ENNIS, TX (October 15, 2023) — Looking to become the first Top Fuel driver to win three NHRA Texas Fall Nationals titles in a row Justin Ashley brought the Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster powered by Phillips Connect into eliminations with high hopes. As the No. 6 qualifier on the strength of his 3.661 second, 336.20 mph run Ashley matched up with veteran Clay Millican in a tough first round match-up between Countdown championship contenders. The team owner and driver was bringing momentum from a strong final round of qualifying pass that saw him earn a qualifying bonus point as one of the three quickest Top Fuel dragsters of the final session.

Justin Ashley and the Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster powered by Phillips Connect, photo by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery

The Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster rolled up for the first round against Millican as the final pair of Top Fuel dragsters to open race day. In a wild first round several top contenders dropped races on a cool and quick Texas Motorplex all-concrete racetrack. Ashley continued his domination on the starting line getting a great start with a .037 second reaction time as his 11,000-horsepower race car launched off the line. As he accelerated his Goodyear slicks briefly overpowered the track while Millican was on a smooth run beside him. The momentary loss of traction robbed Ashley of critical momentum and allowed Millican to move in front. At the finish line stripe Millican earned the win light and Ashley turned his attention to getting ready for the Nevada Nationals in two weeks.

“We just missed it a little on that first run,” said Ashley, a six-time Top Fuel winner in 2023. “We are going to learn from this weekend and get ready for Las Vegas. Our Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster powered by Phillips Connect did some really good things in Dallas that we can take with us and apply moving forward. We’re excited to get back to work.” 

At the end of the day Ashley, who entered the Countdown as the No. 1 seed will move to the fifth race of the playoffs sitting in fourth place XXX points out of first with two races left in the season.

“We are not out of this championship hunt. The best thing we can do right now is win these last two races and let the points take care of themselves. It’s a tall task but there’s no quit in this team. Thank you to everyone from Leatherwood Distillery, Phillips Connect, Toyota and all of our partners that support us. We’re going to finish the season strong.”

Ashley will be on track again in two weeks at the NHRA Nevada Nationals from The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Qualifying Results

Q1: 3.741 sec, 330.96 mph; Qual. 9

Q2: 3.670 sec; 338.40 mph Qual. 4

Q3: 4.484 sec, 147.27 mph; Qual. 5

Q4: 3.661 sec, 336.20 mph; Qual. 6

Bonus Points: +1 (Third quickest of Q4)

Race Results

First Round Clay Millican, Parts-Plus dragster, (.059), 3.789, 269.53 mph def. Justin Ashley, Leatherwood Distillery dragster powered by Phillips Connect, (.037), 4.356, 197.29 mph


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