National Hot Rod Association Media Conference
July 10, 2013
SCOTT SMITH: Our final driver of the day is Matt Hagan who has three wins this season, two runner-up finishes, along with two number one qualifying positions. Matt has been in a dogfight this year in the entire Funny Car class, as all the competitors have been. He has been leading the Englishtown event. Going into the West Coast Swing, do you see yourselves coming out the other side still holding on to that Funny Car points lead?
MATT HAGAN: You know, absolutely. I think we've got one of the most consistent racecars out here. I guess to say because of Dickie Venables, the guy is phenomenal. He's the baddest crew chief I've ever worked with, the most consistent.
I think the points show how consistent our car is. We have a 100-point lead on everybody. I think as long as we keep working hard, digging deep, just keep our heads down, I think this thing will turn out the way we need it to in the end.
Things change fast. They're going to reset the points pretty soon. As nice as it is to have that nice of a lead, have a race on everybody, it changes quick. So we understand that and we know once they reset these points out here, it doesn't really matter, you have to start all over and make the next six races after that count.
SCOTT SMITH: We've seen some teams get hot this season, then cool off. Another team will pop up for a couple of races, then cool off. Your car has been consistent. How nice is it to be nice and steady as we get into the second half of the season?
MATT HAGAN: Yeah, definitely. It's definitely about going around. We've been to five or six finals. We'd like to win them all you're in, but that's hard to do. As Tony was talking, it's very, very competitive out there. I think the thing for us is just keep going around, keep accumulating points, making sure that we're doing everything that we can, giving it all.
It's just like when you play sports, you put your body out there 100%. We have to put it out there 100% on the racetrack.
It's going to be tough. The Western Swing is always tough. I'd like to sweep The Swing. It's very possible. I think Denver is going to be the toughest challenge for everybody and us. We're going to go up there with a new variable. Dickie has taken this team. We haven't even had a test date yet. We rode into Pomona not knowing who is doing what. He's really just been a great leader and been able to turn this team into something that has been a very productive, winning, championship-quality team.
SCOTT SMITH: We'll take questions for Matt.
Q. You won a championship. You appear to be on a path to repeat as a champion this year. Talk about the difference between the struggles of winning that first championship and what you face now to make it happen again.
MATT HAGAN: Absolutely. I've won a championship, I've lost a championship. We came out and couldn't even win a race after our championship. We've had the highs of highs and lows of lows. What I've learned and realized is it takes everybody doing their part.
From what NHRA said last year, I was the second or third best leader in the class, but if you don't have a racecar beneath you, doesn't matter how well you lead. Everybody has to do their job. Can't be a weak link.
It's hard to win a race, to put it in perspective. Championship is a whole 'nother level. That's what we do. We hop in the racecar, pull that helmet on, you get focused. That's what your ultimate goal is.
I think for us, just knowing that the car has been so consistent this year, Dickie has a really good handle on it, I feel like we're going to continue to be consistent the rest of the year.
For some reason, Dickie, it doesn't seem like he's one of those guys that gets hot, then cold. He constantly seems to be rubbing on this combination. We fed in a couple new clutch discs to see how that goes, got enough stuff to run the rest of the year now. Everything went really well.
I'm excited to crawl into the racecar every weekend. We got a great group of guys. That's the thing, our guys, I hear all these drivers talk. Doesn't seem like they give their guys any credit. As much as I like to be patted on the back, I got to go back there and look at those eight or 10 guys that are making it happen. It humbles me, because without them I can't do it, that's for sure. They're make or break on the team.
We have such a core group of guys right now that have won championships, only a couple guys on our team that don't have rings on their fingers, I can just see it in their eyes, they're hungry, they can taste it, have that burn in their belly. That fires me up to pull my helmet on, stay focused.
Everybody that comes up against us on the starting line, I just want to go up there and do my job, make sure I don't let anybody down. It really drives me and pushes me to the next level.
