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NHRA: Matt Hagan off to a good start, but Concord stop looms

Matt Hagan, bottom, won the 2013 Funny Car title at the Four-Wide Nationals in Concord and claimed a second division championship last year.
Matt Hagan, bottom, won the 2013 Funny Car title at the Four-Wide Nationals in Concord and claimed a second division championship last year. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Matt Hagan is off to a good start in defending his National Hot Rod Association Funny Car division championship, winning two of the season’s first three races and leading Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps in the points.

However, the NHRA’s next stop – the sixth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at Concord’s zMax Dragway, with its unique “side by side by side by side” format – will provide a different test for Hagan and the other drivers in the four pro divisions: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.

“It’s always going to be different, because we only do it one time a year,” Hagan said. “There’s 23 other races, and they’re all the same. (The Four-Wide Nationals) just throws you out of your element. You have to adapt to the situation.

“It definitely makes for a unique race because you have three other drivers who have their own routines, their own style of driving and their own way of doing things. You have to compensate for that. There’s just a lot more going on, and a lot faster pace.”

Here are seven things to know about Hagan and his team:

1. Hagan, 32, is a native of Christiansburg, Va., located just outside of Roanoke and near the Virginia-West Virginia line. He’s married to Rachel and has two children – son Colby, 8; and daughter Penny, 5.

2. Hagan has won the Funny Car championship twice – in 2011 and last year – and has 16 race titles, including the two this season.

3. Three of Hagan’s wins have come at zMax Dragway – the 2011 and 2014 NHRA Carolina Nationals, and the 2013 NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. He also holds the track’s speed record for a Funny Car (322.27 mph, set in 2011).

4. When Hagan isn’t at the track, he’s working on his 1,000-acre ranch, where he’s raising 600 head of cattle. He also has a successful business boarding show horses, and even his own outdoors and hunting supply store in Roanoke.

5. Don Schumacher Racing, owned by former drag racer Don Schumacher, fields Funny Car teams for Hagan, Capps, Jack Beckham and Tommy Johnson Jr., and Top Fuel teams for Tony Schumacher, Spencer Massey and Antron Brown.

6. DSR has been one of the most-successful NHRA teams at zMax Dragway, with 13 race titles – six in Funny Car and seven in Top Fuel. Six wins have come in the Four-Wide Nationals (four in Top Fuel, two in Funny Car).

7. In all, DSR has 13 NHRA series championships – nine in Top Fuel (eight by Schumacher), four in Funny Car – and enters next week’s Four-Wide Nationals with 245 race wins.

“It’s more satisfying beating a teammate,” Hagan said. “You feel like you’ve done something, because you all have the same parts and pieces, the same (research and development), and the same data. It’s just that you did a little better job out on the race track. To me, that’s more gratifying than beating a big rival.”

Want to Go?

What: Sixth annual NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.

Where: zMax Dragway, Concord.

When: March 27-29.

Tickets: $20-35 Friday, $40-55 Saturday-Sunday, $99-139 3-day pass, ages 13-younger admitted free with an adult.

Information: charlottemotorspeedway.com.

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