Justin Ashley and the SCAG Power Equipment Toyota Top Fuel dragster team led SCAG Racing at the SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout presented by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage at Bradenton Motorsports Park with their No. 7 qualifying position giving them the chance at the $250,000 payday.
In four qualifying attempts, Ashley would have his best run in the final session on Friday night with a 3.713-second pass at 326.87 mph to put him seventh in the eight-car Top Fuel field. After a chip draw, Ashley was matched against reigning world champion Doug Kalitta in the first round on Saturday. It would be a pedal fest for the 2020 Rookie of the Year and current champ. Ashley would ultimately cross the finish line at 5.264 seconds and 141.90 mph coming up short to Kalitta’s 4.163 at 240.
“I think this was a great week for the sport as a whole. This event was something special. It exceeded expectations, it wasn’t a home run, it was a grand slam. Fans were great and to see everyone pulling the rope in the same direction was really amazing. I hope that we continue to do more events like this. I can’t say enough about Drag Illustrated, PRO and SCAG Power Equipment and the job they did to make this come to fruition. To be invited and to qualify, it was an honor. It’s a true testament to the team that we have,” Ashley said. “Even from when we got here and started testing, we made a lot of laps. Although we didn’t get past first round today, I think we really accomplished a lot. I think we put ourselves in a really good position going into the NHRA season which, outside of winning this race, was the ultimate goal, putting us in a position to feel good going into Gainesville. On and off the race track it was a productive week for a number of different reasons.”
Daniel Wilkerson and his SCAG Wilkerson Racing team tested their new SCAG Power Equipment Ford Mustang Funny Car but came up short qualifying for the big money show. In four sessions their best run would be a 3.929-second pass at 327.82 mph for the No. 10 spot. On Saturday, Wilkerson had the rare opportunity to line up against a dragster competing for the Don Schumacher Nitro Superstar Award and $10,000. Wilkerson would go 4.054 at 294.50 to defeat Josh Hart’s 4.212 at 208.78 but wasn’t quickest of the session and missed out on racing for the cash prize.
“I could not be more impressed with this SCAG Power Equipment PRO Superstar Shootout. Honestly, coming here I was excited to get some test laps in because we had some new pipe and we had a couple things we wanted to try. What I was excited for as a test session turned out to be an event I will be super excited to come to every year as long as I’m allowed to come back. The people were awesome, facility is cool, I like a good hometown facility so this place checked a lot of boxes for me. I’m excited to come back and I’m excited we were invited,” Wilkerson said. “I’m glad we tested our race car. We got a lot of bugs out, got a lot of junk squared away so I think we are going to make two more test runs ahead of the Gainesville event to make sure what we think happened, happened and we’ll be ready for the rest of the year.”
Dave Richards and his Versatran/BlueBird Funny Car team used the week to test and get their feet under them ahead of their first full-time race season. The Versatran/BlueBird hot rod wouldn’t make a full pass with their best time a 7.379-second pass at 83.15 mph for the No. 13 spot. On Saturday, Richards also competed for the Don Schumacher Nitro Superstar Award and $10,000. Richards would have a single running his best lap of the week at 4.406 and 259.96 before an engine explosion.
“Being here at Bradenton Motorsports Park has been awesome. The crowd was unbelievable. Being able to be part of the SCAG PRO Superstar Shootout, for me personally, has been amazing. Ultimately we wished our performance was better, but we did learn a lot through this,” Richards said. “More or less, that last run, we were so happy to get the bugs worked out, and it was going down the track good. Then it decided to blow up, so that takes us a couple of steps back, but we’ll rebound. We have a great group of guys who have all worked really hard. We’ll fix what we have, and we’ll head to Gainesville to test and get ready for the rest of the year.”
The SCAG Racing team will return to Florida March 8-10 to compete in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season-opening NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.