“It looks a little bit different up here — it’s not as pretty,” Hagan said after winning the Funny Car division trophy at Sunday’s NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk.
Hagan, a two-time Funny Car season champion, was referencing his opponent in Sunday’s final, Courtney Force. She had been the No. 1 qualifier for an eighth time this weekend, and had won four of the season’s first 11 races entering Norwalk.
With two of the more popular drivers in the circuit facing off and seeking their first win at Norwalk, it was Hagan who reached the winner’s circle.
Hagan drove his Mopar Express Dodge Charger to a run of 4.094 at 288.21 mph to take down Force (4.220 seconds) — who still leaves town with a huge lead in the standings.
After earning his second win of the season, Hagan also offered nothing but respect for Force, who is in the midst of a historic season to date.
“It’s been a little while since we turned on four win lights, but it’s a nitro funny car; you never know what you’re going to get,” he said. “But I cannot say enough about Courtney.
“She’s a great driver and person, John (Force) has a great daughter,” Hagan added. “I have a lot of respect for her, the way she drives and the way she brings the lights. Before I wasn’t worried about it, but I have to step up my game now. She has it going, we have a lot of respect for her team and think it’s a good battle we got going.”
Hagan qualified third for the event, which was limited to a pair of qualifying sessions because of rain on Friday and Saturday. He defeated teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Beckman — then J.R. Todd in the semifinals en route to the win.
Courtney Force ended her first runner-up finish of the season after beating John Smith, Shawn Langdon and her father John Force in another close race (0.46-second difference) on her way to the finals.
“I do have a lot of love here for Norwalk, and it’s nice to get this ice cream trophy off the checklist,” Hagan said. “Although it may be more of a protein scoop for me, not so much ice cream. But we’re having fun, and it was good to see the guys smile a little bit.”
Alexander stuns field for first Wally
Often labeled the underdog for obvious reasons, it was fitting for Top Fuel dragster driver Blake Alexander to earn his first-ever win in Norwalk — one of the smallest cities on the NHRA tour schedule.
Alexander, who turns 30 years old in September, runs a part-time schedule. He has bounced in and out of the NHRA circuit — and was just the No. 12 qualifier this weekend while the Clay Millican set the track speed record on Saturday.
So when Alexander not only reached the final, but topped Terry McMillen with a 4.011-second pass at 297.81 mph — he was overcome with emotions.
“I got a little emotional there because I’ve tried to do this my whole life,” Alexander said. “I was holding back tears, which is not that cool I guess when you drive cars 300 mph.
“I’ve come close, and I’ve lost sponsors and thought I would never drive again,” he added. “I’ve gone through everything to climb back to the top.”
Alexander qualified 12th for the event and defeated Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher and Leah Pritchett before becoming the 105th different winner in NHRA history.
“We were trying to be ready throughout qualifying sequences and improve on mistakes we made,” Alxander said. “And obviously we had to fix everything after qualifying 12th.
“But I’ve had a good car before and lost and didn’t capitalize,” he added. “We never got ahead of ourselves and never thought about next steps.”
Gray earns third win — grabs points lead
Up and comer Tanner Gray was able to take down two-time season champion Erica Enders in the final round for his eighth career Pro Stock victory and third of the season.
His 6.615 at 209.62 in his Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro made him the only Pro Stock competitor to reach the winner’s circle three times in 2018.
“This was definitely a huge accomplishment,” Gray said. “We struggled a lot at the beginning of the season. We did a lot of testing and couldn’t really see where that hard work was, because the results weren’t showing. It feels good to have finally turned a corner and see where all of the hard work has paid off.”
The 19-year old Gray took down Chris McGaha, Matt Hartford and Drew Skillman to reach the final.
Enders has four runner-up finishes on the year to along with a victory in Charlotte, as her five final rounds are the most in the class this season.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
Krawiec has third win in Norwalk
Eddie Krawiec quietly cruised to his third Pro Stock Motorcycle victory at Summit Motorsports Park with his pass of 6.923 at 195.05 mph to defeat Jerry Savoie in the finals.
“It was a good one for me,” Krawiec said. “It’s been a good weekend for us. It was a struggle early on trying to dance through the rain drops.
“We were trying to get a handle on a new track and understand what it is we need to do,” he added. “We were able to get it done and get our bike in the winner's circle.”
Savoie has two final round appearances on the season with a victory at Charlotte earlier in the year.
Sunday’s win by Krawiec also edged him past Andrew Hines (515-510) for the points lead at the midway point of the season.
With 12 races out of 24 in the books, the Mello Yello Series teams will get a week of rest after four consecutive races. The season continues from July 6-8 at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.