Justin Ashley wrapped up a two race swing of four-wide national events with a strong showing at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals today at zMax Dragway. As the No. 2 qualifier Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster earned qualifying bonus points with a strong pass on Saturday and went into race day with momentum. His first round quad featured three tough competitors including Mike Salinas, Austin Prock and rookie Jacob McNeal.
In a wild opening round Ashley and Prock took win lights to advance to the next quad. NHRA rookie McNeal jumped the start for a red-light disqualification while Salinas led the remaining trio off the starting line with a strong .028 reaction time. Prock flew down the track with the quickest run of the session, an impressive 3.686 second run while Ashley and Salinas both lost power and began a coasting battle as they each tried to reel in the finish line. It was Ashley getting to the line just ahead of a slow rolling Salinas to pick up just his second win light in the four-wide format.
“When you are racing four-wide anything can happen,” said Ashley, who has two Top Fuel wins already in 2023. “When we say that we mean it because to be honest with you I didn’t even know that we won that first round until we turned the corner. That was a pleasant surprise. There was so much craziness that went on, but we’ll take a win anywhere that we can get one. Coasting to the finish line isn’t something that we have done before.”
Heading into the second quad Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel team squared off with Prock, Leah Pruett and veteran Pat Dakin. Ashley flexed his starting line muscle jumping off the line with a stellar .028 reaction time and as his 12,000-horsepower land rocket started to take off his Goodyear slicks lost traction. The 2020 Rookie of the Year was forced to watch Prock and Pruett pull away for the win lights.
“We qualified really well and we stole one in round one so we felt good going into round two,” said Ashley. “We couldn’t capitalize on that round, but we’ll learn from it and will move on to Chicago. I enjoy the four-wides, but I’m looking forward to getting back to the more traditional style of racing. We’ll go back to the shop and look at everything to continue to find ways to improve just like everyone else out here. I feel good about having a fast and consistent race car at this point in the year. We’re happy with where we are right now and there is going to be a lot of shuffling in the points between now and when the countdown starts.”
Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel team will leave zMax Dragway sitting No. 2 in the Camping World Top Fuel point standings.