Michigan native Donnie Hagar made history and himself an instant legend in the early morning hours of Saturday, defeating 2011 champion Shane Carr in the final round to win the 28th Annual Mickey Thompson Million Dollar Drag Race at Worldwide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
Hagar, driving his Chevy Vega, bottom-bulbed (no delay box) his way past 470 other entries comprising the toughest bracket racers in the nation to claim the lions share of more than $700,000 in all, a reported $200,000 after the late-round split of the purse. Making the story all the more impressive — as if becoming first no-box winner in Million history wasn’t enough — Hagar was said to have scraped the $2,000 entry money together and drove down wit his car on an open trailer for this one race in what is a week’s worth of track-time for his fellow competitors, and made it happen. He slept in a tent on the pavement.
Before deciding who will make their way toward the winner’s circle, all drivers receive a time trial to get dialed in for the day. The more lucrative purse calls for a higher entry fee that always lowers the car count from the surrounding $50,000 races. Since World Wide Technology Raceway is packed with eager racers, the decrease benefits drivers by providing time for a re-entry round if they fail to turn on the win light in round one.
The atmosphere changes on million dollar Friday which creates an amplified excitement as the stakes continue to rise. Drivers and families not participating in Friday’s race stay to watch alongside the return road or in the grandstands, because everyone wants to know who will win it all. After the playing of the National Anthem, invocation, and moment of silence for the Million Dollar Drag Race creator, George Howard, the first pair of No Box racers make their way through the tunnel and onto the racing surface.
A striking 471 entries took that same path from the staging lanes and past the finish line during the first round of eliminations. As advertised on the flyer, this car count meant the winner’s purse climbed to $590,000 and $50,000 to the runner up. Twelve drivers outlasted the next six rounds of grueling competition with hopes of earning the cash and notoriety that comes with a Million Dollar Drag Race victory. They were Donnie Hagar, Braden Bowden, Jeff Serra, Isaac Wilde, Trevor Moore, Chad Branum, Rocky VanNote, Mikey Bloomfield, Shane Carr, Hunter Whitehead, Wes Neely, and Hal Blevins.
The crowd of fellow racers and friends gathered near the starting line to take in the late rounds. Neely turned on the red light by four thousandths in his roadster while Carr was .004 green and coasted across the finish line. Donnie Hagar was .018 up front and took the double breakout win, running one thousandth under beside VanNote, who ran four thousandths too quick. Only eight thousandths separated the pair on the starting line and Serra got to the stripe first but was six thousandths under his dial while Bloomfield ran .013 above for the win.
Carr secured an appearance in his second Million final round courtesy of the bye run while Bloomfield and Hagar faced off in the semifinal. Both drivers were eager for the win with Bloomfield putting together a .009 package for the loss. Hagar launched with a .004 light and ran dead-on with a zero to take his bottom bulb Vega into the Million dollar final round.
The 28th Annual Mickey Thompson Million Dollar Drag Race champion was merely one pass away from their celebration as the $2,000 No Box bonus winner, Hagar, staged up next to Carr.
As Carr reversed from his half-track burnout, Hagar smoked the tires and rolled towards the starting line. Both drivers carefully bumped into the stage beams and Hagar left first with a .005 reaction time followed by the .001 red light of Carr. With that, Hagar made history by becoming the first No Box racer to compete in the OG Million final round, much less conquer it.
A man of few words during the winner’s circle interview, Donnie Hagar is still in disbelief of what he has just accomplished. He says, “I’m super thankful and happy, obviously. And really tired as well. It just doesn’t seem real to be honest, I’m just super blessed…at a loss for words.”
Carr took a moment to praise the OG Million in his post-race interview by saying, “I want to thank Donny Burleson for giving me such a good hot rod. All the Folk family for such a great race. I’m glad you came to St. Louis, I don’t think you could do much better.”
Saturday will conclude the Million Dollar Drag Race with one more $50,000 race sponsored by Summit Racing Equipment. Registration opens at 8 AM and only new entries will receive a time trial at 8:30 a.m., followed by eliminations. The $1,000 No Box bonus will be awarded to the last bottom bulb driver left in the competition.