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Matt Hartford on how extreme challenges focus his team on the task at hand

Matt Hartford, Pro Stock driver, piston-ring manufacturer, and diesel mechanic? We caught up with Hartford to hear about the peripheral stresses a Pro Stock team like his has to deal with before they even get on the race track
23 Jul 2022
David Kennedy
Matt Hartford on how extreme challenges focus his team on the task at hand

At the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High in Denver, Matt Hartford showed that he had the power, the reaction times, and the patience to work through a field of Pro Stock competitors. But the Western Swing puts extra pressure on the winner of every class in Denver to “Sweep the Swing” as they descend on Sonoma. We got together with Hartford before the first qualifying session to ask him what challenges his team has had to endure just to get here, and what their expectations are for this weekend.

NHRA: After winning in Denver, what's your advantage coming into this race?

Hartford: The advantage is that there are 16 cars on the property. And my advantage is that's almost a guarantee that we’ll qualify.

NHRA: Is qualifying a challenge for your team?

Hartford: I think qualifying and qualifying well at any track on the tour is a struggle. And, and I say that because you've got 16 incredible cars out here right now. On any given Sunday, any of these 16 cars can win, and you need a lot of luck on your side to qualify well and a lot of luck on your side to win these rounds.

NHRA: Do some teams have a great program coming into Sonoma that just works for them every year?

Hartford: I think so. I mean, you look back at last year, Greg [Anderson] qualified number one, he went 6.513. Up to that point, we were the number one qualifier after Friday night with the 6.533, and then Saturday Greg went around us. We ended up, I think, fourth, so we ran really well here last year. Uh, I think we lost in the second round, but, you know, at the end of the day, we've run well at sea-level tracks around the country. So we, we love coming to Sonoma.

NHRA: What what'd you have to go through after the race win on Sunday to get to qualifying at Sonoma?

Hartford: Quick overview; Friday, when we got to Denver, we knew our semi truck was hurt. So we worked on it most of the morning on Friday, Adam [Bastion] and myself, and we realized that it was beyond what we, our ability to diagnose it without scanners and equipment like that. So we took it to Mr. V. Gaines at Western Distributing. He’s got a large shop there and a fleet of hundreds of trucks. He rolled it in his shop. They worked on it all day Monday and realized there's no way our truck would be leaving on Tuesday. The only truck Western Distributing had that would work underneath our trailer, because of the fifth-wheel placement, was up in Aspen. So V. Gaines sent another truck up to Aspen to get that truck, to finish his job, brought the truck back from Aspen, put it underneath our truck on Tuesday morning, already washed and serviced, ready to go, and handed it to our driver Ricky Crocker from the R&L team who headed West with it and got here late Wednesday night.

NHRA: So you were already dealing with that stress going into Denver, not after Denver? It was already on your mind. You you're wrenching on, on a class 8, a truck when you should be wrenching on a 500-cid Pro Stock car?

Hartford: So the funny story about that is I, I encourage everybody to look up an N14 Cummins engine fuel injector and look at the picture of it. It's a Marvin Martian's gun when you look at it, and Adam came through the airport with it in Philadelphia, and of course, the police, uh, were basically on top of him.

NHRA: Does a distraction like that help a team like yours focus or is that the kind of thing that nags at you?

Hartford: It’s every day we deal with stuff like this. It doesn't seem to stop. When I got here [Thursday], we, you know, we had to plug into Greg Anderson's trailer for power. So we have a rental truck, a borrowed driver, and now I'm on the friends and family plan through Greg Anderson Power and Electric. And, when we turned on our A/C unit and the whole fan sounded like it was going to come out of the air conditioner. So I spent most of the day yesterday fixing the A/C unit.

NHRA: And in the middle, you did a little piston ring company running?

Hartford: Yeah, we did. We did a little bit of that. We had some calls back and forth, but it's an exciting weekend for us as we got Rottler on the side of the car this weekend, you know, it's a big weekend. We want to come off Denver with some momentum and try to capitalize. And then this week, we're going to Rottler for a large open house on Wednesday in Seattle. We have our Total Seal Tech Talks on both Friday and Saturday. We're going to have probably close to a hundred visitors between CIP1, and Rottler here with us. So we need to have some good momentum going to Seattle as well.