Justin Ashley’s first four-wide national event proved to be a positive experience for the second year Top Fuel driver, even if the end result wasn’t reflected on the scoreboard. Prior to the 21st NHRA Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals Ashley consulted with fellow Top Fuel drivers as well as spending time reviewing previous races online. When Ashley pulled the Strutmasters.com Auto Shocker Top Fuel dragster to the starting line during the opening round the 2020 Rookie of the Year wasn’t feeling any butterflies.
“In the beginning coming into this race I spent a lot of time studying how the race worked,” said Ashley. “I was still just a little nervous but once I did it once or twice I felt really comfortable. As the weekend progressed I felt better and better. At the end of the day it was a great experience. It was fun and different. It is something that once or twice a year if you want to do it I am all for it. I am ready to get back to one on one side by side racing.”
During two days of qualifying Ashley’s Mike Green tuned dragster continued to gather data and give his young team valuable experience. As the No. 9 qualifier Ashley was set to race two previous world champions in the first round, facing off with Brittany Force, who Ashley defeated in the first round of the Gatornationals, and three-time champion Antron Brown. They were the No. 1 and No. 8 qualifiers respectively, so Ashley’s team knew they needed to be at the top of their game.
“We came in here with a lot of lofty goals,” said Ashley. “This was our first four-wide race as a team, and none the less, we came out here expecting to be successful. The most important thing is we take this experience and learn from it. I know that we will do that moving forward. I am already looking forward to Atlanta.”
When the race cars were staged for the first round it was Ashley and the Strutmasters.com Auto Shocker dragster that moved first. By the 300 foot mark Brown and Force were beside Ashley and it took two tremendous runs to outdistance him at the finish line. At the stripe Ashley’s 3.899 seconds was just a little off the pace. The young driver took a couple positive notes from his race day experience and his developing career.
“A big part of having good reaction times and being consistent is just getting more experience. I am still young and this only my second season. That year I learned how to better balance my life on the race track,” said Ashley.
In addition to his driving duties Ashley was hosting a large group of VIPs from sponsor Auto Shocker as well as two potential sponsor companies. Throughout the weekend Ashley and members of his race team were explaining the benefits of being involved with the team as well as helping the guest make memories that would last a lifetime. The at-track experience is one element Ashley knows makes NHRA a unique experience for sponsors and companies. He also knows he has to make a personal investment with his time to make any business relationship work,
“It is funny because it is almost like driving the car is 10 percent of this whole deal and the other 90 percent is business. When it comes to sponsors like Strutmasters.com and Auto Shocker we want to bring them out to the track. We want to treat them well because they are part of our team,” said Ashley. “They are the reason we are out here and able to do what we love to do. It was a blast to have so many people from Auto Shocker here at the races. They are such good people there was no pressure. When you get in the car all the business elements have to go away and you have to find a way to compartmentalize and do the best job that you can. I think overall as a team we did a really good job on the race track and off the race track too.”
Ashley will leave the Las Vegas NHRA Four-Wide Nationals No. 9 in the Camping World Top Fuel point standings.
Justin Ashley Racing PR