JOLIET, Ill. – official release — NHRA photo — Matt Hagan ended an eleven race winless streak in Funny Car with a victory Sunday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 NHRA Nationals.
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Vincent Nobile (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at Route 66 Raceway.
Hagan, the 2011 Funny Car world champ, ran his Mopar Express Lane Dodge Charger past Don Schumacher Racing teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. with a 4.098-second pass at 310.48 mph to claim the 11th victory of his career. It was Hagan’s first win since the season-ending race in Pomona last year and his second final round appearance of 2014.
“We’ve been working at it this year,” said Hagan who now has three wins at Chicago. “It’s been a very humbling year for us. Last year we came out and won five races and you kind of think you are going to set the world on fire the following year.”
Hagan was sitting 10th in the Funny Car point standings just seven races before the Countdown to the Championship playoff, a position that the DSR driver was not used to. The win moved Hagan to eighth in the points and he sits 78 points ahead of Tim Wilkerson for the final transfer spot.
“We could feel the pressure to stay in the Top 10 because if you’re not running for a championship, Don isn’t happy,” said Hagan, who beat 2012 world champ Jack Beckman, Bob Bode and recent Epping winner Ron Capps on the way to the final. “The competition is just so, so tough out here in Funny Car, so when you turn four win lights on, you just don’t want this day to end. When 10 guys come together for a common goal, you hope that it could go on for two or three more days like this.”
Johnson was appearing in his second final of the season following his victory in Bristol. The Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger team rose to second in the point standings and trails Robert Hight by 246 points. Hight reached the second round before falling to Capps.
Brown piloted his Matco Tools dragster to a pass of 3.814 at 317.34, defeating second-time finalist Brittany Force. It was the fourth win of the season for Brown and first since Houston.
“It felt really good to stay poised this weekend,” said Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champ. “We had some things go our way. To run that great in the final, to put out an .81 is a credit to all of our guys.”
Brown picked up his 41st career win and 29th in Top Fuel. He now has four wins at Route 66 Raceway, two in Top Fuel and two in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He beat Billy Torrence, Englishtown winner Richie Crampton and Clay Millican en route to the final round.
“It’s amazing,” said Brown, who reached 500 round wins in NHRA competition this weekend. “We always love coming here the way the weather can swing. We had some great runs on qualifying. We knew what we were capable of.”
Force, driver of the Castrol EDGE dragster, was appearing in her second career final and second this season. She also faced Brown in the final of Phoenix earlier this year. With her performance, Force moved up to seventh in the Top Fuel point standings. Category points leader Doug Kalitta fell in the second round to Kalitta Motorsports teammate J.R. Todd.
In Pro Stock, Nobile drove his Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro to a 6.655 at 208.01 holeshot victory over KB Racing teammate Jason Line, his first win since Seattle last season.
“It’s kind of a long time coming,” Nobile said of his winless streak. “I know I’m young and I’ve won some races but when you go a streak like I’ve done and not won one, you kind of forget what it feels like. I owe it all to my team. They gave me a great car.”
It was the ninth win of Nobile’s career and first of the season. Nobile advanced to the final with round wins over Jonathan Gray, reigning world champ Jeg Coughlin and Shane Tucker before his victory against Line.
“As a team we won,” Nobile said of his final round win over his teammate. “That was the ultimate goal. We want to have two of our cars in the final round of every race.”
Line, driver of the Summit Racing Chevy Camaro, was appearing in his second final of the season following his win at the season-opening event in Pomona. He currently sits fourth in points. Points leader Erica Enders-Stevens’ day ended on a holeshot to Elite Motorsports teammate Tucker.
Arana grabbed his first Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of 2014 with a pass of 6.925 at 193.93 on his Lucas Oil Buell, defeating father and teammate Hector Arana and his Lucas Oil Products Buell. The win was Arana Jr.’s eighth career victory and first since Sonoma last season.
“We won together,” said Arana Jr., who advanced to the final with victories against Gainesville winner Steve Johnson, Charlotte and Englishtown winner Andrew Hines and Shawn Gann. “I would not be here without [Hector Sr.]. To race him in a final is a dream come true. We’ve been trying to do this for four years and it finally happened. Now we just need a brother-brother final with me and Adam [Arana].”
Arana Jr. sits third in the Pro Stock Motorcycle point standings. Arana was looking for his first win since 2009 and is currently seventh in points. Points leader Eddie Krawiec was eliminated in the second round after red lighting against recent Epping winner Angie Smith.