By Lee Elder
BAYTOWN, Texas (April 22, 2018) — BAYTOWN, Texas (April 22, 2018) – Matt Hartford took his first NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock victory when he edged Erica Enders in the final round of the 35th NHRA Spring Nationals at Royal Purple Raceway.
Hartford broke an 0-7 streak against Enders, the two-time Pro Stock champ. He became the 66th winner in Pro Stock history.
Brittany Force won in Top Fuel and J.R. Todd won in Funny Car.
Hartford’s engine was supplied by Enders’ team, Elite Motorsports.
Hartford said, “There’s five cars in the Elite stable and, obviously, we’ve got the fifth best. They must be pretty good.”
Enders was quicker off the starting line with a .018 of a second reaction time and Hartford was quick but not as quick at .055 of a second. Hartford completed his pass in 6.522 seconds at 211.36 mph and he edged Enders by a scant .0112 of a second, roughly less than a foot.
Hartford’s team had not planned to run every race this season and did not plan to race in the next event at Concord, North Carolina next week. Asked if he might race next week, Hartford hedged slightly and said, “We’re going to go where ever we can go. We’re a bunch of part-time guys.”
They went to the winner’s circle at Royal Purple.
Force beat Terry McMillan in the Top Fuel final, notching the 258th victory by a woman in NHRA history. It was the third time the pair has raced in a final round and each had a win prior to Sunday.
“This is a big win for us,” Force said, “just because our season has been so upside down.”
Her season started with a huge accident at Pomona, but the team seems to be hitting its stride now. Her final round elapsed time: 3.762 seconds, 299.46 mph.
“This is the third car that I’ve driven this season,” Force said. “We seemed to like it.”
Todd beat Robert Hight in the final round, giving him wins at the facility in both Funny Car and Top Fuel. It was also his first victory over Hight in a final round. He said he was aware of his history with Hight. Todd’s time was 3.955 seconds and his speed was 313.29 mph.
“They have a great team over there,” Todd said. “I knew the track was going to play a role. I knew that if we could just go down there (things could go well).”
Todd drives for Connie Kalitta and Todd said the team’s habit of wild celebrations reached all the way to the shutdown area this time.
“They came down and tried to beat me up,” Todd grinned. “I should have kept my helmet on.”
Nitro Harley rider Brian Jernigan was transported to a local hospital by helicopter after his motorcycle brushed against a retaining wall during eliminations. Jernigan’s right leg appeared to impact the wall after his motorcycle veered right and scraped along the retaining wall. Jernigan lost the race to Randal Andras. Andras’s time, 6.336 seconds and 221.05 mph, bested Jernigan’s 6.649 seconds and 209.49 mph. Jernigan maintained control of his motorcycle through the run and all the way to the turnoff at the end of the track.
The decision to airlift Jernigan may have been related to the traffic around the track, which was reportedly backed up at the time of the incident.