At the conclusion of the 2023 NHRA regular season Josh Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster team looked to ramp up their success rate for the six race Countdown. Hart, who stormed onto the NHRA scene in 2021 with two wins and opened this season with a dominating win at the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout race was looking to grab his first Top Fuel world championship. Through two days of uneventful qualifying at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals Hart entered race day as the No. 14 qualifier.
It was the toughest qualifying position Hart had started a race in his career. The consistently optimistic Hart looked to the previous recent success of one of his competitors for hope before the race day started.
“We are going to Antron Brown this race today,” said Hart, referring to Brown’s U.S. Nationals win as the No. 15 qualifier. “We are so lucky to be out here I just want to give it my all against Kalitta and see what happens. He is a great racer and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
In the opening race Hart was first off the line with a significant starting line advantage, .047 to .091 seconds, and both 11,000-horsepowered Top Fuel dragsters roared down the smooth Maple Grove Raceway track. As the dragsters crossed the halfway mark Kalitta’s race car began pulling away from Hart. At the finish line Kalitta posted the quickest run of race day, a blistering 3.658 second pass at 335.73 mph, getting the win over Hart’s 3.783 second pass at 328.46 mph.
“We made our best pass of the weekend in the first round. Unfortunately, we were racing the quickest car on the property,” said Hart. “My hats off to Doug and his team. We need to start quicker during qualifying. We got behind the eight ball this weekend. There are five more races and Charlotte will be critical for us. There is no quit in this R+L Carriers team. Everyone on this team has the other person’s back and we will be ready for the second race of the Countdown.”
It was two years ago that Hart won his second career Top Fuel title at the Betway Nationals at zMax Dragway. This year Hart will be looking for his third career win and a major move up the point standings in five days. Hart and the R+L Carriers team will be back on track Friday night for qualifying.