As the countdown continues to the SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage at Bradenton Motorsports Park, Feb. 8-10, Pro Stock driver Matt Hartford has one thing on his mind – winning the inaugural event.
“Obviously, we are looking forward to a race where the payout is almost as much as winning an NHRA championship,” said Hartford. “However, it does shorten the off-season by a month, meaning it’s a lot more work for everyone to get prepared.”
The PRO Superstar Shootout is not just another race for Hartford. It’s an opportunity to see where he stacks up against fellow Pro Stock competitors before the 2024 race season gets into full swing.
“Everyone is in one spot,” Hartford said, referring to the old Super Bowl of Drag Racing in Houston and the test sessions in Vegas years ago. “It’s a big advantage to have everyone in one place.”
One aspect that sets the PRO Superstar Shootout apart from other events is the chip draw format that will be adopted during eliminations after 16 cars qualify for the field. While Hartford has experienced the chip draw format at the Drag Illustrated World Doorslammer Nationals with mixed results, he remains optimistic about his prospects this time around.
“I qualified No. 1,” he explained. “I ended up having to race Jason Line, and I did not have lane choice. So, the chip draw really hurt me the last time I was involved in it. However, I am looking forward to having a better draw this time.”
Returning to Bradenton Motorsports Park, a track where Hartford last raced in a competitive setting nearly two decades ago, brings a wave of nostalgia and excitement.
“I ran the Summit turbocharged car in the World Street Shootout in 2004, which was a blast of a race,” said Hartford. “That race was back almost 20 years ago, and it was fun to race in Bradenton. They put on a great show; the fans love it, and people flock from everywhere to come to Bradenton to see a race.”
In the face of the substantial $125,000 prize for the Pro Stock champion, Hartford maintains a laser focus on the competition rather than the reward.
“We go up to the line each and every time, trying to win the round,” he said. “If you focus on the money, then you are focusing on the wrong things. You are going to have pressure where you don’t need to have pressure. Forget about the money; if you do your job, the team performs, and the win light turns on Saturday night, you can then talk about the money.”
Lastly, Hartford shared what it would mean to him to win the first-ever PRO Superstar Shootout.
“Everybody wants to win the first one no matter what the series is, but it would be something you look back on in 20 years and say, ‘That was pretty cool,’” stated Hartford.
The PRO Superstar Shootout is set to have a festival atmosphere with live music, a vendor village, food trucks, and more.
The SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by JHG also features $250,000-to-win Top Fuel and Funny Car. Tickets are now on sale at https://bit.ly/scagpro. Fans can also watch the entire race live through FloRacing at https://flosports.link/3t04gHk.