Second year Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley learned a lot during his rookie season on the 2020 NHRA Camping World Drag Series tour. He picked up his first win, led the Top Fuel category in average reaction time, fine-tuned his pedaling skills and won Rookie of the Year honors. There wasn’t much the young driver didn’t tackle head-on and learn some valuable lessons.
This weekend Ashley and his Strutmasters.com/Auto Shocker Top Fuel Dragster will take on one of the unique challenges lost during the truncated season last year, racing four-wide for the first time this weekend during the NHRA Las Vegas Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
“I talked to Antron Brown and I also talked to my crew chief Mike Green,” said Ashley. “I have been watching Four-Wide National highlights on YouTube as well. What I have seen and heard is you really need to pay attention when you are in lanes two and three because the Christmas Tree looks different. I am just going to really pay attention to what I have to do and not overthink it. I have a good routine and I will just follow that.”
Ashley’s routine has led to a growing reputation as one of the best drivers off of the starting line in the nitro ranks. Last season he led the Top Fuel class in average reaction time and during the season opening NHRA Gatornationals, he took an impressive win light in the first round with a.034 reaction time. As the No. 12 qualifier Ashley knew he would need to get every advantage to try and get the win.
“The first round win at the Gatornationals was huge,” said Ashley, who advanced to the semifinals at the season opening race. “I knew Mike Green had a good first round tune-up and I needed to just do my job on the starting line. We made our quickest pass of the event and I cut a good light. That is the kind of teamwork we have to have to be successful this season.”
With the four-wide format Ashley will have to adjust to a unique starting line Christmas Tree configuration for the first time. The second generation nitro racer is already making plans to educate himself on the visual and procedural aspects of this new style of racing.
“The NHRA is doing a review session for some of the Top Alcohol teams on Thursday night and I am planning on checking that out,” said Ashley. “I like the variety and the challenge. It will be exciting for sure. On Sunday it will be strange with four race cars on track. I have had drivers tell me if you smoke the tires down track don’t give up because in the first two rounds you just need to be either the first or second car to the stripe.”
With the season getting ramped up Ashley continues to look for marketing partners to join his team. He will be hosting a number of representatives from Auto Shocker at the event who Ashley worked with over the off-season to extend their sponsorship relationship. KATO Fastening Systems also renewed over the off-season and Ashley added new partners RISE Brewing Company and The Daily Crave to his team. RISE Brewing and The Daily Crave were landed thanks for Ashley’s strong marketing relationship with Menards. Last week Ashley finalized a sponsorship with Red Line Oil who will be on the car this weekend. In addition to product or financial support Ashley works with all his sponsors to bring new ideas and opportunities for promotion for the team as well as the NHRA