Last year Josh Hart became just the eighth driver to win his professional national event debut race. It was the first time a racer had accomplished this feat in Top Fuel in two decades. Not since Darrell Russell won the Winternationals in 2001, had a rookie Top Fuel driver turned on four win light in their first four passes. For Hart it was a magical day that included having his friend and mentor “Big Daddy” Don Garlits on hand to celebrate. The win catapulted Hart into the mix of serious Top Fuel contenders and the rookie driver lived up to the billing, winning once more and racing to four more semifinal finishes in just 13 races last season.
“Big Daddy is always floating around and being supportive,” said Hart. “He was with me when I got my alcohol license. Gainesville was no different, there were just a lot more people watching. That was a great win, but we used that to continue to build our program. We made some good runs in Phoenix and we are moving in the right direction.”
The team Hart has built is rolling into the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season with a brand new race car and all the tools needed to make a run for the Top Fuel world championship. Hart tested in Phoenix before the season started and most recently raced to a semifinal finish at the NHRA Arizona Nationals. It was the positive momentum the driver from Ocala, Florida, was looking for heading to his home track and the site of his first Top Fuel victory.
“My focus for the Gatornationals is the same as always,” said Hart. “We go up to the line to win and nothing is going to change for us. We don’t take days off. We will get everything done and reload the trailers. This will be a big race for us. We definitely want to get another win here.”
The success of Hart’s 2021 season helped him enhance his relationship with R+L Carriers as well as crew chief Ron Douglas. Before the season concluded Hart announced he was adding Douglas as a business partner on his race team in addition to Douglas’ crew chief duties. It was a show of respect for the tuner who was working hand in hand with Hart to build a top shelf organization.
“I have a lot of respect for Ron as a person and as a crew chief,” said Hart. “Ron has proven himself to be a great crew chief and more importantly to be a great man of character. We share the same demeanor and work ethic. I am a loyal person and so is Ron. We want to build this race team for a long, successful future. I can’t think of a better person to build it with than a guy that has been there from the start.”
Hart’s sponsorship relationship with R+L Carriers is also a unique dynamic. The global transportation provider is working with Hart to recruit employees across the country to add to their diverse workforce at every level. Their company tagline of “Pride in Our People. Pride in Our Performance,” is evident every time Hart hits the racetrack and engages fans on his pit ropes.
“I have been blessed to work with R+L Carriers,” said Hart. “They have been owned and operated by the same family for over 55 years and they really treat their customers and employees as an extension of the R+L family. That is how I run my race team, so it is a perfect fit. Every race I am talking with fans about what a great company R+L Carriers is and that is the easiest part of my day.”
In addition to R+L Carriers Hart will also be promoting Show Stoppers Collector Car Auctions during the NHRA Gatornationals on his Top Fuel dragster. Show Stoppers Collector Car Auction specializes in putting collectors behind the wheel of their dream iconic car. They are experts in facilitating classic and collector car consignment, purchasing and transportation. Their team has years of experience in making dreams come true. A listing of the wide variety of vehicles available at the auction can be found here.
“I love everything about cars from racing them to refurbishing them to helping them find the perfect home which is why I got involved with the Show Stoppers Collector Car Auction. They are a perfect sponsor for our team and our NHRA fans,” said Hart, a two-time Top Fuel national event winner. “There are a ton of interesting and unique vehicles in this upcoming auction in Ocala and I can’t wait for fans to see the variety of cars and trucks. They will be a major associate on our race car at the Gatornationals and we want to make sure everyone that is interested in finding their perfect collector car checks out the auction.”
Fans can view the collection in person during the preview days and there are a variety of ticket and hospitality packages available. For more information on tickets and VIP hospitality packages click here.
Hart will begin his title defense with a qualifying run Friday at 5:30 p.m. followed by two runs on Saturday. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday. The race will be nationally televised on FS1.