He ’ s also excited about the rising stars who are showing out in the class , further elevating the competition level .
“ The competition with Justin Ashley and Austin Prock and some of the new young blood coming out and cutting amazing lights is amazing ,” Hart says . “ You better be on your game . Otherwise , you don ’ t need to be here . It ’ s a crazy new level of NHRA drag racing .”
That level of competition is one of the factors
that draws Hart to NHRA Top Fuel racing .
“ I used to follow NASCAR , but it ’ s very hard to follow now ,” Hart says . “ Drag racing is not that , and I don ’ t think it will ever be that . That ’ s why I love it . There ’ s no participation awards . It ’ s straight-up you get to the line first , you win .”
The grassroots environment that drag racing offers is another selling point for Hart . In fact , it ’ s one way he ’ s brought in new sponsors to his program over the years . Those include longtime partner Advance Auto Parts and their TechNet Professional Automotive Services brand , as well as R + L Carriers , which uses their partnership to recruit new truck drivers and employees .
Both companies will be back with Hart for the 2023 season .
“ There ’ s no extracurricular pass to get to us ,” Hart says of the fan interaction in drag racing . “ I enjoy standing at the ropes talking to the fans and learning what I can do better as a representative or partner of NHRA .
“ Overall , I would say the NHRA experience – the nitro , the sound , the feel – you can ’ t mess with it ,” Hart continues . “ That ’ s what I think is more attractive for sponsors . You can ’ t do that in other places , and you ’ re going to pay 3-5 times more money to be involved in those things than you would in NHRA .”
With steady support , a well-versed crew , and a new perspective , Hart is rolling into the 2023 season with the chance to repeat his 2021 win at his home race , the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway . Like in his rookie season , the Gatornationals will serve as the start of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season .
“ It ’ s always my favorite race ,” says Hart , who ’ s planning a pre-race open house and fan fest at his Burnyzz Speed Shop in nearby Ocala . “ Gainesville is where I got my first license and made my first pass down the dragstrip . I love that place . It ’ s been very good to me , obviously . Super excited to start the season there .” DI
20 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 180