During the week, Matt Hagan is content cruising around his farm tending to the cattle and enjoying the peace and tranquility of the Virginia countryside. During the June 18-20 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, fans will see him launch himself down the track in one of Don Schumacher’s ground-pounding, nitro-burning NHRA Funny Cars. 

While the two professions don’t seem to mix, the Christiansburg, Va. resident says he enjoys the balance provided by his occupations.

“Obviously, racing is the priority,” Hagan said, with a laugh. “I try to farm on the side. It is another source of income for me, but it is also a great polar opposite for me. It is so adrenaline driven at the track and the farm is kind of my relaxing time to come back and unwind and better myself as a driver.

“But it is a business and I do have to run it and make sure it is profitable and keep the bottom dollar in mind. It is one of the things that is very beneficial for me.”

Hagan’s laid-back lifestyle during the week must be working, as he recently picked up his first career victory during an event in Houston. The moment is one that forever will be etched in his memory.

“When we won, it was such a great thing,” the driver of the DieHard machine continued, while taking a break on the farm. “We’ve been working at this for two years and we’ve been working to get a win in a fuel Funny Car. When it finally came together we were ecstatic. It brings back a lot of emotions and memories and is something I will remember forever.”

Collecting his first win also helped relieve some of the pressure on Hagan to prove himself as a professional driver.

Hagan explained, “Everyone asks, ‘when are you going to get it (the first win)?’ And I tell everyone it isn’t for a lack of effort. (Crew chief) Tommy DeLago has been working on the tune up for two years, and we just had to have a little bit of luck and things going our way. We had a good race car and the guys on the car make minimal mistakes. That is what it takes, you’ve got to put them together right. I’ve been fortunate to have that group around me.”

The addition of former John Force Racing crew chief John Medlen also provided a boost for the Hagan camp.

“John is such an intelligent man,” Hagan said. “He has so many years experience and can bring so much to the table. He has worked with John Force on everything they’ve done over there. So he has all that knowledge and he is bringing it to our camp. He talks to our crew chiefs and it is so beneficial to know what John has been doing for the last 10-15 years. It will definitely work out to our favor. He is a bright guy and we are super excited to have him here.”

After experiencing his first win, Hagan admitted the thrill of victory now has enhanced the agony of defeat. He has learned it is vital to take the good with the bad.

“I thought we were getting close to winning last year,” said Hagan. We always qualified top half, it’s just getting four good runs down the track. Every time you go up to the line, you want it. You feel like you should win every race. When we lost the first round in St. Louis, it just feels like someone crushed you. It is just one of those things, after the taste of victory, it sours you to lose.

“Last year, I took everything in stride. I expected to win, but up until the point we did win, you say, ‘Okay, it wasn’t our weekend.’ But after getting that taste of victory, you expect to win. Like I said, it is such a humbling sport. You have to learn to be a good winner and a good loser.”

As exciting as racing is for Hagan, the 27-year-old father of two says there is one thing he would change.

“It would be even better if my family were here,” he admitted. “We are on the road so much, I really miss my family a lot of times. For them not to be able to share it with me is tough. I have a six-month-old daughter and a three-year-old son…one day they will be out here and sharing it with me. Right now, it is time for them to be kids and not to be going all across the country.”

Fortunately for Hagan, he won’t be too far from home when he visits Bristol in June.

“It is huge coming to Bristol,” he said. “Last year, we didn’t do so well. We had an oil line come off and we didn’t get to make first round. It was very upsetting to us, because it is our hometown track. We’re looking forward to this year. I feel our car is a lot better and we have a better chance to go rounds.

“We have the potential to do well there. I look forward to shaking hands with the people in Bristol and sharing a little time with them.”

The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin when gates open at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 18 with the first round of Pro Qualifying slated for 5 p.m. The pro cars will return at 7:30 p.m. for the exciting night qualifying round.

Gates open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 19 with Pro Qualifying set for 12:30 p.m. and 3:00 p.m. Bristol Dragway’s Fan Fest takes place in the nitro pits after the second round of qualifying.

Sunday’s action kicks off when gates open at 8:30 a.m. and Final Eliminations crank up at 12:00 noon. Special Father’s Day ticket pricing starts at only $20. 

Ticket prices are as follows: Friday -- Sections A - D $30 Adult / $10 Junior; Sections E - U $35 Adult / $10 Junior; Thunder Terrace $35 Adult / $10 Junior, Saturday -- Sections A - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior; Sections E - U $55 Adult / $25 Junior; Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior, Sunday -- Sections A- B $20 Adult / $10 Junior, Sections C - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior, Section E – P $55 Adult/ $25 Junior, Section Q – U $20 Adult/$10 Junior, Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior. Weekend combos are: Sections A - B $79 Adult / $30 Junior, Section C – D $95 Adult/$30 Junior, Sections E - P $120 Adult / $50 Junior, Sections Q – U $95 Adult/$30 Junior and Thunder Terrace $120 Adult / $50 Junior. Thunder Valley Club admission for three days is $300 for adults and $100 for juniors. Three-day Bruton’s Suite admission is $450 for both adults and juniors.

To purchase tickets, please call the Bristol ticket office at 423-989-6900 or visit www.bristoltix.com.