For the first time in six attempts Justin Ashley will not hoist the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge trophy after the Top Fuel point leader dropped a close race to No. 1 qualifier Steve Torrence in the final qualifying session at the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor. Ashley and the Phillips Connect Top Fuel dragster team have already secured five Mission Challenge titles to earn $50,000 and fifteen championship points will add $3,000 and two championship points to his total after today’s runner-up finish.
“Our crew chiefs Mike (Green) and Tommy (DeLago) will go back and look at the data. We may have missed it in the last session but those guys are the best in the business,” said Ashley, a five-time Top Fuel national event winner this season. “We’re grateful to have had the opportunity to go to another Mission Foods Final and very much enjoy the competition. But now our focus is on Sunday and putting it all together to find success. We’ll take those mission points and get ready for more racing.”
Ashley defeated Josh Hart in a rematch of the Sonoma Nationals semifinal race in the first round of qualifying. In the final round with an 11-0 record on the line Ashley was first off the line against Torrence. Both 11,000-horspower dragsters were flying down the track when Ashley’s Goodyears lost traction for a millisecond robbing him of power and opening the door for Torrence, his Toyota and Mac Tools teammate, to get to the finish line first, 3.767 seconds to 3.842 seconds.
“We have won a lot of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenges before and the competition is only getting better,” said Ashley. “I think the whole program is great. I love the whole premise behind it. Number one, I think most importantly, it’s good for the fans because it provides them with meaningful racing on Saturdays. In addition to that, there, there’s the purse, and that’s always something you want to compete for. And then finally there are the championship points. The championship points play a big role and they’re gonna play an even bigger role once the points reset. It’s really an exciting program, and it’s something that we enjoy doing.”
Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota team will head into eliminations as the No. 7 qualifier and will race Josh Hart in the first round. Final eliminations will begin tomorrow at 10 a.m. CT. The race will be broadcast nationally on FS1.