The last two years on race day all Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster team have seen is win light after win light. The four-year Top Fuel team owner and driver is riding an eight-round win streak coming into the 38th annual NHRA Texas Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex. No Top Fuel driver has ever won three Texas Fall Nationals in a row and only NHRA Hall of Famer and Legend Funny Car driver John Force has won the iconic Fall NHRA national event three times in a row in any pro class. This weekend Ashley will bring out a new look race car as he is racing with Leatherwood Distillery as his primary sponsor along with Phillips Connect. For Ashley securing a third winner’s cowboy hat would mean a slice of history, but also it would keep him in the driver’s seat for his first Top Fuel world championship.
“It’s an honor to be in the conversation for a championship and third straight Texas Fall Nationals victory,” said Ashley, a six-time Top Fuel winner in 2023. “It’s a testament to the great team that we have on and off the racetrack. But the best opportunity we have to accomplish those goals are predicated upon our ability to concentrate on ourselves and not the circumstances that surround us. That’ll be our plan and this Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel team powered by Phillips Connect is ready for what is sure to be an incredible weekend of drag racing.”
Ashley has been the dominant driver throughout the regular season collecting back-to-back wins at the Arizona Nationals and the Winternationals. Then he picked up wins in Epping and Bristol in the same weekend before going back-to-back at the Sonoma Nationals and Topeka Nationals. The flurry of wins combined with six Mission #2Fast#2Tasty specialty race wins had the second-generation driver poised to capture his first Top Fuel world championship. Ashley entered the Countdown as the No. 1 seed and after a slow start the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year is looking for a bounce-back race during the Stampede of Speed and Texas Fall Nationals.
“We had a great regular season but now it becomes about what you can do in the playoffs,” said Ashley. “The first half of the countdown is in the rearview mirror and with three races left we are focused solely on the task at hand, which is Dallas. Mike Green, Tommy DeLago and the crew guys work incredibly hard to find success and the Texas Motorplex is always a great place to see that come to fruition.”
The last two years at the Texas Fall Nationals have seen Ashley dominate the track outside of Dallas. In 2021 as the No. 4 qualifier, he defeated Keith Murt, Billy Torrence, Brittant Force and then Steve Torrence in an epic final round. Last year Ashley struggled in qualifying entering race day as the No. 10 qualifier before upsetting Doug Kalitta in the first round and then taking out Kebin Kinsley, Shawn Langdon and Austin Prock. Race day was a nearly perfect combination of stellar reaction times mixed with low elapsed times that made Ashley unbeatable on the all-concrete race track.
“Last year was an amazing race day for our team,” said Ashley. “We had some weather in the morning and when we started racing, we were on a quick turnaround schedule, so everyone operated at the highest levels of efficiency. That made it even more enjoyable because once we found a groove it naturally kept itself going. The Meyer family has done a great job building up the Stampede of Speed into a major event from the Champions’ dinner to the FanFest to the bonus money on Friday night. The Texas Fall Nationals is an event every team looks forward to racing.”
Ashley and the Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster powered by Phillips Connect will get two qualifying runs on Friday and then two more on Saturday. The quickest 16 Top Fuel drivers will race on Sunday beginning at noon CT. The race will be televised on FS1 nationally.