Rookie sensation and two-time Top Fuel winner Josh Hart, from Ocala, Florida, joined Artie Allen (Top Fuel), Krista Baldwin (TF), Mike Callahan (Pro Stock), Dallas Glenn (PS), Chad Green (Funny Car), Buddy Hull (TF), Joe Morrison (TF), Marty Robertson (PS) and Rob Tucker (PS) as the nominees for the 2021 NHRA Rookie of the Year award it was announced today on nhra.com. Hart, who began his drag racing career in a ’99 Ford Lightning pick-up truck, is in the homestretch of an impressive rookie campaign. He won the first event he entered in Top Fuel, the historic Gatornationals and followed that up with another win in the Countdown playoffs at the Carolina Nationals. The 38-year-old driver also has four additional semifinal appearances in just ten races.
“I am living proof that anything is possible,” said Hart. “I came from a very poor background, basically living in a trailer park and now I work in the most expensive trailer park in the world. I feel like I have a very real rags to riches story. I had to work every day to make my dream come true. I made it happen with the love and support of my wife. I want to stay humble and be kind to other people.”
Hart’s drag racing career began at the urging of NHRA legend and friend “Big Daddy” Don Garlits who encouraged Hart to take his pick-up truck to the strip instead of the street. Hart quickly moved up the drag racing ranks moving from local races to divisional events competing in Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Dragster and eventually A Fuel Dragster for five years before moving up to Top Fuel this season.
“I have been lucky to get to know and spend time with Don Garlits,” said Hart. “We have worked together on his electric dragster project and he has been influential as I have grown by business. I consider Don a mentor as well as a friend.”
Hart qualified for every NHRA national event he entered this season. He raced to at least the semifinals at some of the most important races of the season including the Dodge//SRT U.S. Nationals, the Midwest Nationals, and the Texas Fall Nationals. Through four Countdown races he had a win and two semifinal finishes losing only to three-time world champion Steve Torrence.
In addition to his driving skills Hart assembled his entire Top Fuel operation from scratch and runs the day-to-day operations. An entrepreneur and successful self-made businessman he started his first business with just $300 and a dream. Beginning with a mobile door-to-door pro detailing business Hart and his wife grew that endeavor. He then founded Burnyzz Speed Shop in 2010 and open his doors to what the Hart family bills as “Hot Rod Heaven.” He now services clients across the country and around the world from his Ocala headquarters.
His success on the track and in the business community, along with his faith and giving heart have led him to support many of his fellow racers. Over the last five years Hart has donated all his contingency money to young racers in the sportsman categories and junior dragster ranks.
“I know how expensive it is to participate in drag racing and motorsports,” said Hart. “I want to do what I can to keep the younger generations involved and off the streets. I was lucky Don Garlits pointed me in the right direction and I am just paying it forward from there.”
This season Hart was racing a limited schedule as he built his team and pursued a full-time primary sponsor program. Throughout the season TechNet supported Hart and he added the support of R+L Carriers at the NHRA Norwalk Nationals. After seeing the success of the relationship, they stepped up as the primary sponsor for the seven Countdown playoff races. Hart has been incredibly active all season with both companies attending meet and greets and customer events.
“R+L Carrier events are built around rewarding their current employees and thanking them for being great employees which is why I love them so much,” said Hart. “It’s an excellent recruiting tool to find and introduce new talent to join the work force but it also is a big thank you to their current employees. This is their first foray into motorsports and I have developed a strong personal and professional relationship with the R+L Carrier leadership team.”
With two more races on the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Hart will be heading to Las Vegas and Pomona, California, with the goal of securing more wins.
Through eleven races has two wins and four additional semifinal finishes.
Through five Countdown races, he has earned more points than Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon, Antron Brown, Clay Millican and Leah Pruett.
Hart is the 21st different Top Fuel driver to win a Countdown race and the first rookie to win a Countdown race in one of the fuel categories since Khalid alBalooshi won at Reading in 2012.
Over the last five years Hart has donated all his contingency money to young racers in the sportsman categories and junior dragster ranks.
Average Starting position: 7.22
In addition to his driving skills Hart assembled his entire Top Fuel operation from scratch and runs the day-to-day operations.
This season Hart was racing a limited schedule as he built his team and pursued a full-time primary sponsor program. Throughout the season TechNet supported Hart and he added the support of R+L Carriers at the NHRA Norwalk Nationals as well as for the duration of the Countdown.
What others are saying:
“Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Voted No. 1 drag racer of all-time
“He is having a hell of a season and it ain’t over yet. I hope he gets rookie of the year. I’ll tell you like the guy told his son when he wanted to be an artist. He said either you are an artist or you are not an artist. You don’t learn how to be an artist. Same thing with being a good driver, you can’t buy it and you can’t learn it. You just got to be it. Josh is a good driver. You can take another guy just like him and put him in the same car and train him and train him, but he won’t ever do nothing.”
Steve Torrence, Three-time Top Fuel world champion
“Hands down Josh Hart is the rookie of the year. The guy has come out and driven at a championship level each and every time he has been in the car. He is a very respectful and professional young man. I have watched him through the alcohol ranks and I have watched him coming up into the Top Fuel car. The job he does overall is unparalleled compared to any other rookie out here. I will say it again, he is hands down the rookie of the year.”
Justin Ashley, 2020 Rookie of the Year
“I think Josh does a great job with everything. His biggest attribute is his performance on and off the track. His performance on the track speaks for itself. He has won two races his rookie season including the first race he every entered in Top Fuel. That is not an easy thing to do. He is also an excellent representative for his sponsors off the track. I think that goes a long way. You can tell he has a plan, and we are starting to see that plan come together. I think it is clear he is going to be here for the long run.”
Antron Brown, Three-time Top Fuel world champion
“I have been amazed by Josh ever since he got into the Top Fuel ranks. I watched him and heard his name several times when he was out there driving the A Fuel dragster. When he went off and did his own deal it just impressed me. It is not just his driving ability but his mindset of how he came out here. He assembled a really good team right from the get go and he had instant success. I have never seen someone step into a Top Fuel dragster at their first race and come out and win it. I remember when I was a rookie in Top Fuel, I was with Lee Beard and we came out here with David Powers. We qualified No. 1 but it took us four races before we won. That was still fast, but to win at your first race that just tells you this is in his DNA.”
Ron Douglas, current crew chief and crew chief for 2007 Rookie of the Year Ashley Force Hood
“After years in the A Fuel ranks Josh had a solid foundation. Watching him move into the Top Fuel dragster and being a guy who has been there from day one, he has handled everything incredibly well. He is calm, professional and if something is a little off we talk about it. We adjust and he moves on. We have never had to talk about the same thing twice. He got acclimated to the race car very quickly which showed when we won the Gatornationals to start the season.”
- Tony Fay Public Relations / Josh Hart PR / Elon Warner -
See the full field of candidates at NHRA.com: