Matt Hagan, on his farm Wednesday, had his hands full.
A 2400-pound bull had gotten loose and was wreaking havoc on the farm by running through fences and walloping the side of his trusty farm truck. And, he had one hand filled with his cell phone.
Wrangling the bull is nothing new for the defending NHRA Funny Car champion, although he admits, it is “a lot bigger than me”.
What will be new is the monster he intends to tame this weekend in Marble Falls, Texas.
While he won’t be catching an errant bull or a greased pig, Hagan will be muscling a 170-mph boat during the LakeFest Dragboat Races, a Lucas Oil Drag Boat Association event.
“I’m looking forward to driving this weekend,” Hagan said, pointing out the errant bull ran through yet another fence. “It’s a Pro Mod boat so I will have to do a capsule test. It should be a good start for me in this kind of racing and I’m hoping I don’t get in over my head. I don’t want to go too crazy but rather just get a feel for it all.”
Hagan will drive Randy Benson’s Hydro boat this weekend thanks to an arrangement made by Cruz Pedregon’s cylinder head specialist Todd Haas.
“We were shooting the breeze one day and I just mentioned casually how it would be neat to try a boat sometime,” Hagan recalled. “He called me two hours later and told me he had lined up a boat ride for me.”
Hagan was taken aback.
“I didn’t mean for you to go out and get a ride for me,” Hagan said, describing his response to Haas. “Todd warned me not to say that kind of stuff around him because of his background in the boats. He had raced over there for 15 years. What I said in passing turned into having to arrange flights an hour later.”
Hagan said he isn’t apprehensive about driving a drag boat, just doesn’t know exactly what he should expect.
“Never ever been in a rowboat before,” he admitted, his voice grimacing as the bull bumps the truck again. “I’m absolutely nervous about this. You’d be foolish not to be. That’s a good thing when you respect it enough to know you can get hurt. I’m certainly listening closely to every lesson I’m given.
“I can swim and hold my breath. I’m counting on this being a plus.”
And for Hagan, he can only hope his time on the liquid strip proves to be easier than his opportunities this year on the asphalt. He isn’t mathematically eliminated from the playoffs yet but if his ship isn’t righted to perfection he’ll likely be on the outside looking in.
Hagan’s team has come on strong, as of late, thanks largely in part to the team adopting the tune-up used in the NAPA Auto Parts Funny Car attributed to Rahn Tobler.
“When you look at it, the last two years, our combination has been awesome,” Hagan explained. “This year it has just refused to respond. Tommy Delago, I assure you, hasn’t forgotten how to tune a Funny Car. We are doing exactly the same as we did last year and stuff hasn’t worked.
“Case in point, look back last year when we went to the final round in Denver and I red-lit. We basically brought the combination home and stuck it on the shelf. We brought it back this year and it didn’t work anymore. This told me something was wrong and we couldn’t find it. Tommy didn’t lose a thing. We took the tune-up and hit the ground running. There’s something we didn’t find. We got the baseline from Tobler and it has run just fine. There’s been some luck too but judging on the bad luck we’ve had, we’ve definitely put some in the luck bank for withdrawal.”
For this weekend, he’s focused on racing safely in the dangerous world of drag boat racing.
“I’m appreciative for the opportunity Randy has given me … and this is one of those, once in a lifetime opportunities,” Hagan said. “It’s not everyday someone gives you the chance to drive their hot rod like this. I don’t want to do anything to hurt myself or his stuff. I want to take it one lesson at a time until I feel comfortable. Who knows? I might flunk out of my capsule test. I’m thankful and very appreciative.”
Hagan no sooner finished his statement than the bull made another taunting lap around the truck.
“I gotta go catch this thing,” Hagan hurriedly said before hanging up.
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