Josh Hart started the season with a win at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, scoring in his debut to give him the early lead in the Rookie of the Year balloting. After running five of the first seven events, he sat out the next five events before returning in Indy, In the meantime, Pro Stock freshman Dallas Glenn collected two wins and a runner-up to become the frontrunner.
You can put him back to the top of your ballots, race fans, after a stunning final-round victory over points leader Brittany Force at the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals.
“We never really planned on doing a full season this year, we just want to get our feet wet and build a team,” he admitted. “That has obviously been accelerated by moving into Indianapolis and the team seems to come together right away. After winning our first race, we thought we were going to be chasing our tail for a little bit, but I'm glad to be back out here.
“We sat down a couple more races and what I'd like to there were some COVID concerns internally, and you're moving everything to Indianapolis. I felt like we really should have been in the top 10. And we could have if we would have attended those races. But that's all behind us now.
Rookie of the Year would be a great honor, obviously. I mean, I want to represent, you know, my team and my sponsors as well as possible. Rookie of the Year would be extremely important to me and my team and everybody that supports us."
Hart’s R&L Carriers team lost in the semifinals at Indy to Force due to a blower belt issue that continued to plague the team last weekend in Reading, so the team changed suppliers for this event and the change worked magically. After qualifying the Ron Douglas-tuned R&L Carriers dragster No. 7, Hart defeated fellow class rookie Alex Laughlin in round one with a 3.78, then beat No. 2 qualifier Mike Salinas, who smoked the tires.
Hart, who celebrated his 38th birthday the day before the event started, reached the final round by beating tire-smoking Justin Ashley in the semifinals. It was hart’s third final-round appearance at zMAX Dragway but the first to end in victory after runner-ups in Top Alcohol Dragster in 2016 and a third-place finish in the Four-Wide Nationals earlier this year.
Force's runner-up had to be disappointing as her David Grubnic-tuned Monster Energy dragster was clearly the class of the field from Friday to Sunday. She had low e.t. of all three qualifying sessions to record her eighth straight pole, a single-season NHRA qualifying record, then raced past Artie Allen, Spencer Massey, and points rival Steve Torrence.
Force, who had taken over the points lead from Torrence entering raceday by one point based on her qualifying dominance, appeared to lose that lead when Torrence’s win light inadvertently flashed on in their semifinal battle. NHRA officials were quick to correct the mistake and declare Force the winner, allowing her to expand her lead and gave her some solace heading into the third of seven events in the Countdown to the Championship.