Matt Hagan ended a 29-race drought from the top of Funny Car’s qualifying order by racing to the No. 1 position Friday at the rain-delayed Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Saturday’s 11 a.m. eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers in their categories at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
The 2011 Funny Car world champ powered his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Footwear Dodge Charger to a track record time of 4.067 seconds at 312.86 mph to claim his first No. 1 qualifying position since November 2011 and the 11th of his career. Hagan will open eliminations against No. 16 qualifier Tony Pedregon, a two-time world champ.
“I guess this is my first pole since my championship year, but I just look at (last year) as just a wash,” said Hagan, who finished 11th in points last season, missing the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. “I don’t even think about it anymore; it’s behind me. We’re looking ahead to bigger and brighter things with (crew chief) Dickie Venables and this car and this crew. My lights (reaction times) are great, and the car’s running great, and that’s a hard combination to beat when you put two and two together. The confidence just keeps building, but, like I said, without my guys busting their butts, it’s not happening. It’s a great feeling to be back up at the top, No. 1.”
Ron Capps qualified second with a 4.073 at 313.15 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger and will race second year driver and recent Charlotte runner-up Blake Alexander in the first round. Meanwhile, series points leader Cruz Pedregon qualified third in his Snap-on Tools Toyota Camry with a 4.086 at 303.37 and will begin his quest to earn his third win of the season by facing Jeff Arend in the first round.
In Top Fuel, Langdon took his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and eighth of his career, powering his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to both ends of the track record with a performance of 3.791 at 324.36. Langdon will race GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster driver Morgan Lucas in the first round.
“With only having two runs today, we were a little conservative on the first run to try to get down the racetrack," Langdon said. "We accomplished that and found a lot of areas that we could improve on, and I think that showed a little bit on the second run.”
Langdon has advanced to the last two final rounds and hopes to claim his second win of the season and improve on his third place points position with a strong showing this weekend.
“The crew chiefs have been doing a great job of working hard to basically finish up what we were trying to accomplish with these cars last year,” Langdon said. “We got behind the eight-ball a little bit last year trying to test some new stuff. They’re getting it figured out now."
Defending Top Fuel world champ Antron Brown qualified second in his Matco Tools dragster with a 3.826 at 321.35 and will race veteran driver Pat Dakin, while Doug Kalitta was third in the Mac Tools dragster with the same time as Brown’s at a speed of 320.36 and will race rookie Leah Pruett in the opening round.
Points leader and seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, who has never won at Atlanta Dragway, will open in a tough first round pairing against local favorite Bob Vandergriff, who resides in nearby Alpharetta, who is still riding the momentum from scoring his first win of the season two weeks ago in Houston.
In Pro Stock, Edwards claimed his sixth No. 1 qualifying position of the season with a performance of 6.583 at 210.57 in his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. He will face six-time champ and longtime Buford, Ga. resident Warren Johnson in the opening round of eliminations.
“We were being conservative because we only get two sessions, so you’ve got to get down the racetrack to get qualified, so we feel real good about how we ran,” said Edwards, the current series points leader and a two-time winner at Atlanta Dragway. “We feel like we can run a little bit better, so that makes us feel even better. Hat’s off to all my guys. The Interstate Battery/I Am Second Camaro is just running flawlessly, and I’m just hoping we can run good tomorrow and have a long day.”
Jeg Coughlin qualified second with a 6.590 at 209.75 in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Avenger and will face fellow Ohio driver Larry Morgan, who pilots the Lucas Oil Ford Mustang, while Rickie Jones will start third with a 6.596 at 210.11 in his Elite Motorsports Camaro and face veteran driver Kurt Johnson in the opening round.