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Justin Ashley Races to Midwest Nationals Quarterfinals

Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster raced to the quarterfinals today and will enter the back half of the NHRA Countdown firmly in the Top Fuel championship chase. The fourth-year team owner and driver is 77 points out of first place with races in Dallas, Las Vegas and Pomona remaining on the schedule. This weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals Ashley powered his way to race day as the No. 4 qualifier and a first round match up with veteran TJ Zizzo.

The last and only previous time Ashley raced Zizzo was at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2020 when the two drivers were each vying for their first professional Top Fuel win. Ashley took top honors on the way to Rookie of the Year honors in that race. Today was another wire-to-wire win for the now 11-time Top Fuel winner. Ashley was first off the line and made a smooth run to victory in front of Zizzo’s tire smoking 11,000-horsepower land rocket.
“You really have to go one round and one race at a time,” said Ashley. “On race day qualifying is in the past and we’re focused on the future. We’re doing the best we can, but we know this will be a long fight and an absolute battle. The countdown competition is so good you have to be at your best every run.
In the second round Ashley faced Toyota teammate and championship contender Steve Torrence.  Ashley was giving up lane choice and he once again knew it would be a tough race. He took a starting line advantage, but Torrence made up the difference and as both dragsters flew down the track it was Torrence getting the nose of his Toyota machine out in front. The margin of victory according to Drag Race Central was .0015 seconds to approximately nine inches at over 320 mph. Ashley’s losing time was a 3.815 second run beside Torrence’s 3.773 second. It was almost a Herculean effort for the win by Ashley.
“That was a race in the second round,” said Ashley. “I could hear him right beside me the whole way and I didn’t know who won until the very last second. You hate to lose a race early, but we just came up a little short. We weren’t hurt too badly in the points and now it is anyone’s game. I have a lot of confidence heading to these final three tracks. This Phillips Connect Toyota team is starting to hit its stride again and I can’t wait to get back on track.
The Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel team will be looking to make it three wins in a row at Texas Motorplex for the NHRA Texas Fall Nationals, October 12-15. Ashley will be one of the featured drivers as part of the Stampede of Speed, a 10-day racing and music event held outside of Dallas at the state-of-the-art Texas Motorplex.

This story was originally published on October 2, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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