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NHRA: Hagan Goes No. 1 In Funny Car Ahead Of Season Finale


OFF THE WIRE
There are four drivers with a chance to win it all in Funny Car, and Matt Hagan and led Beckman lead the way in qualifying.
 
 
 
Denied his first championship one year ago at this very race, Funny Car racer Matt Hagan is back at the Auto Club NHRA Finals with the points lead and a year's worth of agonizing unfilled dreams. He'll get his chance to put all that behind him once and for all when action begins at 11 a.m. Sunday in Pomona, Calif.

"We're grateful as a team to be in this position and be back in the hunt," said Hagan, who stretched his lead over teammate Jack Beckman to 12 points by qualifying No. 1 with a 4.033 at 315.27 mph in his appropriately named DieHard Charger. "We need to go for it tomorrow and get those round wins. I believe in this team and in the fact that (crew chief) Tommy DeLago is going to carry us through this thing.

There are four drivers with a chance to win it all. Hagan and Beckman lead the way, but independent runner Cruz Pedregon, a two-time champion, is less than two rounds back and John Force Racing pro Mike Neff is just five points behind Pedregon.

"The finish line is there; now we need to get it in the end zone," said Hagan, who let John Force by him at last season's finale when he lost in the second round. "I learned so much last year. You can't block that stuff out. I'd be lying if I said I did. So what I try to do is pull the positives out of it. I know what I need to do as a driver to get that car down the track, to pedal it if I need to, to do all the things I can do to help us win. We have 10 guys busting their butts and I know they'll do everything they can to help us win. Now we just need to go out there and get it done."

Equally as determined is veteran nitro racer Del Worsham, who edged his way into the Top Fuel points lead in qualifying by virtue of three strong passes and the bonus points that accompanied his effort.

"We came in here with a gameplan and that was to try and gather as many of those little points as we could," Worsham said from the Al-Anabi camp. "A round win on Sunday is worth 20 points so the difference of being 19 or 21 points ahead is huge. Two points like that can mean a round on Sunday. I feel like we did everything we could so far.

"It's been a dream season, for sure, but to truly be a dream season we need to finish this thing off. We've had our ups and downs but I feel as though we're running our best right now. This team has been in this position many times so I'm trying to take their lead and just go with it."

Spencer Massey, who arrived in town with a narrow two-point lead, is now second, eight points behind Worsham. Antron Brown is 25 points back, while defending series champion Larry Dixon is 47 in arrears.

Other No. 1 qualifiers on Saturday were Mike Edwards in Pro Stock and Andrew Hines in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Hines had a best lap of 6.820 seconds at 197.54 mph, his second No. 1 of the season aboard the Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson.

"Right now it's about consistency," Hines said. "We showed that with me being quickest in the first three rounds and (teammate Eddie Krawiec) quickest in the past one. We've got our performance going and we'll go into tomorrow ready to have some fun."

Hines squares off against No. 16 qualifier Michael Phillips and the Edge Pain Chip Suzuki, which ran a best pass of 6.955 second lap at 193.74 mph.

Championship contenders Hector Arana Jr. and Krawiec qualified second and third, respectively, placing them on the same side of the elimination bracket and handing an advantage to the points leader, Krawiec. Arana needs to win the race and Krawiec to not reach the semifinal round in order to win the championship.

With no championship drama left in Pro Stock, Edwards is trying to put the Penhall Pontiac GXP in victory lane one last time in 2011.

"It's what we're hoping for, that's for sure," Edwards said. "We're hoping to make some adjustments and run better tomorrow."

Edwards had a best lap of 6.520 seconds at 210.93 mph and he will be paired against Buddy Perkinson and his Tuff Rail Ford Mustang, which had a best lap of 6.598 at 209.17 mph.

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