READING, PA (September 9, 2021) — In a regular season full of new experiences and continued development as a professional Justin Ashley, driver of the Smart Sanitizer Top Fuel dragster powered by Strutmasters.com, will start his biggest challenge yet at this weekend’s Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. One week after the prestigious Dodge//SRT NHRA U.S. Nationals, Ashley will start the seven-race playoff run at a new track for the second-year driver.
“I have been to Maple Grove a number of times but never raced there,” said Ashley. “Reading is my home track so I will have some friends and family in attendance. That, in conjunction with the start of the playoffs is the perfect combination for an exciting weekend. It does not get any better than this.”
Last year the Countdown was suspended, and Ashley raced the complete season, finishing his rookie campaign in seventh place in the Top Fuel standings. At the completion of the 2021 regular season Ashley and his Davis Motorsports team sit in seventh place and are now only seventy points behind Steve Torrence the No. 1 seed thanks to the recalculation of the point standings. The Countdown will be a new challenge for Ashley and his young team, but the back-to-back races could be an advantage.
Justin Ashley (Photo credit Ron Lewis Photography)
“We get into a better groove when we are at the race track every weekend,” said Ashley. “Since the beginning of the season we’ve had an elite crew led by crew chief Mike Green, but somehow they’ve found ways to increase their performance each race. Starting the Countdown with three races in a row will be good for our team. These guys work great together. I like our chances at the end of the season.”
This season Ashley has continued to develop as a driver leading the class in reaction time average and maintaining a reputation as a serious competitor. He has also continued to lean on his fellow drivers to become a stronger driver. The camaraderie is an element Ashley enjoys in the Top Fuel ranks but he knows that when his Top Fuel dragster that is also backed by Auto Shocker and KATO Fastening Systems rolls to the starting line it is serious business.
“I will talk with a few of my peers to get my bearings when it comes to racing at a new track. You want to be familiar with the turnoffs and track layout,” said Ashley. “Antron Brown and I speak regularly and there are a few other guys I will talk with as well. I have a great relationship with all the other Top Fuel teams. Now that the Countdown has started, all the drivers and teams will be even more focused. It will be an intense seven races and I am looking forward to being the wheel representing our sponsors at a time when it matters most.”
A second win has eluded Ashley this season but his recent run to the final round at the Winternationals along with a semifinal finish and a handful of recent quarterfinal efforts have the driver from Plainview, New York, confident four win lights could be in his near future. At the most recent U.S. Nationals he was pulling away from his first round opponent when his 11,000 horsepower land rocket lost power.
“We didn’t get the results we wanted at the U.S. Nationals but that doesn’t take away from the positive effort we all put into the event,” said Ashley. “We got one qualifying run and then we were on a great run in the first round. I think if we can get a couple strong qualifying runs in Reading and then go into race day with some momentum, we’ll have a great race.”
Qualifying for the Mopar Express Lane Nationals will begin Friday night at 5:45 p.m. from Maple Grove Raceway with two sessions on Saturday. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday. The race will be broadcast on FS1 beginning at 2 p.m. ET.