SONOMA, Calif. (July 30th, 2016) – Matt Hartford has stepped up his game at the NHRA Toyota Sonoma Nationals, in Sonoma, Calif. The 44-year-old Arizona native is currently running a limited schedule for the 2016 season, but for the first time in his Pro Stock career, he’s qualified in the top half of the field. From the 6th qualifying position Hartford will take on the 11th qualifier, Aaron Strong, in the first round of eliminations on Sunday.
From a part-time also-ran to top half of the field qualifier, Hartford credits Warren Johnson, Kurt Johnson, and Randy Chambers. “[They’ve] been at the engine shop have been working 7 days a week, 16 hour days, and being relentless about picking up horsepower. We went to Denver with the notion that we had more power and it showed in testing. We come to Sonoma, back to sea level, and we certainly have more power.”
Confidence plays a large role in success on race day. According to Matt, “It’s a ton of confidence knowing that you have lane choice. But the truth of the matter is, you still have to get up on that wheel and do your job as a driver. You gotta leave on time and you gotta perform going down the racetrack. If everything goes well you should win the round, but there’s no one that you can take lightly out here.”
When asked about racing on a more consistent basis, Hartford explained what took him away in the first place. “After Vegas we stopped because we knew we were down on horsepower. We said ‘We’re not coming back until we have more power.’ When Kurt Johnson called me up and said we have enough power to go back racing, we said ‘Let’s load up and go to Denver.’ He was absolutely correct.”
Like everyone else in the Pro Stock ranks, Hartford and team are dealing with the drastic change to Electronic Fuel Injection and the 10,500 RPM rev-limiter. “It affected us like it did everyone else, it turned our program upside down. It was an incredible cost to every team and an incredible learning curve to every team. We’re gaining. I’m still struggling with drivability with the car. However, we have a laptop and we’ll fix it.”
Final Eliminations for the NHRA Mello Yello Toyota Sonoma Nationals begin Sunday at 11:00 A.M. PST. Live TV coverage begins at 1:00 P.M. PST on Fox.