JOLIET, Ill. — When Matt Hagan won his Funny Car world championship title in 2011, he did it with the three P’s: perseverance, performance when it counted, and most of all, patience.
Like a Major League Baseball team that excels with a “small ball” approach, Hagan only won two races in four final rounds that season. He was the No. 1 qualifier four times. Yet, with the proper strategy and getting hot at the right time, Hagan made his championship dreams come true.
In 2013, he’s prepping for the sequel. And he loves his new supporting cast. He says he and new crew chief Dickie Venables have hit it off right away. His young team is also hitting its stride at the right time.
That’s why Hagan isn’t letting a couple of recent early round exits at Bristol and Epping, N.H., diminish his enthusiasm as he pursues championship No. 2. He says during the course of a long season, you have to be prepared for the ebb and flow of things. He learned that in 2011.
Hagan, who has held the series points lead since winning his second race of the season at Englishtown, N.J. in early June, will try to grab his third victory of the year and get back on the winning track at the O’Reilly Auto Parts Route 66 Nationals, June 27-30 at Route 66 Raceway near Chicago.
He says all it takes to get a hot streak going is a well-placed bunt, a single to left or a well-timed stolen base. In racing terms, that translates to making a few solid runs to get the team’s confidence back up to the desired level.
“We have a lot of racing to look forward to,” Hagan said. “We’re not trying to hit home runs out here, we’re just trying to get on base. We’re just going to keep working towards that.
“(First round losses) doesn’t really mean anything in the grand scheme of things. Everyone is going to have a few along the way and that’s just one of them for us.”
After a terrible 2012 season where Hagan was shut out of the winner’s circle and failed to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs, the Virginia cattle rancher is more determined than ever to be a part of the championship mix.