"We're all chasing the yellow and black car right now," said Matt Hartford while standing outside his Total Seal Chevy Camaro. "If we knew what they were doing, we'd be doing it."
Hartford qualified No. 8 and that assured him he'll be in the first pair to strike Goodyear rubber to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park concrete Sunday morning. The Arizona native (sarcastically) requested to go last when an NHRA official came by his pit a couple of hours before racing began but to no avail -- Hartford and Alex Laughlin will face off in the first round 16 pairs of nitro cars.
The matchup is interesting enough on its own; Laughlin and Hartford are former Elite Motorsports teammates and the Total Seal driver out-qualified the Powerbuilt Tools driver by .006-second with K.B. Racing power. Hartford said in Pomona there's no lingering resentment from his side of the pits, but it's less clear if there's extra motivation for Elite Motorsports to defeat their former customer.
The learning curve for Hartford and crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia has been short. He qualified within .002-second of engine master Jason Line and Hartford spoke fondly of the working relationship between the two just a pair of races into his deal with K.B. Racing.
"Jason has been great to work with," said Hartford. "Anything we need or want to do they've been extremely accommodating."
Hartford and Guarnaccia receive motors from K.B. Racing but do significant tuning once the powerplant arrives in their pit. That's atypical for a customer (or leasing team) and may come as a surprise to many given the general perception of how K.B. Racing does business. Hartford has always been hands-on when it came to tuning, no matter who his engine supplier has been.
So, I asked if keeping that hands-on approach was a major factor when signing the deal with K.B. Racing.
Was he surprised they were okay with that?
Hartford is still trying to win his way, just with a different engine under the hood of his Total Seal Camaro.