Josh Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team are ready to get to Chicago and the Gerber Collision and Glass Rt. 66 NHRA Nationals. The return of the NHRA to the super-track located in Joliet, Illinois, just 20 minutes from downtown Chicago has the Florida-based driver and team owner focused on building on the momentum from the past month. Opening the season with three straight early exits followed by two final quad appearances in Las Vegas and Charlotte four-wide national events has Hart ready to get back to traditional side-by-side racing.
“I am ready to get back to racing one driver at a time,” said Hart. “We got our race car figured out in Las Vegas and Charlotte, but with four-wide racing there is a lot going on. I am comfortable in the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster now and I think we will start seeing results in Chicago. I raced there in Top Alcohol Dragster, so it isn’t quite a new facility for me.”
Prior to Hart’s move to Top Fuel, he raced at the Chicago NHRA national events from 2016-2018 with his best effort coming in 2017 when he raced to a semifinal finish. Since his Top Fuel career started Hart has picked up two national event wins and finished in the Top Ten last season, his first full year competing at the highest level.
“The Chicago track is a great facility and it feels like a major league stadium,” said Hart. “When I was racing Top Alcohol Dragster we had some good and no so good races in Chicago. The competition was tough then and it is tough now. You look around the pits and staging lanes and there are 14-15 drivers that can win every race. I love that level of competition and I think I have a team that can compete with anyone.”
Hart has experienced several highlight moments this season even though he is off to a self-described slow start. He opened the season winning the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout at his home track. Three weeks ago, he earned his first provisional No. 1 qualifier leading the Top Fuel field after the Friday qualifying sessions at zMax Dragway. His R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster was the only race car to dip into the 3.6s on a very competitive racetrack on Friday.
“We made a great pass on Friday night in Charlotte and I really think that opened some people’s eyes,” said Hart. “I am confident in (crew chief) Ron Douglas and my crew guys and that run on Friday night showed everyone we have a solid team. I am looking forward to getting into the summer races because I think we have a racecar that can run in the heat as well as the cooler conditions. This weekend in Chicago will be a great race for us to start moving up in the points.”
Hart has steadily been reeling in his competitors over the past three races. He moved into the Top Ten in points leaving Las Vegas and after Charlotte he was less than a round out of eighth place and a move to sixth place is just three rounds away. The season is approaching the halfway point and Hart is not counting points by any stretch, but he is looking to level the performance playing field.
“No one is winning the championship in Chicago or during the Western Swing, but you want to be going rounds and earning qualifying bonus points to keep everyone sharp for the U.S. Nationals and the Countdown,” said Hart. “I would like to start getting to those semifinal rounds so we can have a shot at the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge races on Saturday. We have a car that can get the job done and as long as I do my job, we will be a great shape later this season.”
Hart just made his 40th Top Fuel start at the Circle K Four-Wide Nationals so his career is still in the early stages. This is his second full season on tour with a brand-new race car and a team that is learning every race. The entrepreneur looks at his race team like he looks at his successful business ventures. Everyone plays a role, and everyone needs to focus on the task at hand. They also need to have fun and feel appreciated.
“At the last race someone walked by our pits and mentioned that all my guys were smiling and looked like they were having a good time,” said Hart. “I take a lot of pride in creating that environment. This is a serious business, but I want to have fun and win races. My guys are busting their butts and I am doing everything I can to get every win light. We win together and we lose together.”
The R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster and Hart will get one qualifying run on Friday May 19 and two qualifying runs on Saturday, May 20. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday with the race being broadcast nationally on FS1.