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A dramatic explosion and a starting spot in the bottom part of the field couldn’t keep Matt Hagan from making history at the season-opening National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) Winternationals on Sunday, Feb. 8, as the 2014 NHRA Funny Car champ commenced his title defense by racing the all-new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T to victory at Auto Club Raceway near Pomona, California, in the body’s competition debut.
The win represents the triumphant culmination of a year-long commitment in which the Mopar brand, along with FCA US engineers and additional personnel, worked hand-in-hand with Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) drivers and teams to validate, test and create a more durable, driver-friendly winning machine that also features enhanced styling cues from the 2015 production Dodge Charger. It also marks the second time in less than a year that an NHRA race body developed by Mopar and FCA US has been victorious in its competition debut — last season Allen Johnson steered the Dodge Dart Pro Stock body to a NHRA Gatornationals win in its maiden voyage.
“Congratulations from everyone at Mopar to Don Schumacher Racing for putting two new vehicles into the final, and to Matt Hagan for driving the 2015 Dodge Charger R/T to the winner’s circle in its debut,” said Pietro Gorlier, President and CEO - Mopar Brand Service, Parts and Customer Care. “What a great way to reward a year’s worth of time, investment and hard work that went into the extensive process of designing and building a fantastic new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
“To have both the new Dodge Charger and the Dodge Dart win Wally trophies in both of their first times on track in the past year is a testament to Mopar’s ability to provide quality products. This is also a fantastic way to follow up on Matt’s 2014 NHRA Championship and we appreciate the team’s efforts in working to defend that title this season.”
After a flame-filled eruption during Friday qualifying forced Hagan to turn to a second 2015 Mopar Express Lane/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T body, and after rain on Saturday washed out his final chance to move up the charts, the two-time and defending champion began his road to a Winternationals event title all the way back from the No. 12 position. The DSR star ended the day of the higher-qualified Tony Pedregon in round one, hitting the timing strip with a 4.065-second elapsed time at 318.84 mph to his opponent’s 4.381/227.54.