NHRA: Force and Hagan Carry Titanic Title Fight to Auto Club Finals at Pomona

RaceChaser Staff Drag Racing, Featured, NHRA, West 0 Comments

POMONA, Calif. — official release — NHRA photo —

With recent history in mind, it is not surprising the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world championship is coming down to another thrilling battle between Matt Hagan and reigning world champ John Force.

The two talented Funny Car stars have duked it out on an almost annual basis during the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, with 2012 being the lone exception. The 2014 edition could be the most memorable of all, which would prove fitting for this weekend’s 50th anniversary of the Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Hagan, who won the world championship in 2011, leads 16-time champion Force by just 21 points heading into the final event of the season, which means a finish for the ages could be coming this weekend. As expected, Hagan would not have it any other way.

“Me and John have been battling it out four years out of the last five of my career, and John has won two, I’ve won one, and I’m planning on winning this one,” Hagan said. “I don’t plan on walking away with one championship. I plan on having multiple. So I have to dig deep and work hard and do whatever it takes to do that. John brings the best out of me.

“I’ve got a lot to show and a lot to give and a lot to prove. But I think it’s just good racing for the fans. It’s coming right down to Pomona. They’re getting what they paid for, and it’s going to be one hell of a show, and I’m excited to see it myself.”

Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Hagan (Funny Car), Rickie Jones (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the season-ending race that will once again be televised nationally on ESPN2.The 50th anniversary of the Auto Club NHRA Finals will also get a marquee main event of Hagan and Force trying to ward off each other – as well as the rest of the deep and talented Funny Car field – to claim the world championship.

It is a routine Force has mastered routinely throughout his legendary career, topping Hagan in 2010 and last year down the stretch. But as Hagan continues to improve it doesn’t get any easier for Force, who knows his 10,000-horsepower Castrol GTX Ford Mustang will have to be in prime form to make up the gap. That said, Force knows being too consumed in what lies ahead is a surefire way to lose a mental edge that will be needed all weekend.

“If you wrap your head up in it, all the things that could go wrong or go right will go through your head, none of that does any good,” said Force, who has three wins and 11 final round appearances in 2014. “I’ve got a good race car, and we’re going to give the fans what they want, and that’s a race, and we’re going to entertain them, and at the end the champ will walk away. If I start thinking, ‘I’ve got to beat this kid,’ then it starts getting mental. I’ll wait until race morning, Sunday morning, and that’s when I’ll put on game face and I’ll go after Matt Hagan, because I am chasing him.”

Force became the hunter when Hagan won in Reading to jump into the series points lead. Force narrowed the gap with a final round finish in Las Vegas, but Hagan and his team have been strong when it counts in 2014, advancing to three finals and winning twice through five races in the Countdown to the Championship.

Force, though, has always delivered at Pomona as his NHRA-best 15 wins at the famed facility attest. It shows Force’s uncanny ability to finish strong on a consistent basis and that will likely again be the case this weekend. But being at his best also means worrying about everyone in the field and not just Hagan.

A minor lapse in concentration could be a major downfall for either Hagan or Force, especially dealing with the likes of Courtney Force, who trails Hagan by 121 points, Robert Hight and Tommy Johnson Jr. Other Countdown competitors include Worsham, Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson, Cruz Pedregon and Alexis DeJoria.

“It ain’t a race just between me and Hagan,” Force said. “We’ve got to watch anybody he’s got to watch and I’ve got to watch who can take us out. This is going to pack the seats at the Auto Club Raceway for NHRA and Mello Yello. It’s going to be awesome, and that’s what we owe the fans.”

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