Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota dragster powered by Okuma continued their hot streak in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge winning the big money race for the fourth time in 2023. Ashley drove the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel team to two winlights today outpacing Austin Prock and Doug Kalitta to ultimately set his team up as the No. 7 qualifier at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.
“It’s very exciting for myself and all of the drivers – setting ourselves up for Sunday,” said Ashley, who has won four Top Fuel national events this season. “We can kind of get in the right mindset. It is so important to collect those championship points now. It is a blast. It’s a fun race. Knowing you are racing the semi-finals from the race before, makes it that much more difficult. There are no easy rounds in Top Fuel. You have four of the best out there – it’s going to be a tough run every time. I’m happy to collect those points and get another win.”
The win streak Ashley is in middle of includes two national event wins two weeks ago at Bristol Dragway and another Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win as part of the Thunder Valley Nationals. For the third-year pro who is one of the leaders of the Maynard Ashley Racing team this kind of success is something he only dreamed of and planned for.
“Being at many, many tracks as a kid, watching my father (Mike Ashley) make passes in Pro Mod and Funny Car and feeling like I was in the car with him. These are the moments that you dream about, and I have so much gratitude just to be here,” said Ashley. “To be able to turn on so many win lights that we have is really a dream come true for myself and a lot of the guys on the team. Mike Green and Tommy DeLago (crew chiefs) they do a great job at bringing that championship experience and it resonates throughout the rest of the team.”
Ashley picked up the win on a day the entire organization was racing with heavy hearts. Earlier this morning news broke that Cathi Maynard, one of NHRA’s biggest fans and supporters, passed away after a courageous battle with multiple sclerosis. Maynard was a driving force behind the creation of Maynard Ashley Racing.
“We have been fortunate to win several races, and this year, several Mission Food Challenges, but this one stands out,” said Ashley. “Believe it or not, this win is more significant than any of the others we’ve had this year – for that reason. We all got together this morning, and RFC (Racers for Christ) did a great job of saying a team prayer, and a bunch of teams were involved with it. It was an emotional day. We know we have an angel with Cathi (Maynard) us. Joe (Maynard) Joe (Maynard) Sr. – we are all thinking about them. It’s an emotional day – a tough day, but to be able to turn on another win light for Cathi, all that she’s done for so many of us out here, really is tremendously, tremendously meaningful.”
Throughout this stretch of race wins Ashley has heaped praise on his Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel team powered by Okuma. The young group has been led by Green, DeLago and Dustin Davis and continues to operate at a high level in a variety of conditions.
“It’s very impressive. The team put a lot of work in the offseason to be able to perform like we are doing this season, but to be able to execute on it is a different story,” said Ashley. “You are talking about changing track conditions, really hot racetracks and times where we have had to make really quick turnarounds. It speaks volumes to the team that we have and to the mindset that we have. It is very easy to win races and then get complacent, but that is not what this group is about. All of this winning stuff is great, and it’s far from just me. It’s a full team effort.”