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Justin Ashley Finds Positives in Busy, Productive Weekend in Chicago

Justin Ashley’s bid to double up a second time, combining a Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win with a Top Fuel race win came up short today at the Gerber Collision & Glass Route 66 NHRA Nationals. Through three rounds of qualifying at Route 66 Raceway Ashley and his Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster were never slotted lower than fourth in qualifying. The 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year picked up two qualifying bonus points for posting the third quickest runs of the first and second sessions.

On Saturday Ashley, who announced the formation of a new team Maynard Ashley Racing, picked up the $10,000 cash prize for winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Top Fuel Challenge for the second time. Ashley won the specialty race for the first time at the Winternationals and followed that up with a race win on Sunday. His Mission Food Challenge win where he bested Antron Brown and Austin Prock gave the seven-time Top Fuel winner confidence heading into race day.

Justin Ashley and Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel Dragster, photo by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery

“This sport will humble you very quickly,” said Ashley. “That’s why it’s important to enjoy the wins when they come. You have to take it one round at a time and one day at a time to give your team the best opportunity to win. I’m really proud of the effort that our Phillips Connect Toyota Racing put in all weekend. We had a great day on Saturday, winning the Mission Foods Challenge and running well each round.”

In the first round Ashley was the No. 4 qualifier and drew newcomer Jacob McNeal in the Scott Palmer owned Top Fuel dragster.  This was the first head-to-head meeting for the young drivers. Ashley was nearly perfect off the starting line cutting a .018 reaction time to launch the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster. McNeal was clean off the line, but Ashley immediately smoked the tires. Ashley tried to give his 12,000-horsepower racecar a quick pedal to get it to reconnect with the racetrack, but McNeal was able to hold on for his first career round win.

“We didn’t accomplish what we wanted to on race day today, but that’s okay,” said Ashley, who has two wins this season already. “We’ve already learned from it and we’re ready to move forward. We have a good race car right now and when you look at the whole year so far, there’s a lot of positives. Mike (Green), Tommy (DeLago), and our entire Maynard Ashley Racing Phillips Connect Toyota Racing team are the best in the business. We are ready for Epping.” 

While the outcome was not what Ashley was looking for, he will leave Chicago sitting No. 4 in points and looking to have another good race at the New England Nationals where he was runner-up in 2022.

This story was originally published on May 21, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.