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Josh Hart Ready to Bring Thunder to Bristol

Auto Imagery/Gary Nastase photo

Last weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals was not a huge success for Josh Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team but it was a big step in the right direction. For a Top Fuel team with championship aspirations and capabilities getting solid runs down a hot race track was just the kind of momentum builder the team needed. Racing to the quarterfinals and taking out the point leader in the first round gave Hart confidence and focus heading to the Super Grip Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals this weekend.

“We have been having a challenging season so far but the positive runs in Epping showed our competitors that we can’t be overlooked,” said Hart, a multi-time Top Fuel national event winner. “We are going into the summer season and we definitely have a race car that can run in the heat. I am hoping for great, warm weather in Bristol and we will see what we can do.”

This will be Hart’s third trip to the famed Thunder Valley race track nestled in the Tennessee mountains. Last year he raced to the quarterfinals from the No. 12 qualified spot upsetting Mike Salinas before dropping a close race to eventual winner Justin Ashley. Winning from the bottom half of the ladder is a skill the R+L Carriers team has not had an issue with throughout its young career.

Auto Imagery/Gary Nastase photo

“Our team is very methodical and there are some weekends when we might get a little behind in qualifying, but we make up for it on race day,” said Hart. “You want to come out of the trailer on Friday and make quick runs immediately but that doesn’t always work out. We don’t give up, which is a hallmark of this team. My attitude is if we have a spot in the 16 car bracket we can win the race.”

This season Hart has secured consecutive round wins from the 12th or 11th qualifier position, but the accomplished team owner and driver knows that is not a recipe for long term success. The whole team is working to get quicker on Friday and then Saturday so they can get into a better position for race day. The upcoming stretch of three races in four weeks will be a great opportunity for the team to continue getting into a championship groove.

“We are months away from the Countdown but for this team every race is a playoff race,” said Hart. “I am not putting any added pressure on anyone, but we need to have the mindset that every round matters. Qualifying is just as important as race day for our team. That goes for me as the driver and everyone on the team. The good news is I am surrounded by people that have the same championship attitude.”

The struggles Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team are experiencing is a valley that many teams have to fight their way through. The Top Fuel competition has never been more crowded with quality teams and strong drivers. There is more talent coming into the series later this season as well. For Hart the challenge is a welcome hurdle to a true competitor that has built numerous successful businesses and runs one of the lone independent Top Fuel teams on the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series.

“I like to work with my people and build a team,” said Hart. “We have the best equipment and just got brand new trailers. You have to look good and you have to perform on the track. I think about how we can win races every chance I get. I want to make sure my team has all the tools necessary for success. I truly believe we can move up well into the Top Ten and make a strong run for the championship this season.”

Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team will get two opportunities to make qualifying passes on Friday and then two more runs on Saturday. The quickest 16 Top Fuel dragsters will hit Bristol Dragway at noon ET for the first round of eliminations. The race will be broadcast nationally on FS1 and fans can find tickets at www.nhra.com.

This story was originally published on June 5, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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