For the third time in the last four races Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Energy raced to the semifinals. This weekend at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals Ashley, the No. 3 qualifier, outran Krista Baldwin and Shawn Langdon before dropping a close race to eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher in the semifinals. The two-time winner in 2022 posted strong qualifying runs on Friday and Saturday to earn five qualifying bonus points with the second quickest run of the second session and quickest of the final session. Coming into race day Ashley was looking to close the gap on the Top Fuel points leaders with two regular season races remaining.
Ashley was not taking the second year pro Baldwin lightly as he jumped off the starting line with a .044 reaction time and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster stayed glued to the middle of the groove and ran away for another first round win. Baldwin posted her quickest and fastest pass of her career in a losing effort to Ashley who tripped the finish line timing beams with a winning time of 3.720 seconds at 331.94 mph.
In a race that featured the two quickest runs of the quarterfinals Ashley got the win over 2013 Top Fuel world champion Langdon. Both Toyota dragsters blasted down the track and just past the 500-foot marker Ashley got the nose of his 11,000 horsepower Phillips Connect Vita C Energy Toyota dragster in front of Langdon’s CMR dragster. Ashley posted the quickest ET and Langdon was the second quickest in a losing effort. At the finish line it was 3.726 seconds to 3.807 at over 330 mph for Ashley.
“That was a great race with Shawn,” said Ashley. “There were a lot of guys smoking the tires in front of us, but I have a lot of confidence in my crew chiefs. We made a great run and we got to move on to the semifinals.”
In the semifinals Ashley was psychic on the starting line with a .031 reaction time but his Phillips Connect Toyota dragster smoked the tires right beside Schumacher. Both dragsters started battling tire smoke and each driver was working to pedal their 11,000 horsepower racecars. The veteran was able to get more momentum and he got to the finish line just in front of Ashley.
“This was a really great race for our Phillips Connect Vita C Energy team,” said Ashley. “We didn’t accomplish our ultimate objective which is to win the race. I thought we had one of the best racecars on the property. Mike Green and Tommy DeLago did a nice job with this Phillips Connect dragster. We are going to learn for this race and apply this information at the U.S. Nationals and the Pep Boys Call Out race. I am looking forward to an exciting rest of the season and Countdown.”
The weekend was a busy three days for Ashley and his marketing partners Bendix, Velociti, Sensata Insights, Lucas Oil, and KATO Fastening Systems. The team will head to Indianapolis in two weeks for the U.S. Nationals and also the conclusion of the Pep Boys Call Out specialty race. Ashley is one of four competitors still in competition for the race with the race.