Professional race car driver and area native Matt Hagan says he can remember when he could not give away his autograph. Now, it has all changed after he won his fourth world championship this past National Hod Rod Association (NHRA) season.
Saturday, he saw over 500 people line up and wait hours in Christiansburg to gain a photo op or his signature. The event was held at his father’s Motor Mile Toyota car dealership.
“Those early years were tough,” Matt told reporters.
The year was 2010, and Hagan was still learning to drive a race. “We had a lot of growing pains that put it in perspective.”
But Hagan preserved and is the 2011, 2014, 2020 and 2023 NHRA Funny Car World Champion. He has had a total of 49 Career Event titles, 87 Career Final Rounds, and 21 Career No.1 qualifying positions.
In 2021, he was announced as the Funny Car driver for Tony Stewart Racing.
This year, Hagan clinched a Fourth NHRA Funny Car World Championship at the Camping World Series finale in Pomona, CA on November 12. Hagan’s title places him in an elite group of only four racers to have won four funny car championships in the history of the sport. Racing greats John Force (15 championships), Don Prudhomme (4), and Kenny Bernstein (4) round out the list.
Hagan’s fourth title is the first for the TSR Nitro organization, owned by Indy/NASCAR champ Tony Stewart, who made the move to NHRA team ownership two seasons ago.
Stewart and his wife, NHRA dragster driver and Hagan race mate, Leah Pruett, also made a stop in the New River Valley for this special event. They also took time to sign autographs and take photos with fans.
Stewart was enthused about Hagan’s success and suggested the new race team has helped take some of the stress off him.
“I think we have created a (good) culture and atmosphere that he can enjoy and be successful,” the car owner said.
“Yes, Tony takes a lot of the stress off,” Hagan said. “We are now turning sponsors away. We have a great chemistry as a team.”
This weekend, fans were given the opportunity to meet Matt and see the Dodge Power Brokers Funny Car Hagan piloted in the season finale in Pomona.
After last month’s clinching of the world title, Hagan thanked his crew chiefs, staff and new car owner. “It was great to get Tony Stewart his first championship in their second year out here in the NHRA.” Many of those contributors were there this weekend, when he took a moment to look back at the season.
“I couldn’t have done any of this without them,” Hagan said.
“We worked very hard in the off season to make it happen.”
The off season will start again in a month, and Hagan is looking forward to going for a ring for the thumb, a number five world championship. “I liked to get one for all 10 fingers,” he joked with reporters.
On Saturday, Hagan spent over two hours signing autographs and meeting appreciative fans. Many were anxious to grab a snapshot with the driver, who was sporting a new mustache.
“This is important for me. They (the fans) are just unbelievable at the track or special events.”
Hagan stood, not sitting down or taking a break, during the entire time, taking time to greet and smile each of his fans.
“It’s great to be here and celebrate with the local fans,” he said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
His autograph is now in high demand, a big difference than those early years when he was just getting his feet wet in the world of racing. Those were times when people and fellow racers, according to Hagan, were scratching their heads wondering who he was. They know who he is now.