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Hagan to the top in Gainesvill

From Competition

Already this weekend, Funny Car standout Matt Hagan has plenty of pressure from teammates Jack Beckman and Johnny Gray, who hagan_2closed Friday qualifying in the Nos. 2 and 4 spots, respectively. Dogging him as well is the Ford contingent of Mike Neff, Bob Tasca III, and John Force, who also are in the top six.
As if that weren't enough, Hagan is haunted by words from his boss, Don Schumacher: "You're only as good as your last run."
Hagan came into the NHRA Gatornationals, still agonizing about his most recent run -- a final-round holeshot loss at the Winternationals to Robert Hight -- a result he said "makes you want to throw up in your helmet."
But, by the end of competition Friday at Gainesville Raceway, Hagan had a track-record 4.030-second pass (at 309.84 mph) which landed him atop the qualifying order overnight in the Die Hard Dodge Charger.
Maybe now Hagan can shake that angst, the angst of finishing second to Force for the 2010 championship and of falling short against Hight in his February return to Pomona.
"I wanted to get out here and make a run," the eager Hagan said. "It does a lot for my confidence to come out here and run some numbers like we have been and know that we're going to have a fast car on Sunday."
He said thinking about the ones that got away -- races which yield a less-than-perfect performance -- are constructive, not burdensome to him.
"It's so easy to forget the ones you didn't do well at. I try to remember those," he said, "and make sure you don't tuck them away and write 'em off."
Going back to the season opener, he said, "We should've won that one. We had the car to beat. I left a little bit on the table. It was one of those things where I got caught with my pants down. You look over and think, 'I hope that was good enough.'
"That whole week I changed up what my routine was. But no excuses. Robert was ready, and I wasn't. Next time I've got to dig a little deeper," Hagan said. "To let my guys down like that, it definitely hurt inside . . . to know they worked so hard to get us there and me being the weakest link."
Hagan gave kudos to the Safety Safari for its track prep Friday in Gainesville, saying, "To be able to run an .03, you have to have a good track. The track's real good out there. The Safety Safari has been doing a great job."
He said the Tommy Delago-prepared Charger "was on a great run. It was going everywhere but straight. I was trying to reel it in and keep it in the groove."   
He did -- and maybe that means Hagan, too, is in the groove again.