Larry Dixon, Cruz Pedregon and Dave Connolly took home the trophies from Sunday's 26th-annual Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals, but the big winners were Matt Hagan and Greg Anderson, who both surged into the points lead in their respective categories with strong runner-up finishes at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., on Sunday.
Dixon moved to a perfect 12-0 in Funny Car final rounds this year, including a 3-0 mark in the Countdown to One playoffs, but Hagan earned most of the attention this weekend. First he posted a national-record run of 4.011 seconds in qualifying (worth 20 bonus points), then secured his fourth final-round appearance of the season. In one weekend, Hagan moved from 25 points behind legend John Force to 64 points ahead.
Adding to the pain of it all, Force couldn't even defend himself in Sunday's opening round when his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang would not go into reverse after his prerace burnout.
A similar scenario occurred in Pro Stock. Anderson's third straight final-round appearance helped him move from 16 points down to 36 ahead of Mike Edwards, who jumped the start in the first round and was disqualified.
Dixon displayed some expert driving in the final to beat Cory McClenathan, who remains closest to him in the standings, 89 points behind. Both cars lost traction at the start--Dixon was first to struggle--and it took a moment for the tire smoke to clear and the crowd to realize that Dixon drove from behind to win his 60th national event with a 4.906-second pass at 295.34 mph to McClenathan's 5.103 seconds at 199.70 mph.
In Funny Car, all eyes were on Hagan, who seemed destined to win. But Pedregon had other ideas, taking the victory with a 4.130-second pass at 312.35 mph in his Snap-on Tools Toyota to Hagan's laboring 4.242 seconds at 301.13 mph in the DieHard Charger R/T.
Connolly has raced sparingly over the past two seasons as team owner Victor Cagnazzi continues to look for funding for Connolly's IDG Makita Tools Cobalt, but he obviously still knows how to drive as he took his 22nd career victory by beating Anderson. The final numbers had Connolly winning by the slimmest of margins, with a 6.580-second pass at 210.05 mph to Anderson's 6.579 seconds at 207.75 mph.