BROWNSBURG, Ind. – This weekend’s NHRA Heartland Nationals marks national event No. 250 for Funny Car driver Matt Hagan.
At 36 years old, Hagan is considered one of the young guns in the world of professional drag racing, but with 11 years behind the wheel of a nitro-burning flopper, the two-time world champion’s racing resume reads like that of a seasoned veteran.
It’s only fitting Hagan reach this incredible milestone in America’s Heartland. When not wrestling his 11,000-horsepower Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, Hagan spends his days manning his 2,100-acre cattle farm in Christiansburg, Va., where he raises more than 700 “momma” cows that produce calves for the market.
The father of four, who says he loves racing in Kansas because he ‘gets to talk farming at the ropes,’ is hands-on in every aspect – from growing feed to being able to handle every chore on the spread.
As he prepares for the 31st running of the Heartland Motorsports Park event, the “world’s fastest farmer” reflects on the years and the races leading up to his landmark weekend and provides a glimpse into where he sees himself in the future.
Q: What would you consider to be the pit and the peak of your career thus far?
MATT HAGAN: “One of the best moments was getting my first race win. Championships are unbelievable, obviously, but when you hit that very first milestone of qualifying the car and then winning that first round, and then winning the race, it’s amazing. Getting my very first NHRA Funny Car trophy in Houston (2010) really stands out to me. I got in the show on a pedal job. We qualified 14th, and I pedaled my ass off all weekend long and then ended up winning the race on a pedal job too. It was special because I felt like I really had to earn it.
“My lowest moment, well, there are two. My first fire when I was competing in another series, it was one of my first fires ever, that always stands out. It was so hot and so intense and I definitely kind of freaked out a bit. It was a scary feeling; you can’t see where you are at on the track, your legs are getting blistered because of the heat, and I just panicked. I wanted to just jump right out of the car, but it was still going probably 200-mph. People try and prepare you for those moments and tell you what to do, but until you’re in it and going through it yourself, it’s a whole different story. And then once you go through it, you look back and think ‘oh I should’ve done this,’ but at the time, you’re just reacting. I got the car safely stopped. It ended up burning to the ground, and we lost the race car. Something like that really puts everything in perspective.
“My other low was runnering-up on a championship. It was my second year here at DSR (2010), and I had a 38-point lead over John Force going into race day. I just had to go two rounds further than him, and I would’ve won the championship in my second year of driving a Funny Car. We went out first round, and John Force ended up winning the race and winning the championship. It was devastating, but we ended up going back the following year and winning the championship.”
Q: You have two NHRA Funny Car world championships under your belt (2011 and 2014), you notched 30 event wins earlier this season. What’s something on your bucket list that you’d still like to achieve?
MH: “I really don’t know. I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to accomplish a lot of goals that I had set. Racing has opened up so many doors for me. I don’t know that I really have a bucket list, but I’m open to new ideas and new ventures. Drag racing has allowed me to have the capital to grow my farm while being able to support my family from racing. And now farming has grown to support itself and the next thing you know, I have more than 2,000 acres and 700 momma cows, and it’s all paid for because I’ve been able to race. The racing stuff has allowed me to be able to do a lot of different things, and I hope that it continues to do so.”
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