Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 | Page 18

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Third Season ’ s a Charm Top Fuel ’ s Josh Hart is ready to move past sophomore slump BY NATE VAN WAGNEN

Josh Hart is the first to admit his 2022 season didn ’ t go as planned . After winning two races in 13 appearances during his NHRA Top Fuel rookie season in 2021 , Hart was primed for his first full season . Despite doubling his chances , the independent driver / owner went winless in two finalround appearances in 2022 . With his “ sophomore slump ” behind him , Hart is ready to apply what he ’ s learned toward a new season with his Ron Douglas-led R + L Carriers team .

“ I would say that my first year in Top Fuel was pretty much storybook ,” Hart says looking back on the 2021 season . “ It went great , I won a couple races , and I had a lot of fun . Going into 2022 , I would ’ ve told you that I could drive the car easier
than I could walk . At the end of my sophomore slump , I would say this year I learned how to walk . It was rough and grueling . It just really helped me develop an appreciation for the people that have been doing it for so long , like John Force , who literally started at the same place I ’ m starting , which is from nothing .”
Hart launched his automotive business , Burnyzz , in 2010 and has since used drag racing to build the brand and develop partnerships . He spent several seasons in Top Alcohol Dragster , winning the prestigious U . S . Nationals twice in his A / Fuel dragster .
Upon moving to Top Fuel in 2021 , Hart quickly realized that Top Fuel is a different animal than A / Fuel . Not just the driving aspect , but also the
team management side of things . That all escalated again when Hart ran his first full season in 2022 .
“ You have to learn all this stuff and learn the political side of it if you ’ re going to be an owner ,” Hart says . “ Obviously , the financial side of it was stressful . About midseason , you get fatigued , and it ’ s not just your finances . You ’ re fatigued and your team ’ s fatigued . You learn a lot of personalities . I learned a ton . You don ’ t know what you don ’ t know .”
Hart is a part of the recent movement towards independent team ownership in the NHRA nitro classes . He says it ’ s good for NHRA to have independent teams step up and compete against the previously dominant “ super teams .”
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