Compiled by SEMA Editors
HAGAN HAS BIG GOALS HEADING INTO DENVER: Matt Hagan isn’t going to make any bold claims following his first win of the season. But heading into a crucial stretch of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season it was precisely the type of performance the Funny Car standout wanted to see. Hagan picked up a hard-earned victory in Chicago, giving the team a noticeable burst of energy. It also sets up Hagan and his 10,000-hp Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger favorably for the three-week NHRA Western Swing that begins with the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. The pivotal three-race stretch is a major opportunity for drivers to make an impressive move in the points standings with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship right around the corner.
"You definitely want to kick off Denver and the Western Swing in the right direction," Hagan said. "It’s huge to do well in this three-race swing. It’s a dream of mine to sweep the swing, but you have to take it one race at a time. You have to stay humble with these cars. You need consistency and a bunch of good runs, and then you can talk about a championship. You can’t get too excited from one win."
MASSEY READY TO TACKLE CHALLENGE OF MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS: The drivers on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit will have to deal with racing at an elevation of more than 5,800 ft. this weekend at Bandimere Speedway. They will also have to deal with warm temperatures and the rising pressure of each race with the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship looming. In other words, it’s precisely what Top Fuel standout Spencer Massey lives for. Massey will look to make it two straight wins at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. With a strong recent track record in Denver, along with a penchant for running well during the summer months, Massey is locked in heading into one of the most crucial stretches of the season.
"I like racing in the heat, and I don’t think we fall off much performance-wise,” Massey said. "I love the pressure, and I love when it gets close to the Countdown. I love these situations, and the more pressure the better. The entire team shines in those situations, and we can’t wait for Denver. I love racing there."
GAINES EAGER TO GET BACK HOME TO DENVER: After the kind of slump V Gaines has been in lately on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series circuit, heading home might be the best solution. That is what Gaines—a prominent businessman in the Denver area—is banking on as the Pro Stock standout starts the three-week NHRA Western Swing with the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway. He has finished as the runner-up the past two years at his home track, losing both times to Allen Johnson. But that kind of success would serve as a major boost for Gaines and his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger after a particularly rough five-race stretch. Gaines lost four straight first-round matchups and then didn’t qualify for the most recent race in Norwalk, adding even more salt to the wound.
"We’ve known for the past month what the problem is but we’ve just been unable to find the right solution," Gaines said. "We’ve been kind of chasing it until we were able to round up the right parts. We’ve been doing quite a bit of testing and I think we’ve got it working. So after testing we know it works up here in Denver. The question is if it will work the next week in Sonoma."
He Said, She Said
"It's as brutal a change or swing of conditions that you'll see. I don't know how these crew chiefs sleep at night to begin with, but to go up in the mountain like we have to go first and compete in those conditions and make power up there and do what we have to do, and come back down to really less than sea level almost in Sonoma and then go to Seattle where you've got all those trees producing the oxygen that you don't normally see. You've just got to have a good crew chief."
—Funny Car racer Ron Capps on the difficulty of sweeping all three races in the Western Swing. John Force is the only Funny Car racer to win all three races, which hasn’t been achieved since 1994.
Inside the Numbers
2009: The last year that a driver in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series swept the three races in the Western Swing was 2009. Antron Brown achieved that feat when he strung together three weekends and became the seventh driver to sweep the stretch of races. He also is just the fifth Top Fuel driver to win all three events. Joe Amato (1991), Cory McClenathan (1997), Larry Dixon (2003) and Tony Schumacher (2008) are the other Top Fuel racers to do the sweep. John Force in Funny Car (1994), and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock (2004) are the other drivers to dominate the Western Swing.
“The Western Swing is one of those grueling marathon of races,” said Brown. “You travel to the West Coast and each race is almost 1,000 miles between each other and the crews are going back-to-back-to back. From Denver at mile-high conditions, to Sonoma at sea level, to Seattle where the track can be tricky but good too. We are always glad to go on the Western Swing because it shows you what the great teams are made of.”
Did You Know
JENNA HADDOCK TO MAKE TOP FUEL DEBUT IN DENVER: Jenna Haddock, wife of well-known Funny Car driver Terry Haddock, has earned her Top Fuel competition license and has signed a multi-race agreement with Patriot Grading & Engineering. She will make her debut at the 35th annual Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway, July 18–20. Haddock’s plans also include competing at the 27th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals in Seattle, August 1–3, and the 50th Annual Auto Club NHRA Finals in Pomona, November 13–16.
"I am beyond ecstatic to get to do this. I have been going to the races since I was a little girl, and now getting to be part of the show is an honor. I want to thank Terry, my team and my sponsors for supporting me and believing in me enough to give me the opportunity to do this. They have worked so hard to make this happen for me. I know that we have our work cut out for us but I so badly want to make everyone proud."
View the complete 2014 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.