Worth repeating: Hagan a champion at Route 66 Nationals
By Tony Baranek firstname.lastname@example.org June 29, 2014 9:26PM
Antron Brown celebrates his victory in the Top Fuel final Sunday in the Route 66 Nationals. | Photo courtesy of Route 66 Raceway
Updated: August 1, 2014 6:17AM
Funny Car veteran Matt Hagan painted a familiar picture for drag-racing fans Sunday at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals in Joliet, but a new one for him in 2014.
The 31-year-old Virginia native repeated his 2013 victory at Route 66, putting on a power show in the final and defeating Tommy Johnson Jr.
Hagan had a run of 4.098 seconds at 310.48 mph, compared to Johnson’s 4.147 ET. It quenched a 2014 thirst that had seen him without a victory and gave him his third win at Route 66.
“It’s been a very, very humbling year for us,” said Hagan, who jumped to eighth in the points standings. “Last year, we won five races, and you kind of think you’re going to set the world on fire the following year. We started out strong, making a final in Pomona, but after that it just kind of fell off.
“The competition is just so tough in Funny Car. To win this deal and you get to turn four, win lights on … you don’t want this day to end. It makes you realize how special these things are when they come together.”
It still was a productive weekend for Johnson, who posted the No. 1 qualifying time and moved from fifth to second in the points standings behind Robert Hight.
Sunday was doubly good for Don Schumacher Racing, with Hagan’s teammate Antron Brown capturing the Top Fuel title. Brown prevailed in the final over Brittany Force, traversing the 1,000-foot strip in 3.814 seconds at 317.34 mph. Brown, the Top Fuel points leader, has four victories at Route 66, two coming in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
“It’s amazing,” said Brown, who took his fourth event title of 2014 and recorded the 500th round win of his career. “We knew what we were capable of. When you get to the final round and you know that you’re racing Brittany Force, you know you have to go in there with your A-plus game.”
Force, who turned in a 3.850 effort, had myriad problems. She didn’t feel especially well, and her dragster had developed a clutch problem which delayed preparation of the motor between the semifinals and final.
“We didn’t have time to warm up and I got ready in the pits,” Force said. “We pulled up in front of the tower and I thought I would have a moment to get in and take a deep breath. Then, Funny Cars were going down the track.
“I didn’t have time to think about anything. Before I knew it, the tree was coming down and I was racing Antron.”
A father-son battle in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class went to Hector Arana III, who came from behind to edge Hector Sr. by a 6.925 (193.93 mph) to 6.637 margin.
“We won this race together,” Arana III said. “I couldn’t have been able to (win) without (my dad). This is a dream come true to make it to the finals together. We’ve been striving to do (it) for four years.”
Vincent Nobile (6.655 ET at 208.01 mph) got a huge jump at the start with a near-perfect 0.004 reaction time and held on over the last few yards to beat Jason Line (6.637) in the Pro Stock final.