Season opening success
Ocala racer Josh Hart wins callout event in new top fuel dragster.
Josh Hart of Ocala drives the R+L Carriers Top Fuel dragster to the win over Mike Salinas in the Scrappers Top Fuel dragster in the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout final race during the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla. on Saturday, March 11, 2023. [Thomas Gaines/Gainesville Raceway Track Photographer] 2022.
Ocala resident and business owner Josh Hart started off the 2023 NHRA season in style by winning the second annual Pep Boys All-Star Top Fuel Callout in Gainesville on March 11.
The National Hot Rod Association starts each new season at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, an event that Hart won in 2021. The Callout kicked off the weekend’s festivities and Hart was matched up with Austin Prock in the opening round.
Hart took down Prock with a run of 3.765 seconds and a speed of 331.77 mph, then eliminated the top fuel defending champion Brittany Force with a run of 3.757 seconds and speed of 330.88 mph.
In the final round, Hart was matched up with Mike Salinas. Hart, in his R+L Carriers dragster, scorched Salinas with a pass of 3.748 seconds at 331.53 mph. The run was the second-fastest time of the Callout and netted Hart a cool $80,000 in winnings.
Hart said he went into the event with no expectations due to the low number of runs his car had made before Saturday.
“We had a brand new car. It’s been a good car, but we only had three or four passes on it before the competition round. To go right out there and do what we did was storybook,” Hart said. “It’s awesome for our team and it’s good for morale. It’s just great all the way around and there is nothing better than to win the first race of the season. Hopefully, we can carry that momentum throughout the entire year.”
The Gatornationals was the first of a 21-race schedule that will continue March 24-26 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona.
Hart is looking to build off his early success in the top fuel category as he enters his third year in the class, following a successful five-year stint in the top alcohol division. The Callout was his third win in top fuel and he said he hopes to be in the hunt for many wins during the 2023 season.
“Winning a championship is obviously on our mind. The main thing is just growing together as a team and staying consistent all season and winning some races,” Hart said.
He credits the success to his 15-member team, including crew chief Ron Douglas and co-crew Chief Dave Gatrell.
“They are the ones that worked all the amazing hours in the shop throughout the winter months to make sure that car was ready to go,” Hart said.Hart not only is burning rubber and winning races on the weekend, he also owns and operates Burnyzz Speed Shop in Ocala while raising two children with his wife, Brittanie.
Just three days before winning at the Callout, the Harts’ and company hosted a fan fest for NHRA fans at Burnyzz. Part of the reasoning for the event was to raise money for Racers for Christ, a nonprofit Christian ministry that serves people in the world of motorsports. The fan fest raised around $4,000 towards the nonprofit and saw more than 7,000 people show up to see the likes of over 25 professional NHRA drivers, including longtime racer John Force and his daughter Brittany Force.
“It was a fabulous turnout and it was awesome. It wasn’t all business motivated, it was more about the community and the fact that we did little advertising and got that type of result was off the charts,” Hart said.
If the past week is any indication for how the remainder of 2023 will unfold, Hart may be doing plenty of celebrating in the coming months.
You can watch Hart and his team at the NHRA Arizona Nationals when qualifying begins at 10:30 a.m. eastern time on March 24 on Fox Sports 1.
To learn more, go to joshhartracing.com