Hart reaches ‘Top Fuel’ racing class

Hart's vehicle for Top Fuel races.
Hart's vehicle for Top Fuel races. Photo provided.

Drag racing has come a long way since its start in the 1930s. With the passing of each decade, drag racers have become more and more adventurous, topping more intense speeds and using more advanced technology to improve their performance.

Nowadays, racers like Huntington native Josh Hart can go from zero to 330 miles per hour in under four seconds.

Hart, who spent 24 years in Huntington, got his start in racing after a family friend approached him about his speedy driving skills. According to Hart, the family friend told him he was the best driver they had known, but suggested that Hart “take it to the track” for a change.

Don Garlits is credited with working with Hart and getting him into the drag racing world.

“My first pass down the track, I went faster down the stretch in (Don’s) car than he ever did,” Hart said.

In 2010, Hart, along with his wife, Brittanie, moved from Huntington to Ocala, FL. This move marked the start of Hart’s career in drag racing.

Since then, Hart has quickly risen through the ranks, progressing through each individual class. Classes include, but are not limited to, Super Comp, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Fuel.

“During our Super Comp days, we were a force to be reckoned with,” Hart said.

Hart spent five years racing in the Top Alcohol Dragster class. Some of Hart’s accomplishments during his five years in the Top Alcohol class include winning the Indianapolis National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) U.S. Nationals in 2017, 2018 and 2019.

Those U.S. Nationals were, at the time, as far up as Hart could get in his racing career without moving up in classes.
Now, Hart has moved on to the major leagues of drag racing. Top Fuel racing- which is the highest class of drag racing- features some of the world’s fastest-accelerating machines. According to the NHRAwebsite, “Top Fuel machines are capable of covering a drag strip in less than 3.7 seconds, reaching speeds of over 330 miles per hour.”

The vehicles are powered by a supercharged and fuel-injected adaptation of the Chrysler Hemi engine and can burn up to 15 gallons of nitro methane fuel during a single run.

“There’s nothing faster on the planet,” Hart says. “It’s faster than an F-16 taking off.”

Hart credits much of his success at the track to Ron Douglas and Dave Gaterell. Both men have responsibilities that ensure that Hart and his vehicle are ready and safe to use before each run.

“I trust them, literally, with my life,” Hart said.

Many checks and balances go into ensuring that Hart’s vehicle is ready to race safely and effectively. Factors such as fuel weight and temperature, as well as Hart’s weight, have to be taken into consideration before every race begins.

“There’s a lot of science that goes into it,” Hart said.

Hart’s first race in 2021 will be the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals March 11 to 14. This race comes after a shortage in races to compete in - a result of COVID-19 sweeping the nation and shutting down the entertainment industry. Hart says that, in 2019, he and his crew were on the road for 21 weeks of the year. In 2020, Hart participated in seven races total.

“During a typical year, you could fall asleep in Chicago and, by the time you wake up, you’re in Vegas,” Hart said. “The entertainment industry really had the lights turned off on them in 2020. But 2021 looks promising.”

Being that this will be Hart’s Top Fuel racing debut, he is “very excited” for the opportunity.

Hart hopes that, by seeing his success and hearing his story, younger generations would better understand what they are capable of.

“I’m trying to prove that you can do anything,” Hart said. “Looking at where I started when I was growing up and seeing where I’m at now . . . you can do anything, you just have to apply yourself.”

The Harts also own their own speed shop, Burnyzz’s Speed Shop, in Ocala, FL. The speed shop features a restoration shop for new and classic cars alike, as well as a detail shop, service center and speed shop.

The speed shop, which takes up the space of a city block, employs 15 people.  According to the shop website, burnyzz.com, the Harts want people to think of the area as “Hot Rod Heaven.”

The shop is located at 1 Aspen Road, Ocala, FL.