Josh Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team have been steadily improving but steady improvement only goes so far when you are competing against the quickest and fastest race cars on the planet. Two weeks ago, Hart raced to the semifinals at the Sonoma Nationals before dropping a tight race to eventual event winner Justin Ashley by .008 of a second at nearly 300 mph. These razor-thin margins have become the rule not the exception in Top Fuel racing, and Hart has dedicated himself this season to improving as a driver off the starting line, and crew has continued to give him a quality 12,000-horsepower race car. This weekend at the Menards NHRA Nationals Presented by PetArmor, Hart will be looking to break through for his first win of the 2023 season.
“I feel like we are right on the edge of a big run,” said Hart. “We had a great race weekend in Sonoma and we won some close races and lost a close race in the semifinals. That was the story in Denver and Seattle. All these close races only make me more focused and ready to get to another final and turn on that fourth win light on Sunday.”
Hart raced to the final round of the Chicago national event at the start of the summer and the two-time Top Fuel national event winner took home the top honors and big money at the Pep Boys Top Fuel Allstar Callout race at the season opening Gatornationals but those accomplishments aren’t what drives Hart and the R+L Carriers team.
“We are out here to win races and represent R+L Carriers to the best of our abilities,” said Hart. “We have been enjoying our time with the guests of R+L Carriers at every race but I also want to celebrate with them in the winner’s circle. That is a cool location to end your day.”
The return to Heartland Park Topeka for the final Menards NHRA Nationals Presented by PetArmor will be Hart’s second appearance at the track located an hour west of Kansas City. Last year Hart qualified No. 3 and took out Austin Prock in the first round before losing to eventual race winner Antron Brown in the quarterfinals.
“We ran well in qualifying at Topeka last year and this year we want to duplicate that but also win more rounds on race day,” said Hart. “I think this team has been doing everything right. We are working hard and no one is hanging their heads but we want to start going deeper into races. Sonoma was a great start and we are looking forward to another Mission Challenge this weekend.”
On Saturday Hart will be participating in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge during the two qualifying sessions. Hart will face a rematch with Justin Ashley while Antron Brown will face Steve Torrence. The winner of both races will earn $10,000 and three important championship points. This will be Hart’s second chance in the Mission Challenge. Previously he raced at the New England Nationals during one of the toughest weather weekends of the season.
“I am excited about the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge race and getting a second chance at that $10,000 and those championship points,” said Hart. “I am focused on getting into the Countdown and racing for the Top Fuel championship. Getting those championship points is what I am after. You look at some of the point margins for the championship and a handful of points could be the difference.”
Three races are left before the end of the regular season with Topeka starting a two week back-to-back run including the Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway followed a few weeks later by the Dodge U.S. Nationals Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis. Hart currently sits No. 9 in the Top Fuel point standings only three points behind No. 8 and a mere 70 points, less than four rounds behind the No. 4 spot. The gap is manageable for the confident driver and team owner.
“We are looking at winning one round at a time, but I am also focused on moving up in the point standings,” said Hart, who finished in the Top Ten last year. “We are racing at the highest level and we want to finish the regular season on a hot streak and move up as high as possible in the points. There will be a six-race run for the championship and I think we can be a serious factor.”
On Friday Hart and the R+L Carriers Top Fuel team will get one qualifying run on Friday night at 8 p.m. followed by two qualifying runs on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. The quickest 16 Top Fuel dragsters will race on Sunday at Heartland Park Topeka beginning at 11:00 a.m. and the race will be broadcast on FS1 from 3:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. ET.