Veteran Pro Stock driver Matt Hartford confirmed to Competition Plus he will be making his 2018 season debut Feb. 23-25 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
“We look forward to racing in Phoenix because it is our hometown track,” Hartford said. “You get friends and family that can’t make it to any of the other races around the country, so you get to see them, and they get to see you race, and we look forward to that.”
The biggest change for Hartford is that he is getting engine power from a different source – Richard Freeman at Elite Motorsports.
A year ago, Hartford began the season running engine power supplied by Warren Johnson and Kurt Johnson. Then, prior to the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, he switched to running engines from Gray Motorsports. He ran Gray Motorsports engines at his last four races – Indy, Reading, Pa., Las Vegas and Pomona. In that span, he had one round win over Alex Laughlin at Reading.
“The Gray horsepower was really good last year, and they treated me extremely well and there’s no doubt they have engines that can certainly win at any race they go to,” Hartford said. “However, we sat down, and we discussed it with Richard (Freeman) at Elite and just decided we were going make a change for this year. Obviously at any point and time we certainly could make a change again, however, our commitment right now is going to be with Elite.”
Hartford is no stranger to partnering with Elite Motorsports, but this is the first time he will be running Elite horsepower since Jan. 1, 2016, when NHRA required all Pro Stock teams to equip their cars with electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection systems.
“I ran Elite stuff when it was carbureted,” Hartford said. “I have not run it in the fuel-injection era. I did run their engines quite a bit when it was carbureted, and the last time was Sonoma (Calif.) and Seattle in 2015. I’ve known most of those guys (at Elite) for well over 15 years and we’ve been friends, so it was an easy transition to go back and try some of their stuff.”
Last season, Hartford, competed in 13 races and finished 15th in the final point standings. This season Hartford will be campaigning a Camaro again with the primary sponsor of Total Seal. He also be receiving sponsorship from CIP 1, Rob’s Towing, Kwahu, Hose Connection, Curry Transportation and Kl Enterprises. Eddie Guarnaccia will continue to serve as Hartford’s crew chief.
“I would also like Kenny Koretsky for always being a part of our team,” Hartford said. “We’re going to go to about 10 of the races starting in Phoenix. We will pick and choose and go to the ones that are appealing to us. I keep doing this because this is the pinnacle of naturally-aspirated drag racing. It’s the highest level that you can achieve.”
Hartford doesn’t know his exact 2018 schedule, but he will go to both Las Vegas races (April 6-8 and Oct. 25-28) and Reading, Pa. (Sept. 13-16), Dallas (Oct. 4-7) and Pomona, Calif. (Nov. 8-11).”
“We are at the point when we show up we feel like we have the opportunity to win the race,” Hartford said. “Obviously there are going to be 16 people who feel the same way, but if you’re going to a race and you don’t feel you have a chance of winning then there’s probably not a good reason to go. Everything we have done in the offseason we feel we have put ourselves in a position to be extremely competitive, starting in Q1. I think we have a really strong group of guys on our team to go out there and win so I think this will be a phenomenal year for us.”
Hartford also took a moment to address the health of the Pro Stock class, which was beleaguered a year ago about its low car counts.
“I think Pro Stock is going to do very well this year,” he said. “There are a lot of cars and it looks like we could potentially have 17 or 18 cars showing up at the Phoenix race. It is pretty disappointing in that everything that the media and people were talking about was Pro Stock and when you look at Pomona (for the Winternationals) and they have 14 Top Fuel cars and 16 Pro Stock cars, so the class that wasn’t getting a full field was Top Fuel. I think Pro Stock is going to be stronger than ever this year and I think it is going to be extremely competitive and you will have 12 to 14 cars at every race that will have a chance of qualifying No.1."