Add to favourites
News Local and Global in your language
30th of April 2017

Automotive



Past NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan triumphs through heartbreaking tragedy

Share Facebook Tweet Pinterest Email The gently rolling hills of Matt Hagan’s 500-acre Angus cattle farm in southwestern Virginia provide refuge from the deafening discord of the drag strip for the two-time NHRA Funny Car champion.

One spot on the property, nestled in the scenic Blue Ridge Mountains, with a view of his parents’ home nearly 2 miles down the winding rural road, is the site of a newly built mausoleum. It’s the final resting place of Hagan’s younger brother, Kyle, who went to bed the night of Jan. 7 and never woke up. His unexpected passing came within a month of their grandfather’s death.

“It’s very unfortunate, very tragic, very sad. He was 32 years old, and you ask yourself why. There’s no real reason. Stuff just happens. You have to deal with it, whether you’re angry or you’re hurt. That’s the hand you’re dealt,” Hagan said.

He emerged from the offseason with a new reality and a new take on life.

“Now I look at things a little different. Make every day count because you don’t know when it is your last. You just got to look forward and make sure every day has a purpose,” he said.

Hagan, 34, made his two February cross-country trips to Pomona, California, and Phoenix meaningful. He drove the Don Schumacher Racing-owned Mopar/Express Lane Dodge to victory in the first two events of the 2017 Mello Yello Drag Racing schedule, contributing to DSR’s 300th-triumph milestone.

“We won the first two races. If that’s not healing, I don’t know what is,” he said.

“You crawl in the race car and you think, ‘Man, I should be home with my family,’” Hagan said, salving any guilt by saying: “You’ve got to still live. You’ve got to be you. And you’ve got to enjoy life every second that you get.” 

Matt Hagan in action pic  1

Hagan is finding a measure of peace on the racetrack this season. Photo by Ron Lewis

Bulldozing a road up to the mausoleum gave him the solitude to sort out his feelings. Kyle had chosen that spot as the place he wanted to build his home someday. And laying Kyle to rest there posed yet another learning curve for Matt.

Hagan is used to figuring out tough situations. He was the first in his family to race, although his father, David, owns 11 car dealerships throughout the region. His dad’s networking helped him find local sponsors, who introduced him to automaker representatives and others in corporate America. He cut his teeth in the IHRA, then tackled and conquered the NHRA (in 2011 and 2014, respectively).

Curiously, he is a first-generation farmer, too.

“I went and bought some land and put a house on it. And it’s quite a bit of acreage. I’m like, ‘I’m not mowing this every day. So let’s build a few fences and put some cows out here,’” Hagan said. “The next thing you know, you’re doing it. And if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it full-scale­. If I’m going to buy tractors, let’s buy some big tractors. If I’m going to get some cows, let’s get a lot of cows. If you have an addictive personality, you do everything you do wholeheartedly. That’s similar to racing. It’s hard to turn it on and turn it off.

“You come out (to the racetrack) and you have to turn it on, and you have to turn (the other) things off. It’s taken me awhile to learn to do that. But I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on it. When I get back home, it’s wide open: Pull your boots on and cow shit everywhere and let’s go,” he said. “A lot of times you get off a plane and get on a tractor and it’s 1:30 in the morning and you’re still cutting hay.”

Female rocket scientist plays key role in Ryan Blaneys NASCAR Cup effort

Hagan also picked up the ins and outs of the retail world. He owns a Matt Hagan-branded, admittedly “niche” Western store in ­Blacksburg, Virginia. He shut down his original store in Radford, Virginia, when a competitor moved in next door and priced Hagan out of that market. So he literally took his guns to town—along with his apparel and outdoor gear—and downsized. But he isn’t cutting back his racing.

“You can’t replace the feeling that you get in these Funny Cars with anything else,” Hagan said. “I’ve skydived, done monster trucks, done circle-track racing, drag boats—you name it. You can’t replace the competition. I have a five-month-old at home (son Tucker) and a 7- and 10-year-old (daughter Penny and son Colby) and a farm and businesses. It’s a lot to juggle.”

But true to his promise to make each day satisfying, he said: “It’s hard to explain to somebody, when you put that mouthpiece in and pull that helmet on, the rush that you get when you see that win light come on at the other end of the racetrack. I can’t put it in words. I’m very passionate about it, and it would be hard to walk away from. It’s what makes you whole. It’s an addiction, really. It’s pure addiction. You can’t get that fix anywhere else.”

By Susan Wade

Read More




Leave A Comment

More News

WIRED

ABR - News

Car and Driver Blog

All Motor Trend Stories RSS

Automotive news - from

High Gear Media Network Feed

Featured Articles

Disclaimer and Notice:WorldProNews.com is not the owner of these news or any information published on this site.