NOTHING COMPARES TO 335 MPH SAYS HAGAN, NOT EVEN CLOSE
NHRA Funny Car speedster Matt Hagan has six tandem skydiving jumps to his credit, and is working on a solo.
Hagan, a cattle farmer from Christiansburg, Va., has climbed aboard a 1,700-pound wild bull.
In the gym, he's bench pressed more than 400 pounds.
And, as much machismo as those acts of manly-manness exudes, they pale in comparison to what he pulled off on May 20, 2016.
Hagan from a dead start, in one-thousand-feet, ran 335.57 miles per hour.
"There’s just nothing that compares," Hagan said. "It’s just a pure adrenaline rush."
Hagan's speed was and remains the fastest of any Funny Car or Top Fuel dragster in NHRA history on the current 1,000-foot track, and faster than any Funny Car has ever gone at the end of the former quarter-mile. Only Tony Schumacher has been faster, albeit to a quarter-mile in a dragster, with a 337.58 mile per hour clocking in 2005.
Sometimes crew chiefs will allude to some performance not being fully exercised, but this time last year championship tuner Dickie Venables left nothing to the imagination.
"I remember Dickie saying, “Man, we got all of that race track that time," Hagan said."A lot of it is not so much the car; it’s the race track. What it can hold, what the grip is, how good the rubber is. Honestly, to make a really fast, good run is sometimes harder than a beat up, sloppy run. The thing about those fast runs is that they’re so on the edge of coming loose. Loose is fast, but as long as it still stuck."
Hagan admits he second-guessed himself all the way down the track but kept the throttle as far down as he could physically hold it.
"It’s such a fine line," Hagan explained. "It’s such a finesse style of driving the car when those cars are making those kinds of runs. You’d think that they’re so glued in and so tight that you could do anything going down the race track but honestly on those fast runs, they’re so close to coming loose because they’re so fast.
"When you’re making runs like that they’re up on the tire and the speed is really fast, it keeps that momentum all through the race track. I think it takes both a guy that’s had some fast runs who realizes and understands what’s going on to do it behind the wheel and it takes a tuner that understands the conditions and what the car can do. Obviously, I didn’t make that run, really. I did what I needed to do to make the run, but Dickie did all the right things."
As much modesty as Hagan would like to offer; he proved he was that kind of driver nine months later and nearly 1,000 miles away when he ran 335.57 once again during the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, Ca. Only 16-time NHRA champion John Force and Robert Hight have come within one mile per hour of the monumental feat.
Hagan cannot help but wonder how fast his car would have run to the 1320-foot mark on this same performance trajectory with the key factor of whether the engine and tires could withstand those 10,000-horsepower demands dor another 320 feet.
Venables suggests Hagan's quarter-mile speed could have been upwards of 340-miles per hour since the car was already on the 8,250-rpm rev-limiter at 800 feet, and had lost 13 degrees of timing, a massive amount for these cars as it crossed the finish line.
"Obviously the longer the track the longer these crew chiefs will make the wick," Hagan said. "I never really cut my fuel teeth on quarter-mile. I’ve been so used to 1,000-foot racing that it’s the norm for me. Anybody that gripes about 1,000-foot has never been in one of these fuel funny cars and been on fire and can’t see where you’re at and where the finish line is and where the last little bit of the race track is.
"I’m very grateful a lot of times for every inch of the race track that I have to get one of these cars to slow down. I’d love to run quarter-mile because it’s old school, original and the way it used to be but the times are changing. You’ve got to change with the times.
"You can’t ask these tracks to buy another 30-acres of real estate to make these things longer. It’s just not realistic. So what we have to do is adapt to it and just understand that these cars are continually going faster and faster. If we have to shorten up these tracks to go faster then so be it."
Hagan might not be a proponent of quarter-mile fuel car racing, but there's no way he's for slowing them down.
"I love going fast, and you’ll never hear me complain about it," Hagan said. "I feel like these cars are pretty safe. That’s why I can go to Don Schumacher and demand a premium to drive one of these cars just because they are so fast. If we start slowing these things down and making them crazy safe, then he can plug-and-play anybody he wants in there.
"Don’t get me wrong, I have a family with a wife and kids, and I love them to death and want to see them but there comes a time when you have to earn your money out there. No different than when these headers are laid back, and they’re hard to drive. You don’t go to bull riding and ask the bull to buck less; you want to see the cowboy ride the bull. Just kind of put it in perspective, it’s one of those things where you put your mouthpiece in, your helmet on and you drive the wheels off the thing. I’ve just always thought about it like that. When I go see PBR [Pro Bull Riders], I never go there saying, “man I sure hope that bull doesn’t buck very much.”
"It’s just one of them deals where you get on it and ride it."
In Hagan's eyes, there's no ride like a 335-mile per hour ride.
"It’s very, very extreme," Hagan said. "What we do is extreme sports, and I think that’s why we’re getting so many new sponsors because our sport is so extreme. You’re doing stuff that you’re not intended to do. You’re messing with aluminum parts and pieces, the valve train and that kind of stuff. The feeling and sensation that you get from that is just incredible. There’s nothing that I’ve ever done in my life that compares to a fuel funny car.
"You name it – monster trucks, skydiving, drag boats, circle-track cars – there’s just no replacing it. The speed and the adrenaline, it’s not that, don’t get me wrong, if you go out here on the salt flats and you go 500 MPH, I think that’s a great thing, but it’s that we’re doing it in such a short distance.
"And I think that’s why 1,000-foot racing is more impressive because we do that in 1,000 feet. You just have to put it in perspective where the g-force is so great, and it’s so huge, and it’s so fast that your mind really has a hard time comprehending it."
Obviously, comprehension of speed is in control of Hagan's mind when he straps in for the best ride of his life.