“We’ve been working at it this year,” said Hagan, who now has three wins in Chicago. “It’s been a very humbling year for us. Last year, we came out and won five races, and you kind of think you are going to set the world on fire the following year.”
Hagan was sitting 10th in the Funny Car point standings, just seven races before the Countdown to the Championship, a position that the DSR driver was not used to. The win moved Hagan to eighth in the points, and he sits 78 points ahead of Tim Wilkerson for the final transfer spot.
"We could feel the pressure to stay in the top 10 because if you're not running for a championship, Don isn't happy,” said Hagan, who beat 2012 world champ Jack Beckman, Bob Bode, and recent Epping winner Ron Capps on the way to the final. "The competition is just so, so tough out here in Funny Car, so when you turn four win lights on, you just don't want this day to end. When 10 guys come together for a common goal, you hope that it could go on for two or three more days like this."
Johnson was appearing in his second final of the season following his victory in Bristol. The Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger team rose to second in the point standings and trails Robert Hight by 246 points. Hight reached the second round before falling to Capps.
Brown piloted his Matco Tools dragster to a pass of 3.814 at 317.34, defeating second-time finalist Brittany Force. It was the fourth win of the season for Brown and first since Houston.
“It felt really good to stay poised this weekend,” said Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel world champ. “We had some things go our way. To run that great in the final, to put out an .81 is a credit to all of our guys.”
Brown picked up his 41st career win and 29th in Top Fuel. He now has four wins at Route 66 Raceway, two in Top Fuel and two in Pro Stock Motorcycle. He beat Billy Torrence, Englishtown winner Richie Crampton, and Clay Millican en route to the final round.
“It’s amazing,” said Brown, who reached 500 round-wins in NHRA competition this weekend. “We always love coming here the way the weather can swing. We had some great runs in qualifying. We knew what we were capable of.”
Force, driver of the Castrol Edge dragster, was appearing in her second career final and second this season. She also faced Brown in the final of Phoenix earlier this year. With her performance, Force moved up to seventh in the Top Fuel point standings. Category points leader Doug Kalitta fell in the second round to Kalitta Motorsports teammate J.R. Todd.
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues July 3-6 in Norwalk with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park.