LESSER TRACK PREP COULD HARM NHRA ATTENDANCE WARNS HAGAN
It was becoming an impressive sight to see in 2017, as fans tuned it race after race to see how much faster Matt Hagan and his fellow Funny Car competitors could go as they reset the records at NHRA events.
However, due to the new track prep rules in 2018, those records are currently a thing of the past, and Matt Hagan is concerned that that could harm NHRA’s race crowds in the near future.
“A bull rider doesn’t get on a bull and say, ‘Man I hope he doesn’t buck hard,’” noted Hagan on Friday at the NHRA Carolina Nationals.
“Unfortunately with this track prep we’ll never have records set again. It breaks my heart just because for our fans and for me as a driver knowing that the records that are there will stand until they go back to a different combination on the track prep. So it’s kind of tough when you see fans and they’re like, ‘Man, the weather’s good and it’s cool and it’s cloudy.’ And they go out there and they’re like, ‘You going to set a record?’ and you’re like, ’Nah, brother, it will never happen.’ So it’s a little disheartening, you know what I mean, because I think our sport is built on going fast and breaking records and obtaining and doing things that are not meant to be done. That’s what drag racing is. Like how fast can you go, and that’s what our sport is built on.
“The last 10 years I’ve seen our sport grow into something that we used to barely get fans out there and now we’re selling out the crowds on Saturdays and stuff like that. Now we’re messing with it, and unfortunately it’s going to take a full year for NHRA to see the devastation or the good or the bad of whatever we’re doing because when we put on a poor show on Friday or Saturday, those people were playing with their extra cash, and those people are not going to pay to come back next year.
Robert Hight climbed behind the wheel of his race car a little over a week after surgery to repair a broken collarbone suffered three days earlier when the engine in his Camaro exploded during the final round of the NHRA Midwest Nationals. https://t.co/1Lfc2Iob1C— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) October 10, 2018
“But it takes a full year to see that because it’s not instant. Right now they’re selling out the crowds because of what they experienced from last year, from going out here and watching cars go side by side and breaking records. If we put on a poor show for them this year, they’re not going to come back the next.”
For full disclosure, Hagan is one of the drivers who have struggled slightly with the new track prep rules in 2018.
“With the way they’ve changed this track prep, what we were running is just not going to work,” admits Hagan. “It used to because we could apply a lot of power to the racetrack, and now with less glue and less tack, we’re not able to apply that power. So our combination that we have doesn’t really work in these situations anymore. So we’re going back to a combination that basically our other teammates are running and doing well with. We’re just having to re-learn it a little bit.”
Hagan has also been running with the new Hellcat-style body, and he has yet to advance out of the first round at all three Countdown races heading into Charlotte. However, the Virginia native remains grateful to have taken the wins that he has this season and also for the opportunity to race for Don Schumacher Racing, even if he’s not a fan of the new track prep.
“There’s guys out here who haven’t won a race this year. So it’s hard to be disappointed in some ways, but it’s also hard not to be a little bit disappointed in other ways.
“I’m blessed to drive a Fuel Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing. There’s over seven billion people in the world, and I’m one of 50 that get to do something like that. So I can never say that it’s not fun.
“But our mentality, our capability, our mindset that when you crawl in those cars is to go faster.
“We crawl in there with respect and understanding. I think that goes a long ways with a lot of drivers. And if you don’t have that, you shouldn’t be in the race car anyway.”