Josh Hart started the season with three win lights on Saturday of the NHRA Amalie Oil Gatornationals pocketing $80,000 and the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout title but since that specialty race victory Hart and the R+L Carriers team has been battling to get back to the winner’s circle. The team is hopeful this weekend’s Lucas Oil Winternationals at In-N Out Pomona Drag Strip will be the perfect antidote to a slower than usual start for the team from Ocala, Florida.
“I can’t wait to get to the Winternationals. Since we won the Pep Boys Allstar Callout we have been battling some gremlins in our new R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster,” said Hart, a two-time Top Fuel national event winner. “We are creating a lot of power very early and that hurt us in Phoenix. I know the guys are going to get it figured out and we will be ready for Pomona in a few days.”
With just two races completed this season Hart has captured the biggest prize in Top Fuel winning the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout. On the opening Saturday of the season Hart outran Austin Prock, Brittany Force and Mike Salinas to win $80,000 and a one-of-a-kind Pep Boys Allstar Callout trophy in front of his hometown fans and family. It was the second significant win for Hart at Gainesville Raceway following his 2021 Top Fuel national event win in his first professional start.
“Gainesville Raceway is a special place for sure but you look at race tracks where everyone wants to win and Pomona is one of those places just like Indy,” said Hart. “The season historically has started at the Winternationals and so many great racers made the trip west to start their season. This is one of our longest trips from my home and I want to do well and make a move in the points. It is early but I got a taste of victory in Gainesville and all that does is make you hungry for more win lights.”
Hart has just one Winternationals race under his belt when last year he qualified the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster No. 9 and raced to the quarterfinals. The Top Fuel competition last year created some of the closest racing the category had seen in decades and 2023 looks to be shaping up as just as competitive if not stronger. Early upsets have strong teams littered up and down the points standings with Hart tied for eleventh place with veteran Clay Millican. Three rounds separate the Florida entrepreneur from the Top Five and just in front of Hart sits Tony Schumacher (8-time world champion), Antron Brown (3-time world champion), Austin Prock, Brittany Force (2-time world champion) and Shawn Langdon (2013 Top Fuel world champion).
“This class is full of amazing teams that have huge budgets and years of experience,” said Hart. “This is going to be our second full season so we still have a lot to learn but we are ready for the battle. I want to be out here racing the best of the best. I have great equipment and a strong team. I have never been more motivated to win races. I have a lot of faith in our abilities and I really appreciate all the support from our sponsors R+L Carriers and TechNet as well as my team back at Burnyzz Speed Shop.”
Hart will take to the track on Friday for one qualifying session followed by two more rounds on Saturday. Cool conditions could provide a quick and fast race track for Hart and the rest of the Top Fuel field. The quickest 16 race cars will go head to head on Sunday for the Winternationals title beginning at 11:00 a.m. The Winternationals will be broadcast nationally on FS1 throughout the weekend.