A pair of racers looking for thier first titles suffered huge blows in the first round at the Dodge NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil. Matt Hartford and Karen Stoffer both lost in the first round, putting their championship hopes on ice.
Hartford raced Jason Line, who remains a contender for the 2019 Pro Stock world championship, and left second against the former champ. That wasn't the primary problem for the driver of the Total Seal Chevy Camaro, who was only a hundredth behind Line at the Tree; Hartford was well off his qualifying mark in the first round and ran more than seven-hundredths of a second behind Line to the stripe.
Stoffer suffered similar performance issues in the first round of Pro Stock Motorcycle. She cut a spectacular light against Angie Smith, who was late at the Tree. That didn't factor into the margin of victory as Stoffer's Ray Skillman White Alligator Racing Suzuki bogged almost immediately. She ran a 7.105-second lap, getting to the stripe well behind Smith's Denso EBR.
That put Pro Stock leader Erica Enders and Pro Stock Motorcycle leader Andrew Hines in strong positions. Both racers won their first-round matchups and can head to the Auto Club NHRA Finals looking for another world championship if they take advantage. Hines gets a tough second-round matchup against former world champion Jerry Savoie, who is Stoffer's teammate, while Enders races Elite Motorsports teammate Alex Laughlin.
Chris McGaha and Hector Arana Jr. were both eliminated from championship contention after the first round of Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, respectively. Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Shawn Langdon and Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) were also eliminated after the first round.