After one of the busiest off-seasons of his young career team owner and Top Fuel racer Justin Ashley is ready to focus on chasing down his first NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Fuel world championship. Last season Ashley raced to three final rounds picking up a Countdown race victory over eventual champion Steve Torrence at the NHRA Texas Fall Nationals on the way to a No. 4 finish in the Top Fuel standings.
Over the off-season Ashley worked with fellow team owner Dustin Davis to bolster their crew chief line-up adding world champion tuner Tommy DeLago alongside returning crew chief Mike Green. He also joined forces with three-time Top Fuel world champion and new team owner Antron Brown to create a technical and marketing alliance moving into the 2022 season. The combination of new personnel and new strategic relationships was amplified with the announcement of Phillips Connect as primary sponsor joining Vita C Shot to start the season this weekend at the NHRA Winternationals.
“You are only as good as your team. Last season we had a great group and we’re fortunate to have almost all of the same personnel returning,” said Ashley. “Mike Green is back at crew chief alongside Tommy Delago, our newest addition. Those two bring an invaluable level of excellence and expertise to our team. We wanted to be proactive in the offseason and I believe Dustin Davis put us in a great position to do that. Tommy is an elite resource for us and will help get our team that much closer to the ultimate goal. We are excited to welcome our newest marketing partner, Phillips Connect, and look forward to continuing to expand upon our our technical and marketing alliance with Antron.”
After his first truly full season of racing and managing a Top Fuel team Ashley has an even better understanding of what it will take to win a championship. With marketing partnership continuing with Auto Shocker, KATO Fastening Systems and the new addition of Baked in Brooklyn and relationship with Toyota Gazoo Racing North America Ashley will have a host of business partners and during events he will be hosting them in pit-side hospitality thanks to his sponsorship with Lucas Oil Products. Compared to his rookie season, where he captured Rookie of the Year honors in a truncated season, the 2021 campaign showed Ashley the blueprint for success even with new drivers and teams joining a very competitive and crowded Top Fuel field.
“I think this is possibly one of the most competitive Top Fuel fields in the last decade or so,” said Ashley, during the PRO Nitro Spring Training event. “It is healthy for the sport and it is good for us as competitors. I think it is going to be a dogfight just to win races and could be chippy early in the season. You are going to have to fight to qualify in the top half of the field. You will see everyone’s game rise out of necessity. This could be one of the closest championship battles we have seen in years.”
The last time Ashley and the Phillips Connect Vita C Shot Top Fuel team were competing in the Winternationals national event was last July when the event was pushed back into the middle of the season. Ashley is looking forward to starting the season with the historic event in its traditional slot on the schedule.
“Everyone is used to starting the season on the West Coast at the Winternationals,” said Ashley. “As an East Coast guy, you want to escape the winter weather and enjoy that California sun. We had a great weekend testing in Phoenix, and we will see similar conditions this weekend at the track. I am excited to see what our team can do. The season is a marathon not a sprint, but you want to get off to a good start. Last year at the first race we reached the semifinals, and of course we plan on creating plenty of momentum for the rest of the season at the first race.”
In 2021 at the season opening NHRA Gatornationals Ashley came out of the trailer qualifying No. 12 and upset the No. 5 qualifier in the first round posting one of the quickest elapsed times of the session. The semifinal finish gave the team momentum which that stepped up with mid-season in Pomona and throughout the Countdown. The 2022 season will start with the team on the road for three consecutive weekends. For Ashley and his team, the consistency will be a welcome beginning to his third professional season.
“It is always nice to race a few races in a row especially when you start with a strong test session,” said Ashley. “As a team we want to feel good and comfortable with the racecar and as a driver I want to feel the same way in the racecar. You get to test and then go right to Pomona and Phoenix which is a benefit. As a driver you want to be in the car making laps.”
The 2022 NHRA season officially begins February 18 in Pomona, California, with the historic NHRA Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtectTheHarvest.com. The Camping World Drag Racing Series kicks off Friday with one qualifying session for Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock, followed by two more passes Saturday and final eliminations on Sunday, February 20. The race will be televised nationally on FS1 and fans can follow Ashley’s progress on his social media channels on Twitter and Instagram.