Not since Josh Hart raced to the runner-up finish at the NHRA Norwalk Nationals with his R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster has the second-year team owner and Top Fuel driver been one of the last two drivers standing on race day. Today at the NHRA Midwest Nationals Hart, who qualified No. 2, raced to the final round after defeating Scott Palmer, Mike Salinas and Shawn Langdon before facing four-time Top Fuel champion and No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence in the final.
“I absolutely feel good after today,” said Hart, a two-time Top Fuel national event winner. “The team has really, really pushed hard. We finally found the name for the car. The car is officially named Gloria. Ron Douglas, my crew chief, is a big St. Louis Blues fan and we had that song playing all day. I will have it in my head all week. We have some momentum and we have three races left to get it done.”
Hart closed out qualifying with the quickest run of his career, a 3.667 second, 333.33 mph blast that moved him to the No. 2 qualifier position. This was the second time Hart started a race from the No. 2 spot, which is the highest the former Top Alcohol Dragster driver has ever qualified in Top Fuel. With the strong qualifying run Hart’s R+L Carriers team was afforded the second pick for race day run order and they elected to be the first pair of the session to take advantage of cooler temperatures and perfect track conditions.
Racing veteran driver Palmer Hart wasted no time letting the near capacity crowd know that he was serious about racing for the win. He was first off the starting line and never trailed in the drag race. His 11,000-horsepower dragster was glued to the middle of the groove and he hit the finish line at 334.65 mph just 3.696 seconds after he mashed the throttle.
In the quarterfinals Hart drew fellow Countdown competitor Salinas, who was sitting in fourth place in the Top Fuel point standing. A win here would be critical to the advancement of Hart’s team up the standings. For the second consecutive round Hart was first off the starting line and had the power to hold off a charging Salinas at the finish line. Hart got the win by less than ten feet at the finish line with a winning elapsed time of 3.768 in front of Salinas’ quicker 3.766 second run. Hart’s reaction time advantage of .051 to .064 was the difference for the win and the young driver gave a lot of credit to his success today and heading to the finish of the season to his long-time and new supporters.
“The people that participate at this level deserve an award,” said Hart. “Just getting everything to the track deserves an award. There are no easy rounds anymore. I don’t know how many cars ran in the 3.60s. The team goes a lot deeper than the guys working on the car. We have long-time supporter OWV Excavation, R+L Carriers stepped up and TechNet stepped up. My wife Brittanie who is at home in Florida to clean up the impact from Hurricane Ian has been amazing. Chris Armstrong joined the team as part owner. He is committed to supporting us for the long haul and years to come. We are building a strong foundation. We have something we can build off of and you saw the results today as the race unfolded.”
Heading into the fifth semifinal of the season for Hart he was racing 2013 Top Fuel world champion and Countdown racer Langdon. Just before they pulled across the water box Langdon’s team elected to swap lanes. When the tree fired and both cars launched it was the first time of the day Hart was not first off the line but the power of the R+L Carriers racecar moved around Langdon just past half track and secured Hart his second trip to a final round in the 2022 season. Hart’s team stepped up the performance in the heat of the day with a strong 3.712 second run at over 333 mph.
Racing against Torrence for the first time in a final round Hart was ready to grab the first win of 2022. As one of the quickest drivers off the starting line Hart was on the receiving end of Torrences’ best reaction time of the day which was just enough to get him the win. The final round was an epic race between two drivers who will for sure be battling for the championship at the end of the season. Hart’s 3.749 second pass was barely bested by Torrence’s 3.741 second run.
“The intensity of the Countdown is good. I like the fact that I am holding my own against the drivers that are the best in the world,” said Hart. “I think every category is fatigued. You have teammate fatigue. You have financial fatigue. This is the playoffs and there are three races left so everyone has to dig deep. We have added some support and we are better prepared to finish this season strong. We are prepared to throw whatever we have to at the track to get the job done and I think you saw that this weekend. We are ready to throw down.”
Hart leaves World Wide Technology Raceway 64 points behind Justin Ashley, the points leader. Today he made up 60 points on the cars in front of him and with three races left he controls his own destiny for the Camping World Top Fuel championship.
Q1: 4.035 sec, 226.32 mph; Qual. 8
Q2: 3.736 sec, 331.04 mph; Qual. 4
Q3: 3.667 sec, 333.33 mph; Qual. 2
Bonus Points: +5 (2nd quickest of Q2 and quickest of Q3)
Josh Hart, Ocala, Fla., R+L Carriers dragster, 3.696, 334.65 mph def. Scott Palmer, Cassville, MO, dragster, 8.681, 86.72 mph
Josh Hart, Ocala, Fla., R+L Carriers dragster, 3.768, 329.10 mph def. Mike Salinas, San Jose, Calif., Pep Boys Scrappers Racing dragster, 3.766, 328.62 mph
Josh Hart, Ocala, Fla., R+L Carriers dragster, 3.712, 333.82 mph def. Shawn Langdon, Danville, Ind., DHL Toyota dragster, 3.744, 326.16 mph
Steve Torrence, Kilgore, Tex., Capco dragster, 3.741, 328.70 mph def. Josh Hart, Ocala, Fla., R+L Carriers dragster, 3.749, 329.67 mph
Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Ten – Top Fuel
1. Justin Ashley 2305
2. Steve Torrence 2291
3. Brittany Force 2275
4. Mike Salinas 2270
5. Antron Brown 2262
6. Josh Hart 2241
7. Doug Kalitta 2217
8. Clay Millican 2179
9. Shawn Langdon 2162
10. Austin Prock 2161
Elon Werner PR