Two years ago Josh Hart and the R+L Carriers team rolled into zMax Dragway and a relatively unknown quantity on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. They left the event as the national event winner, a team on the rise and with the attitude that they had something to prove. Since that win Hart has invested in his Top Fuel program with new equipment and built one of the most consistent teams on the tour that entered the 2023 Countdown as team to watch for the Top Fuel championship. An early exit at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals slowed their momentum but not their desire.
“This team has been battling for the past two years,” said Hart, a two-time Top Fuel national event winner. “I knew this was going to be tough, but we had a breakout rookie year on a partial schedule and since then we have been trying to capture some of that momentum. We are a much better team now and this R+L Carriers group has really pulled together. I remember getting that win at zMax Dragway and I would love to add a second Wally from here to my trophy case.”
When Hart took the win in 2021, he started race day as the No. 7 qualified Top Fuel dragster and he took out Alex Laughlin, Mike Salinas, Justin Ashley and finally Brittany Force. The first year driver was on the outside of the Countdown at the time and he ended the day of three championship contending teams.
“No one expected too much from us in 2021 and now we have expectations from the outside but more importantly we expect to win ourselves,” said Hart. “I am not putting any extra pressure on myself, but I want to win and I know we can win out here. The competition is tough, but we have the car and the team to compete. There are five races left and our plan is to start moving towards that Top Fuel championship this weekend.”
Hart has had success at zMax Dragway since he took that first win. Through three four-wide national event he has raced his way to the final quad every race and last year at the Betway Nationals Hart started No. 6 and raced to the quarterfinals, defeating eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher in the first round. In five races Hart has never qualified in the bottom half of the field with his best starting spot coming in 2021 when he was the No. 4 qualifier at the Betway Nationals.
“We have a lot of data and I think conditions will be pretty good,” said Hart. “The issue for everyone is getting a good run Friday night and then building on it. We will be one of the first cars on the track and we just need to set the tone and make the other teams try and press to be quicker than our R+L Carriers Top Fuel team.”
The final five races of the Countdown will be Hart’s chance to recapture some of the success he exhibited earlier this season. He opened the season with a win at the Pep Boyos Allstar Callout at Gainesville Raceway and then in May he raced to the final round of the Gerber Collision & Glass Rt. 66 Nationals in Chicago. At the end of the Western Swing he posted a strong semifinal finish losing to eventual winner Justin Ashley in one of the closest semifinal races of the season.
“We have been close a couple times this season and that Pep Boys win was a great way to start the year,” said Hart. “Now we want to close the season with some wins and move up in the Top Ten. We aren’t going to jump to No. 1 after this race, but my goal is to make steady progress every race of the Countdown and then see where we are going into Pomona with points and a half. Anything’s Possible.”
The R+L Carriers Top Fuel team will be on the track for the first time Friday, September 22, at 7 p.m. and then they will have two more qualifying runs on Saturday at 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. ET. Final eliminations for the quickest 16 Top Fuel dragsters will begin at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday and FS1 will broadcast the race nationally.