For second generation driver Justin Ashley adding another Dodge/SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals trophy to the family trophy case will have to wait until at least 2022. Fifteen years ago, Mike Ashley, Justin’s father, won the Funny Car class at the NHRA most prestigious national event. The younger Ashley was hoping to add his own name to the illustrious list of Indy winners. Today the Smart SanitizerTop Fuel dragster powered by Strutmasters.com and the 2020 Rookie of the Year dropped a close race in the first round to fellow future star Alex Laughlin.
Less than an hour after the tough loss Ashley was back in his pits signing autographs for dozens of young fans who flocked to his rope line. The continual praise from his young fans slowly took the sting of a shorter than expected race day out of Ashley’s psyche.
“Talking with these kids definitely helps,” confessed Ashley. “I mean, of course it’s not the kind of race we wanted here at the U.S. Nationals, but at the same time, you have to put things in perspective. Number one we’re fortunate to be here. And number two is the impact that we’re able to have on people goes way beyond the racetrack. It’s nice to spend time chatting with the fans out here. They’re great and I am appreciative for their support of our team and NHRA.”
Just over a year ago Ashley picked up his first career win at Lucas Oil Raceway and then raced to a semifinal finish at his first U. S. Nationals. The time has flown by for Ashley as his plans of extending his race streak one more round did not pan out.
“I can’t believe it’s been a year since the first win,” said Ashley. “To be honest with you, I feel like it was last night. It was amazing. And I think the unique part about that win, and I hear a lot of people mention something similar, is that it really took a while for it to sink in, probably a good two or three days. For a couple days I was like, did I do what I just did? It’s been a year, it feels like it was yesterday, but we want to tack on some more wins now.”
In the first round with Laughlin, Ashley took a starting line advantage and was pulling away when he suddenly lost power just before the finish line. At every increment of the racetrack Ashley was extending his lead until Laughlin was able to reel him in just before the finish line. Ashley’s team was evaluating what when wrong on his Top Fuel dragster that is also backed by Auto Shocker and KATO Fastening Systems.
The second-year pro will head into the 2021 NHRA Countdown to the championship in the No. 7 spot just seventy points behind point leader Steve Torrence. Seven races stand between Ashley and his first Top Fuel world championship.
Q1: 3.796 sec, 324.05 mph; Qual. 9
Bonus Points: 0
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Justin Ashley 9 .054 4.081 216.20
Alex Laughlin 8 .095 3.878 304.94 (W)
Camping World Drag Racing Series Regular Season Top Ten – Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence 1389
2. Brittany Force 978
3. Antron Brown 839
4. Leah Pruett 712
5. Shawn Langdon 668
6. Mike Salinas 646
7. Justin Ashley 627
8 Billy Torrence 621
9. Clay Millican 594
10. Doug Kalitta 588
Tony Fay PR