Ocala driver makes history
Ocala’s Josh Hart, left, poses with crew chief Ron Douglas after winning the “Wally” trophy for Top Fuel dragsters event at the recent Gatornationals in Gainesville. The trophy is named in honor of the late National Hot Rod Association founder Wally Parks. [Submitted]
Ocala drag racer excels in elite top fuel category first time out
Ocala’s Josh Hart became only the fourth driver in National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) history to win his first time out in the sport’s elite Top Fuel class at the recent Gatornationals in Gainesville.
By taking home the trophy, Hart, who owns Burnyzz Speed Shop in Ocala with his wife Brittanie, accomplished something not done in 20 years.
Now he takes his Burnyzz Speed Shop/Technet Top Fuel dragster on the road with his sights set on competitions in Atlanta and Charlotte as part of the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing tour.
Top Fuel is the highest level of more than 200 classes of vehicles in 15 categories in NHRA racing. They feature some of the sleekest, fastest and most expensive racing machines in the world. Boasting more than 11,000 horsepower, they can roar down a quarter-mile dragstrip at speeds of more than 330 mph in less than 4 seconds. They burn volatile nitromethane fuel, which allows them to make spectacular tire-smoking burnouts. The vehicles race head-to-head in heats, until a winner emerges.
Hart is no stranger to piloting dragsters, having earned two U.S. Nationals championships in the top alcohol category.
“Big Daddy” Don Garlits, who pioneered rear-engine top fuel dragsters and is one of the most legendary of all drag racers, is a friend of Hart’s.
“Josh is one of the nicest young men I know, and he works hard,” Garlits said. “He reminds me of myself, many years ago.”
Garlits has a car and racing museum south of Ocala.
To earn his win at the Gators, Hart defeated Shawn Langdon by ripping off a final round time of 3.826 seconds, at 323.66 mph. In the earlier rounds, he ran times of 3.811 (325.14 mph) and 3.838 (322.88 mph).
Hart is quick to give credit for his success to his crew chief, Ron Douglas, who has worked with several top-performing drag racing crews over more than two decades in the sport. This year he is working exclusively with Hart.
“Our win was a little unexpected, but I have great teammates who put in some serious hard work,” he added. “We went out as the little team and beat all the multi-million-dollar teams. I call it the David and Goliath approach.”
His Fearless Racing team, which is on the small side with one semi-tractor trailer rig and 10 other team members, took on some mighty talent at the Gators. Among those they beat were six-time International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) champ Clay Millican, three-time NHRA Top Fuel champ Steve Torrence, 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year Justin Ashley and Langdon, the 2013 Top Fuel champion.
“You just have to take them one lap at a time,” Hart stated.
As for the name Fearless Racing, that came after a crash in Georgia, he said.
“I was the calmest person at the scene, including the crews on the ambulance and firetruck. I’m like, let’s just get another car and let’s go,” he recalled. “It was after that my wife and I came up with the name.”
He said the team plans to stick with their same strategy in coming competitions and is eager to race and win.
While racing is important to Hart, nothing tops his family, which now includes a 1-year-old daughter Helen.
“She runs the show and knows it,” he said.
As for whether she might follow in his footsteps, “I pray she hates cars and will be a doctor,” he said with a laugh.
While he is prepping for the NHRA Southern Nationals at the end of April, Hart is completing a project that more than doubled the size of Burnyzz Speed Shop, where he services and sells classic, prestige and American muscle cars and trucks. Garlits is one of his customers.
“He was in the shop on Monday and may soon be consigning three or four cars with me,” Hart said. “We’ll work on anything, but we are more geared to muscle cars.”
Hart said he is happy to be based in Ocala, “which has been very good to us. I appreciate the local support very much.”