Story By: NHRA – GAINESVILLE, FL – Josh Hart enjoyed a perfect start to his career at Gainesville Raceway in 2021 and the Top Fuel rising star is now after another magical weekend at his home track during the upcoming Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, which take place Thursday through Sunday at the legendary facility.
Hart made his Top Fuel debut at the track last year, becoming just the eighth driver in NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series history to win their professional debut and the first in 20 years. Hart added another win last year in his 11,000-horsepower R&L Carriers dragster, but the Gatornationals victory stands as a definitive highlight in his young career. A second straight victory at one of the biggest races on the NHRA circuit would be just as meaningful and Hart is just as focused as he was a year ago.
“My focus for the Gatornationals is the same as always,” Hart said. “We go up to the line to win and nothing is going to change for us. We don’t take days off. We will get everything done and reload the trailers. This will be a big race for us, and we definitely want to get another win here.”
Hart (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all won a race will be shown on the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1) this year. The Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place live on FOX on Saturday, March 12 and eliminations will be shown at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 13 on FS1.
The Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout features a star-studded lineup, including four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, former world champ Brittany Force, Phoenix winner Mike Salinas, Pomona winner and 2020 Rookie of the Year Justin Ashley, three-time champ Antron Brown, nine-time race winner Leah Pruett, 49-time event winner Doug Kalitta and former world champ Shawn Langdon.
Hart won’t be racing in the Callout, but he does have a chance for a second straight Gatornationals victory, which would be a huge accomplishment for the young standout. He’s opened the year in solid fashion, advancing to the semifinals in Phoenix and currently sitting fifth in points. Hart has proven himself to be comfortable on the big stage in Gainesville as well, where he’ll again have the support of NHRA legend Don “Big Daddy” Garlits, who has been an instrumental part of Hart’s career.
“Big Daddy is always floating around and being supportive,” Hart said. “He was with me when I got my (Top Alcohol Dragster) license. Gainesville was no different, there were just a lot more people watching. That was a great win, but we used that to continue to build our program. We made some good runs in Phoenix, and we are moving in the right direction.”
In Funny Car, Todd is also after back-to-back wins at the Gatornationals, something that has only been accomplished in Funny Car by a handful of class legends. Todd has a chance to join that illustrious group, while also picking up his first victory in his new 11,000-horsepower DHL Toyota GR Supra. The car has shown potential but taking the next step in Gainesville would be meaningful for the former world champ.
Of course, nothing comes easy in Funny Car, as Todd will have to deal with the likes of points leader Robert Hight, who has won the first two races of 2022 and has four career victories in Gainesville. Others to watch include reigning world champ Ron Capps, John Force, who has won eight times in Gainesville, Cruz Pedregon, Phoenix runner-up Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III and Alexis DeJoria.
“You look at the drivers that have gone back-to-back at the Gatornationals and it is a list of legends and Hall of Famers,” Todd said. “We have the new Supra Funny Car now so it would be cool for its first win on the NHRA tour to be the Gatornationals. This new Toyota GR Supra Funny Car is awesome and only getting better. It is cool to see the strides we have made over the off-season and where we are going. I think we will see more success this weekend at the Gatornationals.”
Anderson won in Gainesville to open 2021 in Pro Stock, but it’s been a different story to open 2022, as Elite Motorsports has controlled the first two races. Erica Enders won in Pomona and Aaron Stanfield won in Phoenix, while other top drivers include Troy Coughlin Jr., 2021 NHRA Rookie of the Year Dallas Glenn and Kyle Koretsky.
Pro Stock Motorcycle will open the 2022 campaign in Gainesville, as reigning world champ and event winner Smith will look to get a jump on trying to win his sixth world championship. He’ll be challenged by six-time race winner Eddie Krawiec, Angelle Sampey, who has three Gainesville wins and Steve Johnson.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. The Hot Rod Junction will be bringing more than 50 historical cars to the race, including show cars and cackle cars. The Electric Exhibition presented by Pep Boys Electric Vehicle Service will take also place in Gainesville.
To get ready for the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout, a special photo of all eight participants will take place at 2 p.m. on Friday, March 11, with a special autograph session featuring the eight star drivers taking place at the Pep Boys Midway Display the next day at 10 a.m. Earlier on Saturday, Toyota-sponsored drivers will be signing autographs at 9 a.m. at the Toyota Midway Display.
Race fans will also get to enjoy a pair of concerts during the weekend as part of the NHRA Concert Series presented by 8-Track Entertainment. Country music star Eddie Montgomery of Montgomery Gentry will take the stage at 2:30 p.m. on Friday, March 11. BoomTown Saints will open for Montgomery on Friday and will also take to the NHRA stage at 2:45 p.m. on Saturday. Tickets for the concert are included with the price of admission to the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals.
NHRA fans can attend Total Seal Tech Talk with Pro Stock’s Matt Hartford at 1 p.m. on Friday, March 11 to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Gainesville Raceway will also host the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the SealMaster Track Walk, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in Gainesville. As part of the pre-race ceremonies on Sunday, reigning world champs Torrence, Capps, Anderson and M. Smith will be receiving their championship rings as well. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners celebrating their Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals victories.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet at Gainesville Raceway. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4:00 p.m. ET on Friday, March 11 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, March 12 at 10:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 13. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 10 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, and then eliminations action at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.
The first round of the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout will take place at 11:45 a.m. on Saturday, March 12 with the semifinals set to follow at 1:30 p.m. The final round is slated for 3:15 p.m. and will be shown live on the FOX broadcast network. FOX will have coverage of the entire Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout starting at 2 p.m. ET on Saturday.