INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 4, 2023) – Matt Hartford bet on himself to win the U.S. Nationals and hand delivered his car to the winner's circle.
From Friday’s first qualifying session through Monday’s pressure-packed final round one thing that never changed was Hartford’s confidence in his Total Seal Camaro. As the low qualifier, Hartford knew he had the car to beat, and he delivered the seventh and biggest Pro Stock win of his career at the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals.
Hartford’s edge over the rest of the field wasn’t huge, but he made all the right moves including a 6.624 in the final to stop Fernando Cuadra Jr., who shook the tires and slowed in his Corral Boots entry. The win helped Hartford seal the No. 2 spot in the Countdown to the Championship behind Dallas Glenn.
“When I came up here on Friday after we qualified No. 1 I said that if we made four good runs, we’d be back again on Monday,” said Hartford. “That [Friday run] allowed us to try stuff and in the final, we used what we tested so it helped quite a bit. Then,I got to the final and hey, it’s Indy so there’s no pressure and I forget how to do a burnout but we figured it out. I put it in second gear and I didn’t see [Cuadra]. When I got to the other end and realized I’d just won Indy, I just sat in the car for a few moments to take it all in. I won Norwalk this year and I’m not saying it wasn’t good; that ice cream scoop is really cool, but this is Indy.
Hartford posted a 6.569 to qualify in the top spot for the fourth time this season, and he rode that advantage to wins against Mason McGaha, Camrie Caruso, and Erica Enders. The win over Enders was particularly impressive as Hartford got off the starting line first against the five-time world champ.
“We didn't play any games. I just made a good run and my win light came on," Hartford said. "Everyone says that Dallas Glenn has had the best car this year but that’s not true. He’s been the best driver but I’ve got the best car. I just need to continue to focus and not make mistakes and you’ll see that in the Countdown.”
For Cuadra, an Indy runner-up capped off what was his best day as an NHRA pro. The No. 7 qualifier, Cuadra topped Indy Super Gas winner Bo Butner in round one and then took out another former Indy winner, Troy Coughlin Jr., in the quarterfinals. In the semi’s, Cuadra won a strange 7.27 to 7.30 race against Kyle Koretsky where both drivers shook the tires and had to make a quick recovery.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series starts its Countdown to the Championship, a six-race playoffs, with the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway at Reading Pennsylvania September 14-16.
See the latest from the NHRA:
Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals Sunday photo gallery:
Field set for NHRA Camping World Series Countdown to the Championship:
Content: NHRA National Dragster staff
Photo's: NHRA | Will McPhail Photography