In 2021 Josh Hart won the Gatornationals in the first Top Fuel national event he entered at historic Gainesville Raceway. Last year in his first big money Top Fuel race, the owner of Ocala’s Burnyzz Speed Shop took home the $80,000 top prize when we won the Pep Boys Allstar Callout race. The rising star of the NHRA is looking to go three for three in Florida-based big money, big time races when he takes on a stacked field of Top Fuel competitors at the inaugural Scag Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage, February 8-10, at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
“We have had some really big wins in Florida at first time races for our R+L Carriers team,” said Hart, who also has two NHRA national event Top Fuel wins to his credit. “Last year was our biggest win getting that Pep Boys Allstar Callout $80,000 and I want to get my hands on that $250,000 check at the PRO race. We have a really strong team led by Ron Douglas and our program was coming around at the end of the season last year, so we’ll be ready.”
For Hart, the start of the 2024 drag racing season could not come fast enough. Getting the jump on the Gatornationals at a new style event also plays into Hart’s mindset and competitive nature. He has won at every level, including most recently Top Alcohol Dragster, before making the jump three years ago to Top Fuel. The self-described car nut is excited about introducing a new style of event to the drag racing world in March.
“I think events like this are what drag racing needs,” said Hart. “You see other motorsports racing for big money every weekend and this is our chance to put some big money on the line and see who can get the win lights when the pressure is on. All the big names in Top Fuel will be there racing for one of eight spots and I want to be sure we put this R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster in one of those spots.”
The R+L Carriers team is led by crew chief Ron Douglas who has had a successful career as a Funny Car and Top Fuel crew chief. The relationship between Hart and Douglas is one of mutual respect and quiet confidence. The duo talks between rounds but seldom does the volume get above a conversational level, even in the heat of the moment.
“Ron and I had a deal that we made the first season we worked together,” said Hart. “We don’t get to yell at each other, regardless of how things shake out, you know, he knows when he makes a mistake, and I know when I make a mistake. We really pride ourselves on self-reflection. So basically, the answer to that question is our relationship is awesome. It’s still kind of in its infancy, but I’ve seen him in the dumps. I’ve seen him at highlights. He’s seen me in the dumps, and he’s seen me in highlights.”
The new event will be a thrill for Hart, who challenges himself to compete against the best of the best. With only eight spots available and then the random chip draw, the unique elements have the entrepreneur eager to see how the competition stands up to the pressure. As an owner of multiple businesses, including the world-renowned Burnyzz Speed Shop, Hart feels like he is relatively immune to the pressure of outside forces.
“I try and stay very humble when it comes to my racing career, but I have built my program and businesses from nothing,” said Hart. “I know what real pressure is when you only have $300 to start a business with your wife. You have to really focus on what is important and deal with a lot of outside noise and I have been very fortunate to have worked my way up and now I can live my dream of racing and working with cars on and off the track. It really comes down to surrounding yourself with the right people.”
The PRO Superstar Shootout will be a chance for Hart to get some passes before the start of the season but also continue to build his growing fan base. The fan access that will be available throughout the week leading up to the race weekend is something Hart enjoys.
“I think the biggest thing fans will come away from when they get a ticket to the PRO Superstar Shootout is the fan access and the overall experience,” said Hart. “Everyone involved has made a commitment to make this event great for the fans. I think you will see some cool merchandise and there will be some fan interaction opportunities that you might not get at a regular national event. My goal is to have fun and hopefully collect another big money payout to start the season.”