Q. If you look at the next three events, not as a team but as a driver, which one excites you the most and which one is the most challenging, in your opinion?
MATT HAGAN: Well, obviously hands down challenging is Denver just because the way the cars have to run up there with no oxygen. Being a mile high, the car sounds so bad, if it's sounding like that at sea level, you would shut 'em off. Up there it's a whole different ballgame. One of those deals where everybody throws their number in the hat and sees what happens.
You know, I think that Dickie, he has a lot of notes, very knowledgeable, been out here a long time racing. That will play into our advantage of hopefully having some data and stuff to look back at, combinations to work off of when we do get up there.
When you do get down to Seattle, it's nice to be down there at sea level. But it does take a little adjustment going all the way up from a mile high, then Sonoma, then Seattle. A lot of stuff is changing.
At sea level these cars run well as long as we have some good weather.
SCOTT SMITH: A lot of people have talked about the cars, what the cars do and don't do in the thin air. Your fitness regime, people are talking about that. You're in the weight room. How does this lack of oxygen in Denver affect you as a racer and your preparation for the event?
MATT HAGAN: Yeah, you know, it definitely can take a toll on you physically and mentally. It's just one of those things. What's going to be pretty cool, they have a deal up there in Denver, it's called the MusclePharm. I'm going to get in there and do some working out. All the MMA fighters, they train up there, football players. I'm pumped up about getting in there early, getting a few workouts in, get focused on winning that race.
Q. This is really about your fifth year racing pro. From the very beginning you came out of the gates doing pretty well, won your first championship in 2011. What do you think has been the most important thing to stay at the top, keep doing well, winning races? Can you pinpoint one thing?
MATT HAGAN: Yeah, you know, 100% it's the people I put around me. Last year we struggled so much. I don't think everybody was coming to work giving 100%. It showed on the racetrack.
It's sad because we had done so well in the past. It just kind of seemed like after we won the championship, it was kind of like, Whatever, who cares. I don't think it was like that for everybody. But it was one of those deals with, you know, it was just very, very, very, very frustrating. There was a lot of times you just felt helpless.
I have been able to keep good people around me. Don Schumacher has kept some good crew chiefs around me, good core guys. Like I said before, as much as I like to pat myself on the back, say what a great job I've done, it's really 100% about the people around me, them working so hard. It drives me to the next level, like I said, to keep me motivated, keep my game elevated.
The worst feeling in the world is when you go back to the trailer, I've done it before, because I've let people down. You did something crazy up there that you knew you shouldn't have done it, it was out of your control, some of that stuff sometimes. But still, you know, you own it when you mess up. You go back there and you look at those guys and say, Hey, guys, you busted your hump out there, we have to move to the next one. That's the worst feeling in the world.
I kind of refuse to let that happen. Whatever it takes out there, you put on that helmet, get focused, dig deep, make it happen out there.
Q. What do you like best about racing in Sonoma?
MATT HAGAN: Sonoma is just awesome. I'm going to come in early. The venue, the wine stuff, the wine tasting, I'm going to try to get a limo, hang out, enjoy the atmosphere, some of the wineries that are close to the track. Really kickback and enjoy myself.
It's just such a beautiful place, the Napa Valley is incredible. It seems like my teammate Ron Capps does so well there, we're going to have to try to beat up on him this year. We need to go out there and I want to sweep this Swing. That's part of it. We need to get out there, get focused, maybe not drink too much wine, more about driving the racecar.
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you, Matt, for taking time out of your afternoon. We'll let you get back to your day.
MATT HAGAN: Cool. Thanks, guys. Get back to the hay field.
SCOTT SMITH: Thank you to the members of the media. West Coast Swing begins at Vander Meer Speedway July 19th to the 21st for the Mopar NHRA Nationals, then the next event will be the Sonoma Nationals July 26th through the 28th, then wrap it up with the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals August 2nd through the 4th. Thank you for your coverage of the NHRA and have a great afternoon.
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