National DRAGSTER Photo

Making it as a single-car NHRA Pro Stock team competing on a limited schedule is a tough road.

Yet, it is one Matt Hartford has traveled with some success the past four years, and he’s coming back for more in 2017.

“We’re going to be at Pomona with Total Seal and Nitro Fish (Kenny Koretsky) being the major supporters on the car and Warren Johnson power,” said Hartford, who drives a Camaro.

The season-opening Winternationals are Feb. 9-12 at Pomona, Calif. Last year, Hartford and the rest of the Pro Stock drivers dealt with drastic changes in the class.

On Jan. 1, 2016, NHRA required all Pro Stock teams to equip their cars with electronically-controlled throttle body fuel injection systems, making engines more relevant from a technology standpoint. In order to reduce and control costs for the race teams, an NHRA-controlled 10,500 Rev Limiter will be added to the fuel injection systems.

Despite the wholesale changes, Hartford had a decent season, competing in 12 races and finishing 15th in the points standings. He had a career-best semifinal finish at Sonoma (Calif.) Nationals July 31, losing to Bo Butner.

“Going into 2016, it was an unknown,” Hartford said. “Now that we have a full season under our belt we feel that we’re going to show up at Pomona a lot better prepared than what we did last year.”

Hartford said he’s planning on running 12 to 14 races in 2017. Eddie Guarnaccia will continue to serve as Hartford’s crew chief.

“We’re certainly going to make strides this year,” Harford said. “Last year, we struggled at the beginning of the year and through the middle of the year we definitely had a car that was capable of winning. We backtracked a little bit at the last few races, however, we plan on coming out very strong.”

A year ago, Ken Black’s Summit Racing team of Jason Line, Greg Anderson and Butner dominated the competition. Line and Anderson finished No. 1 and No. 2 in the points standings and each driver won eight races and had six runner-up finishes. Butner also added five runner-up efforts. Line (8), Anderson (7) and Butner (3) combined to capture 18 No. 1 qualifying positions in 2016.

Hartford, however, doesn’t see Black’s team racing away from the competition this season.

“There will not be a dominant Pro Stock car this year,” Hartford said. “I do not see that happening. There will be very, very good cars that are not in the top half from race to race to race, meaning a car that could qualify No. 1, 2 or 3 at one race, the next race they may be 9, 10, 11, or 12. There’s going to be 12 very solid cars that are all capable of being in the top half at any race. The closer the fields are the better it is for a team like myself.” Hartford said his team is planning on doing some preseason testing – for sure at Wildhorse Motorsports Park in Phoenix, Ariz., the week before the Winternationals.

“We plan on testing for three days at Phoenix,” said Hartford, who only lives 40 minutes from the track. “It’s possible we may go to Tucson (Ariz.) and test prior to that as well. Tucson is a phenomenal facility for testing and we have tested there many times over the last several years.”

Hartford acknowledged he’s looking forward to making some test laps.

“There’s never bad testing,” Hartford said. “Testing is always positive no matter what you learn. Whether or not the test session goes the way you want it to go or it doesn’t go the way that you want it to go, every time you leave a test session, you’re better in some regard. So, absolutely, positively, it helps me as a driver, it helps me as a tuner, it helps the engine shop, it helps the crew chief on the car, and it helps the crew work together better. It’s a benefit in every regards.”