Not many people would have given Matt Hartford very good odds at stopping Greg Anderson in the final round of Pro Stock at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals. After all, Anderson had won the last two events on the tour and was on the verge of making history as the first Pro driver to win the Western Swing twice.
Oh, and Hartford was 0-10 lifetime against the former world champ.
But Hartford got it done with his left foot, letting the clutch out on his Eddie Guarnacci-tuned Total Seal/Rottler Camaro with a strong .023 reaction time and beating Anderson on a holeshot, 6.606 to 6.596, for his second career win.
“Greg is obviously one of the best that’s ever raced in the class, and he’d beaten me 10 times out of 10 times, but I told him he’s like a slot machine, that I’m going to keep pulling the handle and sooner or later he’s going to pay out,” said Hartford. “I think this payout probably hurts him worse than if it had been anywhere else because to sweep the Swing would be an incredible accomplishment. We knew we had to go A to B and that whoever left first was probably going to win.
“I’ve said for years you have to qualify well to have a good day on Sunday. Here we actually qualified ninth, which is the worst place you can qualify because you’ll be the first pair, you’re not going to have lane choice, and then if you win you might have to race the No. 1 qualifier in the second round. You’re not looking for a long day if you qualify ninth. But, like they say, we don’t race them on paper or on dynos, we race them on the dragstrip and 1,320 feet later we had a win light in the first round.”
Hartford, who had been to three previous final rounds this season – in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver – got the chance to avenge his most recent loss to Anderson – in that Denver final -- after working his way to the final pairing with a trio of strong performances.
Hartford launched his day by upsetting points leader Bo Butner in round one then followed with another upset over low qualifier Jeg Coughlin Jr., who rattled the tires on the JEGS.com Camaro. In the semifinals against Deric Kramer, both cars shook hard when the drivers let out the clutch, but Hartford recovered best and took the win light with a 7.55 pass.
Anderson and his red Summit Chevy barely escaped the first round, where rookie Fernando Cuadra, who runs KB power just like Anderson, put a holeshot on the former world champ but fell just .006-second short of upsetting him. Anderson’s white-knuckle moments continued in the second round where he drove around Erica Enders’ brilliant .009 holeshot to win, then had to get his Camaro stopped without the benefit of parachutes, which failed to deploy after the run.
Anderson reached the final and a chance for the Swing sweep by beating Alex Laughlin in a rematch of last weekend’s final round in Sonoma, which went Anderson’s way again with a 6.59 pass.