Bob Glidden, 7, PS; Joe Amato, 6, TF; John Force, 6, FC; Allen Johnson, 5, PS; Warren Johnson, 5, PS; Matt Hines, 4, PSM
Top Fuel - 3.862 seconds by Antron Brown, July '09; 319.60 mph by Steve Torrence, July '13.
Funny Car - 4.073 seconds by Cruz Pedregon, July '13; 309.91 mph by Jack Beckman, July '13.
Pro Stock - 6.916 seconds by Allen Johnson, July '12; 198.70 mph by Johnson, July '12.
PS Motorcycle - 7.237 seconds by Hector Arana Jr., July '12; 186.54 mph by Ryan Schnitz, July '05.
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 - 3.965 sec. by John Force, Feb. '14, Pomona, Calif.; 324.12 mph by J. Force, Feb. '14, Pomona, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.464 sec. by Erica Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown, N.J.; 215.55 mph by Enders-Stevens, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle - 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. '12, Reading, Pa.; 199.26 mph by Eddie Krawiec, March '11, Gainesville, Fla.