NORWALK, OH (June 26, 2022) — After back-to-back final round appearances including a win last weekend on Father’s Day at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals championship contending driver Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Energy were upset in the open round at Summit Motorsports Park. The No. 2 qualifier was strong through two days of qualifying and rolled into race day with momentum and confidence. Facing Leah Pruett and her Tony Stewart Racing backed dragster Ashley was looking for his fifth win light in a row and third win of the season.
Cooler conditions blanketed the track as the Summit Equipment Nationals unfolded in front of a packed house. The 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year and four-time finalist this season grabbed a starting line advantage and was on the way to adding another round win to his 5-3 head-to-head record against Pruett when his dragster surprisingly slowed as it crossed half-track. When Ashley crossed the finish line with an elapsed time of 3.852 seconds the drop off in performance was attributed to tire shake and Ashley giving his 11,000 horsepower Phillips Connect dragster a quick pedal.
“It was a little bit of a weird run,” said Ashley. “It put a hole out (dropped a cylinder) at the hit and it got out there and started shaking. It was in between the need to pedal and not pedal. I slapped it quickly and then got right back on the throttle. We didn’t accomplish our objective today, but we continued to learn and get better. Our hats off to Leah’s team, they did a better job.”
The art of pedalling a race car is something that cannot be practiced away from competition so Ashley takes the positive from today’s experience even if the outcome was less than desirable. the third-year driver after talking with crew chief Mike Green and reviewing the data knows now pedalling was not the answer.
“From a broader perspective it was a successful weekend in many ways,” said Ashley. “The car ran very well during qualifying and we made great use of the Lucas Oil hospitality area throughout the weekend. Now we can take the car back to the shop and get ready for the Western Swing.”
With two weeks off Ashley and his Phillips Connect team will gear up for the Western Swing. The three-race gauntlet will be a prime opportunity for the driver who is No. 4 in the Camping World Drag Racing Series point standings to highlight his marketing relationships with
Q1: 3.829 sec, 325.14 mph; Qual. 4
Q2: 3.707 sec, 330.96 mph; Qual. 2
Q3: 9.301 sec, 66.67 mph; Qual. 2
Q4: 3.840 sec, 325.77 mph; Qual. 2
Bonus Points: +2 (2nd quickest of Q2)
Leah Pruett, Lake Havasu City, Ariz., Dodge SRT dragster, 3.776, 327.98 mphdef. Justin Ashley, Phillips Connect Toyota dragster powered by Vita C Energy, 3.852, 317.49 mph
Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Ten – Top Fuel
1. Mike Salinas 821
2. Brittany Force 809
3. Steve Torrence 712
4. Justin Ashley 711
5. Austin Prock 513
6. Josh Hart 509
7. Shawn Langdon 467
8. Clay Millican 462
9. Doug Kalitta 459
10. Leah Pruett 417