The final race of the regular season lived up to the hype as the biggest, most prestigious event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series tour, and in the end, KB Titan Racing (KBT) claimed the final pole of the regular season, the last win up for grabs before the NHRA Countdown to the Championship field is set, low elapsed time, and top speed.
The most winning team in NHRA Pro Stock celebrated the weekend with KB Titan-powered Matt Hartford claiming his first Indy victory at the historic event in dramatic fashion and six KBT drivers clinching a spot in the 2023 NHRA Countdown to the Championship. KBT’s Dallas Glenn, the 2021 Rookie of the Year, will enter the countdown as the top seed.
Matt Hartford is having a career season behind the wheel of his KB Titan-equipped Total Seal CIP 1 Chevrolet Camaro, and after locking down his fourth No. 1 of the season (and of his career) in U.S. Nationals qualifying, he took the momentum all the way to earn the seventh NHRA Pro Stock Wally of his career. It was his second win of the season in his third final round of the year, and with the points accumulated, Hartford will enter the NHRA Countdown to the Championship as the No. 2 seed.
“Our goal was to qualify No. 1 Friday night. If we could do that, we felt it could stick and we would have four really good test runs,” said Hartford, who claimed a whopping 14 bonus points and stood as the quickest car on the property with a qualifying best 6.569 at 209.23 mph. “What we ran in the final was what we tested in one of the qualifying runs, so being able to be on the pole and have that test data played a huge role in the final.”
Even with the car to beat, Hartford had to get past a series of tough competitors to earn a ticket to the 15th Pro Stock final of his career. He used low e.t. each round to get past Mason McGaha, KBT teammate Camrie Caruso, and defending Pro Stock champion Erica Enders.
In the final round, Hartford defeated first-time finalist Fernando Cuadra Jr. with a monster 6.624, 206.57 in the heat of the day, while Cuadra slowed to a 7.099. The round didn’t start off on a smooth note for Hartford, who made his Pro Stock debut in 2006 and since then has competed in 169 national events behind the wheel of a naturally aspirated factory hot rod.
“There’s no pressure at Indy,” said Hartford in jest, referencing a botched burnout ahead of his well-played, incredible strong pass that won the U.S. Nationals. “We get up there for the finals, and I realized I don’t know how to do a burnout in a Pro Stock car. After I figured out how to do a burnout, [crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia] was like, that play is over, focus on the job at hand. I’m like, I’m already past that, let’s go.
“The only issue was, by screwing up in the burnout, I put a ton of fuel in the engine, the engine didn’t want to start after I tried to refire it to do the second burnout, the manifold was filled with fuel, the thing was idling at about 4,000, and I couldn’t get it to come back down. It got down about 2,800 before I pre-staged, and I said, ‘I don’t care, we’re looking for wide open throttle anyway. This is the finals at Indy.’ I let the clutch out, pulled second gear and never saw him, put it in fifth gear, and I’m still deaf from my crew chief screaming in my ear. I had to sit in my car for a little bit and just take it in.”
While winning the most historic race on the tour and the final race of the regular season is a remarkable high, Hartford and the real work begins now for the entire KB Titan Racing team as they step into the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“Right now, Pro Stock is as tough as it gets,” said Hartford. “These next six races are going to be a battle.”