Matt Hagan Makes a Splash at Bristol Dragway
Accustomed to pedaling a 10,000-horsepower, nitro-fueled Funny Car down the track in less than four seconds at speeds exceeding 300mph, driver Matt Hagan paddled at a different speed yesterday - racing down Bristol Dragway's Beaver Creek in a human-powered kayak.
"It was really cool to get out here, splash around a little bit and just kinda cut up," said the 2011 Funny Car champion. "It brings you back down to Earth. You have so much stuff going on and to come here, have a couple hamburgers, drink a few bottles of water and get out there and break a sweat paddling away - it's just a cool deal."
When Hagan returns to Bristol Dragway next weekend for the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, he'll trade his kayak in favor of a machine more suited to turning on win lights at a track located just two hours from his Christiansburg, Va. farm.
"Honestly, I love Bristol. It's a home track for me," said Hagan. "We have so many fans, family and friends come out. I want nothing more than to win a Wally here and be able to celebrate with them, let them pass it around, let them take pictures then definitely party afterwards.
"It's just a great experience to have so many people come out and know that they're supporting you. They want to see you, they're rooting you on and to do that here at Bristol - it would be huge for me to pull down a win next weekend."
The Don Schumacher Racing driver and his team have found speed on Bristol's legendary quarter-mile, co-owning the track's Funny Car MPH record with teammate Jack Beckman (317.05mph, June 2013), but after notching a category-record five wins last year and placing second in the 2013 Championship standings, the early rounds of 2014 have admittedly been a struggle.
"This year has been tough. [After last year's success] we really thought we'd start this season on a high note, and it just really hasn't gone that way or the way we wanted it too," he said. "We were really in a test mode [at the beginning of the 2014 season], trying new things, and it took a while for us to figure out it wasn't going to work so we're back to our old car, our old combo, everything we won all those races with last year. It's coming around, so I'm really excited to get out here to Bristol and lay the hammer down out here in front of these fans."
And while winning for his fans, particularly those friends and family filling the Thunder Valley grandstands, is important to the 32-year-old, it is the indescribable high of celebrating with the crew who made his performance possible that he finds most motivational.
"It's a family to me, and I never want to let my family down," remarked Hagan. "Honestly, these guys, I see them more than I do my family, and they're my brothers. We want to win together; we work together and turn win lights on together. It's a cool feeling when it all comes together on Sunday and you turn four win lights on and you're holding the trophy up there at the end of the day.
"It's just an experience - you can't buy it, you can hardly describe it to somebody. You just know that you all had one common goal and at the end of the day that goal came together and it all worked. That's why I get up every morning, put a smile on my face, grab my helmet, crawl in that racecar and strap to a 10,000 horsepower racecar."
Hagan and his NHRA counterparts fire their electrifying machines in Thunder Valley next weekend, and tickets to experience the body-thrumming, blood-pulsing power are still available. Weekend packages for the June 13-15 event start at just $79 with single-day adult tickets for Sunday's elimination rounds beginning as low as $20.
Prices increase Saturday, June 7 so call (855) 580-5525 or visit www.ThunderValleyTix.com and reserve your seat today!