A season of frustration for Top Fuel team owner and driver Josh Hart will end this weekend at the NHRA Finals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip. For the entrepreneur from Ocala, Florida, who overcame several hardships growing, the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series is a season that started with so much promise but never took a foothold in consistency. The R+L Carriers Top Fuel team will take their last shot at winning with the opportunity to finish in the Top Ten and continue their role as spoiler in the Top Fuel championship battle.
“This season has not gone the way we planned at all, but nothing is guaranteed, and everything has to be earned out here,” said Hart, who won twice in his rookie season. “I am a single car team competing against the best teams in the world. This was just our second full season on the NHRA tour and we are continuing to find our way.”
At the season opening race Hart took the biggest payday of the season when he won the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout. It would be the highlight of his season and the motivation to keep the former Top Alcohol Dragster competitor going as he navigated the toughest class in the NHRA. In the middle of the season Hart raced to the final round of the Gerber Collision & Glass Rt 66 NHRA Nationals in Chicago. At the end of July Hart had capped the Western Swing with a semifinal finish that locked him into the Top Ten and secured his spot in the Countdown playoffs.
“We showed flashes throughout the season, but we just never hit our stride,” said Hart. “Everyone on the team was all working together but we were chasing some gremlins in the car. I think what I am most proud of is even with all the ups and down no one gave up.”
Coming into the Countdown Hart’s struggles continued through the first four races before the NHRA Nevada Nationals showed the promise and possibilities for the R+L Carriers team. As the No. 12 qualifier Hart took out the point leader Leah Pruett on a hole shot in a massive upset with championship implications. In the next round Hart was first off the line again and defeated the new point leader Doug Kalitta on another hole shot to advance to the semifinals and move up to No. 11 in the point standings. Those two round wins shuffled the Top Fuel point standings to the point that heading into the final race of the season five different drivers have a chance for the world championship.
“We had a solid race day in Las Vegas and I feel like we turned a little bit of a corner as a team,” said Hart. “We need to have more days like that. We can start with four good qualifying runs in Pomona this weekend and then I would like to have a long say on Sunday. We can’t win the championship this year but if we can have a hand in who does win the championship, I will take that. I am looking ahead to next season. I truly believe we have a team that can be world champions.”
Heading into the final race of the season Hart is sitting 26 points outside the Top Ten behind veteran Clay Millican. That is less than one round of racing with points and a half on the line at the NHRA Finals. He is 55 points behind Austin Prock who sits in eighth place, which is less than two rounds. There is an outside chance Hart could overtake Millican, Tony Schumacher, Prock and Brittany Force if the ladder falls his was and he picks up his first NHRA Final win and propel him to seventh place, which would equal his best finish in Top Fuel.
“I want to finish in the Top Ten for sure but if we could get even higher that would be a nice accomplishment for how this season has played out,” said Hart. “You look at the teams that have competed all season. There will only be one champion and we want to get as close to the top spot as possible. I want to thank R+L Carriers and TechNet for their support and we owe it to all our sponsors and fans to give it our all at the NHRA Finals.”
The R+L Carriers Top Fuel team and Hart will have two qualifying sessions on Friday at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. PT followed by two more qualifying runs at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. PT on Saturday. The quickest 16 Top Fuel dragsters will race for the final Wally of the season starting at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday. The race will be broadcast on FS1 nationally.
Elon Werner PR