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Matt Hagan tops Funny Car field in NHRA opener

February 12, 2018

In a photo provided by the NHRA, Matt Hagan drives in Funny Car qualifying at the 58th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals drag races at Auto Club Raceway on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018, in Pomona, Calif. Hagan had a run of 3.822 seconds at a track-record 336.32 during his second pass of the day to take the top sport in qualifying. (Marc Gewertz/NHRA via AP)

POMONA, Calif. (AP) — Matt Hagan beat defending season champion Robert Hight in the Funny Car final Sunday in the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

Hagan edged Hight with a 3.823-second pass at 335.90 mph.

“Keeping our team upbeat and confident and starting the year up on a positive note is good for our team to set goals, no matter how hard they may be to obtain,” Hagan said. “Everything was clicking this weekend, and even more than the parts and pieces it’s about having the right guys to use what we have and so far we’ve done it well.”

Doug Kalitta won in Top Fuel, and Bo Butner topped the Pro Stock field. Kalitta had a 3.779 at 324.28 to edge Tony Schumacher in the final, and Butner ran a 6.549 at 209.62 against teammate Jason Line.

Earlier, defending Top Fuel season champion Brittany Force escaped serious injury in a wall-banging crash in the first round. John Force Racing said the 31-year-old Top Fuel driver, the daughter of Funny Car great John Force, sustained no major internal injuries, but does have some bruising of the lungs and will remain hospitalized overnight as a precaution. The team said a CT scan was negative and an MRI showed subtle findings likely from previous injuries.

Force was racing against Terry Haddock when her 11,000-horsepower dragster veered right just off the start, shot to the left — crossing in front of Haddock — and slammed into the left wall. It spun with the tangled parachute catching the nose and hit backward into the right wall, flipping on its side. It ended up back on what was left of the wheels when it finally skidded to a stop. She was taken to the hospital about the same time her father went out with an engine explosion.

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