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KB Titan Racing-Powered Matt Hartford Wins Reading, Takes Over Pro Stock Points Lead in all-KBT final

The writing was on the wall after the U.S. Nationals: Matt Harford and his KB Titan Racing (KBT)-powered Total Seal CIP 1 Chevrolet Camaro were going to be tough to beat in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship. At this weekend’s 38th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Hartford and company solidified that fact with a hard-fought victory over KB Titan teammate Kyle Koretsky in a rain-delayed Monday final to claim the 185th win for KB Titan Racing.
 
“The last week-and-a-half has not been fun – until today,” admitted Hartford, who had an emergency appendectomy a few days after winning the U.S. Nationals. “This was a grueling weekend for everybody, and emotions were high. Our team worked harder this weekend than we have in years, but we all pulled together and, luckily, things went our way.”
 
Aside from the emergency surgery after Indy, Hartford faced challenges early at the first race of the 2023 NHRA Countdown to the Championship. Recognizing they had major issues as they battled hard to get through Reading qualifying with even a single decent run, Hartford and his Total Seal crew, led by crew chief Eddie Guarnaccia, opted to leave the property for more optimal conditions – specifically better lighting – and examine their car in great detail late into the night on Saturday. On Sunday morning before eliminations, they had hammered out enough to know that they needed to rewire the entire car, front to back, before they took it to the starting line. With a very early start, they got to work.
 
The updates proved pivotal. Starting from the No. 13 position, Hartford was set to square off with five-time world champion Greg Anderson, the most winning driver in the history of Pro Stock. Anderson qualified well and drove his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet to a start from the No. 4 position on a strong 6.510, 210.37, but the Total Seal crew’s efforts had turned their program around, literally overnight, and allowed them to tap into the full horsepower flowing from the KBT engine under the hood.
 
Hartford and Anderson were just .001-second apart as they left the starting line, and Hartford laid down a 6.535, 209.49 to top Anderson’s 6.555, 209.46. That gave him lane choice over another KBT teammate, Camrie Caruso and her Tequila Comisario Chevrolet, by a slim .002. Caruso launched first by .006, but when her car drifted a bit out of the groove, her day was done. Hartford powered ahead for a 6.542, 209.30 win over a 6.624, 186.77.
 
The points lead changed hands twice over the course of eliminations. KB Titan Racing’s Dallas Glenn and his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro entered the event with the No. 1 spot in hand, but his early exit and two round wins by Erica Enders shifted the power. Hartford, though, took care of business to bring the top spot back to KBT as he disposed of the world champ with a better reaction time and a powerful racecar that was tuned perfectly for the conditions. His 6.541, 208.97 easily got the win over a tire-rattling 25.511, 30.98.
 
Hartford knew he would have a tough customer in the final, though, as Koretsky had been killer on the tree in the later rounds and was well-equipped with KB Titan Racing horsepower. He opened eliminations with victory in a modern day Beer War, driving his Lucas Oil/Talladega Light Chevy to a win over Outlaw Brewing campaigner Jerry Tucker, 6.531, 209.07 to 6.557, 209.04. In round two, he used an .018 reaction time to send fellow second-generation Pro Stock racer Aaron Stanfield home on a holeshot. Stanfield was .057 at the tree and clocked a 6.525, 209.36 that was eclipsed by Koretsky’s 6.537, 208.65.
 
Rain moved into the area and decided to park itself over Maple Grove Raceway ahead of the semifinals, and the decision was made to conclude eliminations on Monday morning, bright and early. In the delayed semis, Koretsky was again better at the tree to set the win light flashing and advance to the eighth final of his career. A cool .008 was .020-second better than that of his opponent, Troy Coughlin Jr., and Koretsky’s 6.557, 207.27 got it done over a 6.547, 209.04.
 
In the final round – the sixth all-KB Titan Racing final of the year – Koretsky left first with a brilliant .003 light, but Hartford was right there with a solid .012 reaction and made up the difference quickly as his opponent fell into tire shake in conditions that hadn’t been seen all weekend long. With the final round, Koretsky moved up to No. 5 in the Pro Stock points.
 
Hartford’s greatest challengers may well be his KB Titan teammates. Glenn is just 53 points out of first place now, and Koretsky is 76 marks back. Deric Kramer is still in the hunt and is 103 away from the top spot, while Anderson is 121 marks back and Caruso is 131 out. But the Maple Grove Raceway win was miraculous for newly christened points leader Hartford after such an eventful weekend and week leading into the race, and he hopes to keep the momentum rolling.
 
“I said last week after Indy, there are 24 more win lights we need this year – now, there’s 20,” said Hartford, who claimed his third win of the season in his fifth final of the year to take over the points lead for the first time. “We’re not giving up. We have a great car, and we’re going to Charlotte where there will be very different track conditions. I think we have a car that’s great in all conditions, so if I keep doing my job and keep my head on straight, we could walk out of here with a white [championship] hat after five more races.”

This story was originally published on September 19, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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