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Early Exit in Charlotte Creates Challenge for Josh Hart

Two races into the NHRA Countdown and Top Fuel championship contender Josh Hart is looking at a serious challenge to secure his first world championship driving the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster. The team owner and driver from Ocala, Florida, continued his qualifying dominance at zMAX Dragway posting a strong run in the final session that jumped the two-time Top Fuel national event winner to the No. 5 spot on the ladder. It was a serious 3.680 second pass at 332.59 mph to close out his first two days on track and it earned him a qualifying bonus point as the third quickest run of the session.

Heading into the first round Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team drew a tough match-up against Austin Prock. This would be the third time the Top Fuel team matched up and Hart was looking to extend his perfect record to 3-0 over the third generation drag racer. Conditions swung from cool to hot overnight and Hart’s Ron Douglas-tuned 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster was ready to go rounds.
Hart’s R+L Carriers team came out on track in the second pair of race cars to start the day and he immediately grabbed a starting line reaction time advantage, .029 to .068 seconds. The advantage had Hart out in front as they accelerated past the Christmas Tree and as they closed in on half-track Hart’s race car briefly overpowered the warmer race surface robbing him of much needed momentum. Prock jumped in front and never gave up the lead, winning with a 3.722 second pass to Hart’s off-the-pace 5.109 second run. It was Prock’s quickest pass of the weekend against Hart’s surprising effort.
“We tuned this R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster up over the first two days to make a great cool temperature run and we got that on Saturday night,” said Hart. “We needed that data because we are headed to tracks at the end of the Countdown where you will need to be able to run low. We have that data, which is great, but we missed it in the first round when it warmed up. There are four races left which means there are 16 win lights potentially in our future.”
While he was looking to win his second Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals Top Fuel title today at the end of the day Hart will leave Charlotte in twelfth place in the Top Fuel standings. With a variety of drivers losing early the deficit to close the gap on the leaders is not insurmountable by any means. The R+L Carriers team will be back on track at World Wide Technology Raceway for the Midwest Nationals in five days.
“The good news is we can put this race behind us and start focusing on the Midwest Nationals in St. Louis,” said Hart. “This team is too good to get discouraged by our start in the Countdown. We just need to keep working hard and we will get it figured out.”

This story was originally published on September 25, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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