Matt Hartford is still mathematically in the running for the 2019 NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock championship, but he also acknowledges that his chances of actually winning the title ended two weeks ago at the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas. Hartford and his Total Seal team were ranked as high as No. 2 following back-to-back final round appearances in St. Louis and Charlotte, but the wheels ran off in Las Vegas where they stumbled in qualifying, and came up short in a crucial round one match-up against fellow title contender Jason Line.
“That was our season right there,” Hartford explained. “Put simply, we didn’t qualify well in Las Vegas, had to race against Jason, and couldn’t find a way to get the job done. Before that, I thought we were doing great with two semi’s and two final rounds in the Countdown. Jason and I pretty much took each other out of contention. I beat him in the second round in St. Louis and then he returned the favor in the first round in Las Vegas. If either of those races had gone differently, this weekend might look a whole lot different as far as the championship is concerned.”
Title aspirations aside, this has been a breakthrough season for Hartford, who for the first time in his career, had the opportunity to attend all the events and compete for a spot in the playoffs. With support from a number of loyal sponsors, and the tuning expertise of veteran crew chief Eddie Guaranaccia, Hartford has been solid virtually all season. He’s appeared in six final rounds and bagged his second career Pro Stock win in Seattle. He’s also won 27 elimination rounds, which more than doubled his career total entering the season.
Hartford’s strength this season has been in qualifying where he’s been ranked in the top half of the field in 14 of 17 Pro Stock races and has not been seeded lower than No. 10 at any event. His best start came in Norwalk where he was No. 2. Hartford has no complaints about his engine program which comes from Elite Motorsports.
“How can I complain about six final rounds?” Hartford said. “I wish we’d have one more than one race but other than Erica, I don’t think there’s anyone else in this class that has won more rounds than I have. To me, the biggest thing is that we’ve been able to reward all the people who have had faith in us. When someone like Kenny Koretsky comes on board, and he cares enough to come to Las Vegas and Pomona to watch you, it says a lot about where this program is. I can’t say enough about all of our partners. It takes a lot to do this, and to compete at a high level. I’m glad we were able to show what we could do, and hopefully we’re not done yet.”
After day one in Pomona, Hartford is No. 9 with a 6.585 best.