From: NHRA Communications Dept. Matt Hartford, driver of the Summit Racing 2004 Chevrolet Cavalier, has experienced the thrill of victory, winning the NHRA Modified championship in 2002, one year after capturing the IDRC Pro RWD title. He also has experienced the agony of defeat, capturing just one "Wally" trophy in the last two years since returning to the Pro RWD ranks. The Phoenix native currently sits seventh in the NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series point standings, although he has yet to reach a final round this year. Hartford hopes to reach ¿ and win ¿ his first final round of 2004 at the July 16-17 NHRA Desert Sport Compact Nationals, the sixth of 10 events in the 2004 NHRA Summit Sport Compact Series schedule. "We're going into Vegas knowing that we have enough horsepower to qualify and compete at the front of the pack -- we proved that in Denver last month," said Hartford, who advanced to a pair of final-rounds in 2003 and won at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. "We just have to get that magical luck on our side, because in all forms of motor sports luck plays into a part of it and we have had our share of bad luck this year, so we are hoping that lady luck jumps to our side in Vegas." The Strip at LVMS hasn't exactly been the friendliest place for Hartford to let it all ride. Last season, his car broke during the opening round of eliminations. To make the day a bit more painful, the awning on his trailer ripped due to high winds, stabbing the support poles through the top of the trailer and rendering the $23,000 shade-maker useless. "I did not have a fun time in Vegas last year," Hartford said. "We lost the motor in the last session of qualifying and had to work all night to put a new one in, then we lost the new one in the first round. We had a rough time there, but despite that I'm looking forward to this year under the lights. The race really pushes you. We'll be at a corrected altitude, the temperature can be a factor and the winds are always an issue there. But we know the track will be in great shape and you should see a lot of records fall." Not only will the track conditions push the crew to produce the best combination for the motor to run effectively, but also the drivers will need to prepare themselves for the darkness and late nights that can change reaction times on the starting line. "You need to change your conditioning when you go up to the Christmas Tree or you will red light every time," he said. "You see the tree much quicker (at night), so we actually make adjustments to the clutch management so that it slows the reaction in the car down and we don't red light. I prefer to go out there at night. It's just cool to run under the lights. It's a lot more calm when it's in the middle of the night, plus you don't have the sun blaring down on you and I'm from the desert, so I can tell you, the last thing you want is the sun blaring down on you when you're wearing the fire suit." With all the struggles to build the program back to a contending level, the team has continued to make small improvements, including a solid string of qualifying efforts in Denver (7.076 at 193.21). "We are ecstatic about Denver," Hartford said. "We went up there knowing that we needed to work some problems out and feel like everything we went up there to accomplish we did. Even though we did have an electrical gremlin cost us in the first round, all of the testing that we are doing and the engine development are extremely positive. Our whole team is going into Vegas thinking that this is where we are going to turn our season around." It appears as though Hartford has all the pieces in place to make that turn as well as the support of his sponsors. "I am not a good loser," he said. "I am out there to win every race and to go out there and dominate for two years in a row and then to finish sixth last year, I'm definitely in the mood to win some races this year. Going home after first round does not sit well with me and is definitely not the approach that we want to take. Luckily our sponsors, Summit Racing, MTX and Fram have been very gracious in not putting any extra pressure on me. They say go out and do your best, have fun with the fans, talk to a lot of people and try to win some races."