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Justin Ashley Heads North Looking To Keep Streak Alive

Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Okuma are looking to head to the land of 10,000 lakes and secure a third consecutive NHRA national event win in a row for the first time in his young career as a team owner and driver at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals. Ashley, the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year, a six-time winner in 2023, is looking to add another win to a streak that saw him win on the West Coast at the Sonoma Nationals three weeks ago and last weekend in America’s heartland at the Menards NHRA Nationals in Topeka. The Top Fuel points leader is excited to be getting back into action after a unique weekend in Kansas.

“Last weekend was a lot, and I am so thankful we got the win because my Phillips Connect Toyota team did an amazing job,” said Ashley. “We had four amazing turnarounds on race day in tough, tough conditions. It was a testament to the strength and resiliency of our team.”

Ashley has won eight consecutive rounds of racing for the third time this season. His first win of the year came at the Arizona Nationals and then two weeks later he captured the title at the Winternationals. In an amazing weekend of win lights he won the relocated and postponed New England Nationals at Bristol Dragway on Saturday and then won the Thunder Valley Nationals on Sunday with a Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge victory sandwiched in the middle.

“We have had some great runs this season for sure and it all goes back to this team led by Mike Green, Tommy DeLago and Dustin Davis,” said Ashley. “They are all total professionals, and they keep everyone on the same page and motivated to give 100 percent every time we put the car together. I can’t tell you how much confidence that gives me as a driver.”

Ashley did have one streak snapped recently when Steve Torrence handed him his first loss in the specialty rematch race, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, after 11 consecutive win lights and $50,000 in winnings. Ashley drove away with his first runner-up, $3,000 and two championship points. The championship contender now has 12 championship points in the bank and $53,000 in winnings just from the specialty race. He will get the chance to start a new streak this weekend on Saturday when he faces a rematch with Toyota teammate Antron Brown, his Menards NHRA Nationals semifinal opponent.

“I hated to see that Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge streak end, but at least the win went to a Toyota teammate,” said Ashley. “That program is so cool for the fans, and I know as a driver I like getting my competitive mindset going on Saturday heading into race day on Sunday.”

On race day Ashley and his Phillips Connect team have been one of the best competitors in every facet of the game. Ashley is leading the category in reaction time average, and his race car is one of the most consistent and quick cars during qualifying and on race day. The combination of those two factors has Ashley feeling confident heading into the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals and into the Countdown.

“We have so much support on this team from Phillips Connect, KATO Fastening Systems, Okuma, Chip Lofton at, Lucas Oil, Mac Tools and Toyota, that we feel like we have to perform at the highest level every time we go down the track,” said Ashley. “I don’t consider it pressure it is more we want to represent these great companies and brands to our best ability. This is a dream come true and this season has been amazing so far.”

This will be Ashley’s third race at Brainerd International Raceway and the young driver has steadily improved with each installment. In his first race in Brainerd in 2021 his team qualified No. 5 and he took out Leah Pruett in the first round before dropping a quarterfinal race to Steve Torrence. Last year he qualified No. 3 and outran Krista Baldwin and Shawn Langdon before his day ended in the semifinals against Tony Schumacher. Continued improvement would be just what Ashley was looking for at the penultimate race of the regular season.

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“This sport is about improvement and repetition,” said Ashley. “You want to be able to get quicker and faster but also have a tune-up that is repeatable. You can’t win races guessing. Mike and Tommy have a great handle on this race car and I feel very comfortable driving. This weekend is going to be exciting and then we can start thinking about the U.S. Nationals and the Countdown.”

Ashley will get two qualifying runs on Friday and two on Saturday to try and be one of the quickest 16 Top Fuel dragsters to race on Sunday. The qualifying rounds will be televised on FS1 with Sunday’s eliminations being broadcast nationally on FOX.

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