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Wed, 12 Jun 2019, 15:47 PM

Two-Time Funny Car World Champ Matt Hagan Ready to Perform at Home Track
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2019 Auto Imagery, Inc.

During NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

BRISTOL, Tenn. -

Matt Hagan
Racing at Bristol Dragway is more than enough to get Matt Hagan excited to race. But having the 19th annual NHRA Thunder Nationals take place on Father's Day Weekend just two hours from his Christiansburg, Va. home makes it one of the most anticipated weekends of the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season for the two-time Funny Car world champ.

Hagan has one career victory at his home track, and will aim to make it a second in Thunder Valley in his 11,000-horsepower MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat. He was able to share his previous win at Bristol in 2015 with his father, as well as plenty of family and friends, and it's a moment Hagan won't forget. But it's also a moment the 30-time event winner would like to recreate in 2019.

"Bristol is one of the most important races all season to me," said Hagan, who is currently sixth in the Funny Car points standings. "It's my home track, my family is there, my dad is there. When I won that race, I broke down crying. It was such a big moment for me and it was really special. That place carries a lot of passion for me. When you're surrounded by all the people you love, have all those people supporting you and watching you, it's just a really special weekend."

Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Ron Capps (Funny Car) were last year's winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 2:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 16. The race takes place June 14-16 and is the 11th of 24 events during the 2019 season. With a Friday night Primetime qualifying session starting at 7:30 p.m., Hagan will have a chance to put on a memorable show and start the weekend on a good note.

After winning at the second race of the season, Hagan is searching to get back to the winner's circle. The team, led by veteran crew chief Dickie Venables, has fallen on a tough stretch in recent races, winning just one round in the last three events. But Hagan believes the team isn't that far off from putting together winning performances. It's a thin line between success and heartbreak in the loaded Funny Car ranks, and Hagan has seen both sides of that in 2019.

Matt Hagan
"You can't make excuses, but we've been close," Hagan said. "You're always so close, always right there, but there's not a lot of in-between in these cars. It's always humbling every year, but I know we're a call or two away from hitting our stride. When that happens and the car starts running well, my driving ability comes around and my confidence comes into place. There's always a good racer within you, it's just about putting everything together."

Hagan has been to three final rounds this season, so the potential is certainly there. In the midst of a grueling summer stretch, it's a matter of finding a car that will perform well in warmer conditions, but Hagan is confident it will come around. He would be thrilled for that to be the case in Thunder Valley, but the talented driver will also have to deal with the likes of points leader Robert Hight, defending world champ J.R. Todd, John Force, and Don Schumacher Racing teammates Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr., who won in Chicago. But the good news is DSR has won in Funny Car for the past five years in Bristol, with Hagan hopeful he can make it six straight.

"You can taste it and know it's right there, and we're always working, but it's very humbling sometimes," Hagan said. "During the summer, it's just a grind. It's tough, but you have to try to do whatever you can to get a win. We're looking forward to the next couple of weekends."

Nobody has been hotter in Top Fuel than current points leader and defending world champion Steve Torrence. He has recorded four straight wins and will look for his second win at Bristol. To do so, he'll have to get past the likes of Doug Kalitta, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, 2017 event winner Clay Millican, Antron Brown, Leah Pritchett and Terry McMillen.

Matt Hagan
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the seventh of 12 stops during its 2019 season in Bristol. Stevie "Fast" Jackson is the points leader in the popular class that also features standouts like Todd Tutterow, defending world champion Mike Janis and three-time world champ Rickie Smith. KA AlBalooshi is the defending winner in the class.

Making its third of four NHRA appearances in 2019, the Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will return to action at Bristol, bringing their popular and powerful 800-plus cubic-inch engines with them to Thunder Valley. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport, as well as the Mickey Thompson Tires NHRA Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series.

NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Bristol Dragway will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can't-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner's circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals victories.

As always, fans can 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 gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.

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.

Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 14 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 15, at 1 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 16.

To purchase reserved seats, call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900. Tickets also are available online at Kids 12 and under are free in select areas with a paid adult.

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