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Top Fuel’s Justin Ashey Looks for Another Multi-Win Weekend at NHRA Arizona Nationals

When it comes to multiple wins in one weekend, Top Fuel standout Justin Ashley enjoyed impressive success in the unique scenarios last season.

The former NHRA Rookie of the Year will get another opportunity for a multiple-win weekend at the 39th NHRA Arizona Nationals, which takes place Friday through Sunday at Firebird Motorsports Park. Ashley will take part in the final round of the postponed Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals against Tony Schumacher on Saturday as part of the final qualifying session and is also part of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge.

The specialty race begins on Friday with the first qualifying session, with a chance for two wins on Saturday and an Arizona Nationals victory on Sunday. Ashley is the defending Winternationals and Arizona Nationals winner, which adds another exciting layer for the standout in his 11,000-horsepower Scag Power Equipment dragster. A year ago, he won three times in one weekend in Bristol, so pulling off something spectacular in one weekend isn’t exactly new for Ashley, who had six wins in 2023.

“It really is a great opportunity, a unique opportunity and we’ve got a lot on the line,” Ashley said. “I don’t know that we’ve ever gone into a national event and had every run, starting with Q1, be so meaningful. It’s exciting and all we have to do is turn on seven win lights this weekend. It’s such a difficult thing to do with the depth of this class and you’ve already seen that this year. It’s going to take a lot of toughness from this team to capitalize on this and we’re really looking forward to it and we’re grateful for it.”

Ashley (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Camrie Caruso (Pro Stock) all won at Phoenix in 2023. This year’s race will again be broadcast on FS1, including a special NHRA in 30: Pomona Finals show at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday and Arizona Nationals eliminations at 6:30 p.m. ET on Sunday. 

The other Winternationals final rounds in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series include John Force and Matt Hagan meeting in an epic matchup in Funny Car, and Erica Enders and Dallas Glenn in Pro Stock. 

In addition to defending his Arizona Nationals victory, Ashley is after his first win of the season. Ironically, he’ll take on Schumacher, the winningest driver in Top Fuel history, who was his final-round opponent last year in Bristol when Ashley finished off the sweep of three wins in one weekend. 

He may have to race Schumacher twice on Saturday as well, as Ashley takes on Brittany Force in one of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge matchups, with Schumacher taking on Billy Torrence. It makes for a hectic weekend, while also dealing with the likes of defending world champ Doug Kalitta, Gainesville winner Shawn Langdon, Antron Brown and Tony Stewart. But the added incentive seems to bring out the best in Ashley and his team, led by crew chief Mike Green.

“Under normal circumstances, you go out for first round on Sunday and it’s the first time something is on the line, so it’s the first time you’re in that mindset,” Ashley said. “Now, that mindset starts in Q1 on Friday. Last year was the first year of the (Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge) and helped our team gain confidence. It also helped create that winning culture and it all helps. It was a unique experience and we’re looking forward to that format again. It’s great for the fans, it’s something they enjoy and it’s great for the teams to compete at a high level throughout qualifying and then raceday.”

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The opening round of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge will take place during Friday’s qualifying session that begins at 4 p.m. PT. The finals of the bonus event follows during the second round of qualifying at 11:30 a.m. PT on Saturday.

The final rounds in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock for the Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals taking place as part of final qualifying, which begins at 2 p.m.
In Funny Car, Hight defeated Ron Capps last season to pick up his third NHRA Arizona Nationals win. This season, Hight stepped out of the car and passed driving duties to Austin Prock. With a runner-up finish and No. 1 qualifier to his credit in Gainesville, Prock is ready to take on the likes of reigning Funny Car champ Matt Hagan, Bob Tasca III, John Force, Capps, Chad Green and Gainesville winner J.R. Todd.

Caruso captured her first career Pro Stock win last season in Phoenix. In order to repeat her victory, she’ll need to get past reigning champion Enders, who won in Gainesville to open the year, Matt Hartford, Troy Coughlin Jr., Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield and Glenn. 

The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge features a wealth of intriguing matchups, too, including Force and Ron Capps in Funny Car, and Hagan taking on Gainesville winner J.R. Todd. Enders and longtime rival Greg Anderson meet in one of the Pro Stock matchups, while the other pairing in the opening round of the specialty race features Glenn and Mason McGaha.

The NHRA Arizona Nationals also includes thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+, featuring the top racers in the country. It also marks the debut of the NHRA Pro Mod category in Phoenix. 

All weekend long, fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into the nitro pits. The Nitro Alley Stage is the main entertainment hub in the pits, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more. Race fans at Firebird Motorsports Park can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. 

As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Phoenix. This opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting and interactive atmosphere. 

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 4 p.m. PT on Friday, April 5, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 6 at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. PT on Sunday, April 7.

To purchase tickets to the final NHRA Arizona Nationals, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket. For more information on NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.

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This story was originally published on April 2, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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