SONOMA, CA (July 25, 2021) — The second race of the famed NHRA Western Swing showed Justin Ashley and his Smart Sanitizer Top Fuel dragster powered by Strutmasters.com how tough the back half of the season will be for the second year driver. Over two days of qualifying Ashley made solid runs in the mid-3.70 second range and entered race day as the No. 7 qualifier. Ashley was running with the top race cars throughout qualifying posting the fourth quickest times in both the first and third qualifying sessions. With only twelve Top Fuel dragsters at Sonoma Raceway the competition was fierce and the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year gave up lane choice to veteran driver Leah Pruett in the first round.
“I felt really good coming out of qualifying with the runs we made,” said Ashley, who has started in the top half of the field in half of the races this season. “We made a great run to start Friday and our last run on Saturday showed what we could do. We knew we needed to step up and I felt confident (crew chief) Mike Green and this Smart Sanitizer Top Fuel team could make us quicker.”
This was the third time this season Ashley drew the multi-talented Pruett in the first round. Three races ago Ashley and the Smart Sanitizer team defeated Pruett in the first round of the Springnationals as the No. 13 qualifier. At the New England Nationals in Epping New Hampshire Pruett, took the win, upsetting Ashley who was the No. 3 qualifier. Today was a more even, No. 7 versus No. 6, match-up with Ashley needing to step up from his qualifying efforts to advance to the quarterfinals.
The team and Ashley did their job improving from their best qualifying effort and posting their quickest run of the weekend. The Smart Sanitizer Top Fuel dragster tripped the finish line lights with a 3.758 second run at 323.04 mph but the 2020 NHRA Summernationals winner came up less than a car length short of victory.
“That was a close race it shows how you have to have all the little things go your way,” said Ashley. “We didn’t race in Denver but I don’t think that hurt us this weekend. We had a tough opponent and lost a close, close race. We are a young team and the wins will come. This weekend was a great learning experience and the good news is we get right back on the track next weekend in Pomona. These next four races are going to be very important. I love the competition.”
Ashley and the Davis Motorsports team will head to the 61st NHRA Winternational next weekend in Pomona, California, No. 9 in the NHRA Camping World Top Fuel point standings with a 60 point lead over the driver in eleventh place with four more races left in the regular season. The U.S. Nationals will offer points and a half to all competitors making the next handful of races critical for Ashley’s playoff hopes.
“We are getting to race more races this season than I have ever run in my career,” said Ashley. “I have this amazing opportunity because of sponsors like Smart Sanitizer, Strutmasters.com, Auto Shocker, KATO Fastening Systems and more great companies. We had a lot of people at the races this weekend so while our on-track performance wasn’t what we wanted it was still a successful race off the track.”
Q1: 3.761 sec, 325.37mph; Qual. 4
Q2: 4.581 sec, 165.94 mph; Qual. 6
Q3: 3.769 sec, 226.79 mph; Qual. 7
Bonus Points: +1 (3rd quickest of Q2)
Driver Qual R/T ET MPH
Justin Ashley 7 .083 3.758 323.04
Leah Pruett 6 .069 3.739 327.51 (W)
Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Ten – Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence, 978
2. Antron Brown, 629
3. Brittany Force, 564
4. Shawn Langdon, 460
5. Leah Pruett, 457
6. Billy Torrence, 448
7. Mike Salinas, 432
8. Doug Kalitta, 420
9. Justin Ashley, 370
10. Clay Millican, 366
About Justin Ashley Racing
Justin Ashley Racing in partnership with Davis Motorsports fields the Smart Sanitizer Top Fuel dragster powered by Strutmasters.com in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. During his Top Fuel rookie season in 2020 Justin won the NHRA Summernationals, finished in the Top Ten and was recognized as the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year. Prior to his professional debut Ashley has three wins in Top Alcohol Dragster on the Lucas Oil Series. He is the son of multi-time NHRA national event winner Mike Ashley. In 2017, he was named to the Drag Illustrated magazine’s 30 under 30 list, highlighting some of racing’s most promising young individuals on and off the racetrack. When he’s not racing, Ashley serves as President of Ashley Developers, a real estate investment organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of distressed properties. To learn more about Justin Ashley Racing, visit JustinAshley.com.