Josh Hart turned his luck around at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway racing to the semifinals at the Las Vegas NHRA Four-Wide Nationals. In two previous four-wide races in Las Vegas Hart, a two-time Top Fuel winner, never saw a win light. Ironically, at the next stop on the tour, the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Hart has reached the final quad two years in a row. This weekend Hart also reversed a trend of early exits this season that has plagued him since he won the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout race and its $80,000 top prize at the Gatornationals in March.
“Today’s performance was 100% my team,” said Hart. “I have been battling a neck injury that happened early Friday morning. I’ve been trying to stretch it out and I investigated getting a chiropractor out here, but it didn’t work out. My reaction times were absolutely pitiful all weekend. Throughout qualifying I was hoping to get any kind of decent reaction time and the same thing today. This team deserved to win this race. They busted their butts for me all weekend and we will be ready for Charlotte.”
His R+L Carriers Top Fuel team posted consistent elapsed times through all four sessions on Friday and Saturday sending the championship contender into race day as the No. 7 qualifier. In the first round he reached the finish line first just in front of Steve Torrence to advance to the season round. Hart and Torrence outran veteran Doug Kalitta and up and coming star Buddy Hull. Hart’s winning time of 3.768 seconds was the second quickest of the advancing drivers and allowed his team to have second lane choice in the following round versus Torrence, Shawn Langdon, and Mike Salinas.
In the second round Hart’s R+L Carriers team picked the second lane with Salinas on his left in lane one and Langdon and Torrence on his right in lanes three and four, respectively. Salinas and Torrence were the first two Top Fuel drivers to stage and Hart rolled in third. Langdon did not move off his pre-stage position and was timed out. At the top end following the run that Hart and Torrence won there was some discussion amongst the drivers about Hart’s starting line procedure which was completely within the NHRA rules. Once the first driver is fully staged all drivers have seven seconds to stage before being disqualified for timing out. Hart defended his starting line routine immediately after the run and at the end of the day.
“If I was playing games, I wouldn’t have been the one that timed out,” said Hart, who is recognized as one of the quickest drivers off the starting line. “I guess sooner or later you see everyone’s true colors, but I didn’t time out. I didn’t do it intentionally. I am anticipating the pain from the launch because of my neck, and you can’t go out here and start whining about your pain. You have to muscle through it. You got these guys out here busting their butts constantly so you know, I just did the best that I could. Other drivers obviously are not approving of that, but I didn’t do anything wrong. I am racing within the confines of the NHRA. I can’t change the rules I just follow them.”
In the final quad racing three former and reigning world champions Hart had his hands full. This round Hart was in the third lane with Torrence once again racing in lane four with three-time world champion Antron Brown in lane one and two-time and reigning Top Fuel champion Brittany Force in lane two. All four 12,000-horsepower dragsters launched within hundredths of a second of each other and 48,000 horsepower of land rockets hit the finish line together with Brown edging out Torrence for the win. Force and Hart grabbed semifinal finishes. Hart was thrilled with his team’s performance and proud he battled through pain to win two rounds and build momentum heading to Charlotte.
“I strained my neck on Friday and I have been battling it all weekend,” said Hart. “In the morning when you first pick up your head, it’s like it head weighs 1,000 pounds. I don’t want to take anything because I feel like that could have impaired my judgment. I knew I had to push through it and when I saw how hard my guys were working, I wanted to give the same kind of effort.”
In two weeks, Hart who moved into the Camping World Top Fuel Top Ten will be back in action at zMax Dragway.