Top three contenders all lose in second round, but Hagan emerges as a winner after all.
Team owner Tony Stewart gets his second championship in two weeks. counting Cole Custer’s NASCAR Xfinity Series title last weekend at Phoenix
Final Four in In-N-Out Burger Finals doesn’t include ‘The Big Three’.
Chad Green wins Funny Car event.
First Bob Tasca III, then Matt Hagan, and finally Robert Hight—the top contenders for the NHRA Funny Car championship—lost in Sunday’s second round of the In-N-Out Burger Finals at Pomona, Calif.
But Hagan had enough points to claim his fourth series crown. And Hagan wrote his name into the record book alongside those of John Force, Kenny Bernstein, and Don “The Snake” Prudhomme as racers to win at least four championships.
In the process, he gave team owner Tony Stewart his second series championship in as many weeks. Last weekend at the NASCAR races at Phoenix, Stewart Haas’ Cole Custer won in the Xfinity Series.
As Hagan stood at the top end of the In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, awaiting Hight’s race against eventual event winner Chad Green and ultimately his own fate, Hagan (who had lost to Blake Alexander) said, “We really want to win this championship. You hate to sit here and hope somebody else loses. You want to go out there and just turn four win lights on and get it done.”
Later Hagan stressed that “That’s not my style of racing. It’s about my body of work.”
But at that time, he wasn’t convinced at all that fourth title he so longed for would be his: “More than likely, Robert, they don't stumble. They runnered-up last year, and that's how it goes a lot of times. Two of my championships out of three, I runnered-up and then come back and won it. So that's just how fate is sometimes. But we'll sit here and wait. I'm not going to sit up here and wish bad on nobody, man. Everybody's trying hard, and the best man wins out here. We didn't get it done, and it falls on us. There's nobody to blame but us.”
He was blaming himself but at the same time sending up a prayer to his mother, whom he lost earlier this year. “I was doin’ some prayin’,” he said. “I never prayed to my mom before, but I said, ‘I don’t know what you and my brother are doing up there, but I sure could use a little help.”
But Hight did stumble, barely but enough for Green to move on to the semifinals. And help came in the form of tire smoke for Hight, who saluted Hagan directly and on the public-address system.
Hight said, “Congratulations to Matt Hagan. They’ve been there all year. We’ve been here just at the end. I’m still proud of my team.”
Meanwhile, Hagan said, “I jumped in the car over there with Chad Green and I told him, ‘Flip your visor up, because I'm going to kiss you on the lips.’ And Chad, I definitely owe him a beer.”
Hight had alluded to “The Pedregon Factor” before the weekend began, recalling that last year, Cruz Pedregon—in Hight’s words—“comes from nowhere and screws everything up – all the points, everything” by winning this race. Now Tasca understands what Hight is talking about.
Pedregon struck again Sunday in the second round, taking out Tasca and leaving Hagan and Hight to duke it out for the championship.
Tasca, who said, "It was a career year for me,” said that for his Todd Okuhara- and Aaron Brooks-led team, “The best is yet to come.”
Hagan closed his season with six victories in eight final rounds and a 41-15 record in eliminations.