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Funny Car Champ Matt Hagan Rolling Into New England Nationals with Momentum and Mustache

Already riding a massive wave of momentum after back-to-back victories, reigning Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan has plenty of reasons to feel great heading into this weekend’s 11th annual NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.

Hagan’s four wins in Epping are the most for any NHRA driver at the historic track, and each victory has been accompanied by his New England Dragway good luck charm in the form of a handlebar mustache.

The Funny Car points leader will have the mustache this weekend in Epping, along with an 11,000-horsepower Rush Truck Centers Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat that has been on point the last two races. Hagan and his team have won back-to-back races in Charlotte and Chicago, vaulting him atop a loaded Funny Car category and putting him in a strong position to try and win three straight races – and a fifth at Epping – for the first time in his standout career.

“We’ve won four times (in Epping) and had a (mustache) four times there. I didn’t do it last year and it bit me in the (butt),” Hagan said. “Coming off of back-to-back wins is big momentum for Epping. Epping has been very kind to me, having won four races there. I think I’ll grow the handlebar mustache again and try to bring that juju back. It’s so tough to win one race in a nitro Funny Car. To win back-to-back races is a massive feat, so to be able to win three in a row would be pretty awesome. We’re rolling into the weekend with a lot of data to go off of and positive vibes.”

Last year, Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) and Bob Tasca III (Funny Car) won the New England Nationals, though the race finished in Bristol the following week due to weather. This year’s race will be broadcast on FS1, including eliminations at 1 and 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, and also includes the return of Pro Stock to the event. It is the seventh of 20 races in 2024, and Hagan and his team, led by longtime crew chief Dickie Venables, are rolling, having found their groove in Charlotte.

He went to the final quad at the four-wide race in Las Vegas the event before and was also the Pomona runner-up to John Force, putting together a strong recent run. Hagan and company have performed well on raceday in all conditions, which bodes well for a team trying to win their fifth Funny Car world championship.

Hagan picked up his milestone 50th career win in Charlotte and added his 51st in Chicago, but a third straight victory is no easy task against a group that also includes Funny Car newcomer Austin Prock, J.R. Todd, Tasca, Force, Cruz Pedregon, Alexis DeJoria and Daniel Wilkerson.

Hagan will also race in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge on Saturday, taking on Blake Alexander with the other semifinal rematch featuring Force and Wilkerson. In Chicago, Hagan became the first two-time Funny Car winner of 2024 and four qualifying sessions in Epping – including a must-see primetime session on Friday night – gives the team another opportunity to hone in what’s been a winning combination as of late.

“Having four qualifying sessions is always good. Four sessions make it nice to gather more data and have more information to go off of,” Hagan said. “I think Dickie did a great job in Chicago, since he was able to get a handle on a hot-weather racetrack in a lane we didn’t have the most competitive advantage in. We had to dig out of a hole a little, so the confidence is big.

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“Dickie is a great racer on Sunday. I’m excited anytime we get more runs. I like getting to play in my racecar and burn nitro, but the biggest thing is more data acquisition. There are a lot of heavy-hitters in the class, so every race is very competitive. We have to stay aggressive. It’s nice to have the points lead right now, but as fast as that comes, it can go. We have to stay on top of things.”

Top Fuel points leader Ashley looks to continue his strong 2024 and get a repeat New England Nationals win. Standing in his way is a host of stars, including Shawn Langdon, who has two wins in 2024, reigning champ Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, Brittany Force, Steve Torrence and Top Fuel newcomer and racing legend Tony Stewart.

Returning to the New England Nationals this year is the Pro Stock class. The loyal fans of the New England area will be treated to the performance the 500 cubic-inch factory hot rods. Stars like reigning champion Erica Enders, multi-time champion Greg Anderson, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and standouts Aaron Stanfield and points leader Dallas Glenn will be on track and ready to return to New England Dragway.

Also slated in Epping is the special Drag and Drive exhibition event featuring HOT ROD Drag Week competitors in eight-second cars. This special feature marks the first time Drag Week competitors have attended the historic facility in Epping. The selection of cars includes boosted and naturally aspirated engine combinations of varying power levels, from 700 hp to over 2,000 hp. The weekend also includes competition in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+.

Fans will also be invited all weekend long to the Nitro Alley Stage, which is the main entertainment hub in the pits, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more. Race fans at New England Dragway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners.

As always, fans get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Epping. Fans get a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying features two rounds at 5 and 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, May 31 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 1 at 12 and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 2. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, 7 p.m. on Saturday, along with a special Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge episode at 8 p.m. on Saturday, and then eliminations action from 1-2 p.m. and 7-9 p.m. ET on Sunday.

To purchase tickets to the NHRA New England Nationals, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general admission with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information about NHRA, visit www.nhra.com.

This story was originally published on May 30, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.