POMONA, CA - A dramatic and positive season for team owner and driver Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Energy came to an end today at the Auto Club Finals. In just his third season competing in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Ashley was in championship contention heading into final eliminations today at the Auto Club Finals. As the No. 10 qualifier Ashley entered the final race of the season facing No. 7 qualifier Antron Brown, whose team shares a technical alliance. The two Toyota Top Fuel dragsters were chasing points leader Brittany Force as they entered the opening session.
The two championship contending drivers had to watch seven other pairs of 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters race before they took to the track. There were several upsets with championship implications, including first round losses by Mike Salinas and Steve Torrence. Ashley could keep his championship hopes alive with a victory over Brown. Both dragsters executed burnouts and pulled to the starting line. Ashley got to the jump off the starting line with a reaction time advantage of .045 to .067 seconds and both land rockets began to fly down the track.
As Ashley and the Phillips Connect Top Fuel dragster approached half-track Brown was on a smooth pass and Ashley’s race car hazed the tires forcing him to give his race car a quick pedal, robbing the 2020 Rookie of the Year of valuable momentum. Brown got to the finish line first with a winning time of 3.704 seconds, the second quickest pass of the session. Ashley’s 4.070 second pass at 290.01 mph was not enough to advance to the quarterfinals.
“It could be very easy to look at this race under a microscope and that would be silly. I think it is important to look at the season as a whole,” said Ashley, who will finish the season in fourth place. “Obviously, we wanted to win the championship and we gave ourselves a chance to do that with our performance throughout the Countdown. Our Phillips Connect team has a lot to be grateful for on and off the racetrack. We accomplished a lot of really great things this season. We are going to do a lot of things in the off-season to continue to improve and carry that momentum forward. As good as the Top Fuel field was this year, I think it will only be better next year.”
This season Ashley won three national events including the season opening Winternationals, the Thunder Valley Nationals and the Texas Fall Nationals and he raced to an additional four final rounds. The second generation drag racer entered the Countdown as the No. 3 seed and raced to the points lead following a runner-up finish at the first playoff race, the Pep Boys Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Ashley held the lead until the penultimate playoff race two weeks ago at the Nevada Nationals, when a first round exit combined with a win by Force moved him to second place heading into the season finale.
Born and raised in New York, Ashley was looking to capture a slice of history with a possible championship season. No professional driver in any of the major motorsport disciplines in North America has ever hailed from New York state. NASCAR’s Geoff Bodine from Chemung, New York, came the closest prior to Ashley with a third-place finish in 1990. Louis Meyer, of Yonkers, New York, was the 1928, 1929 and 1935 AAA National Champion, the forerunner to the IndyCar Championship.
Ashley along with the rest of the Camping World Drag Racing Series Top Ten finishers will be celebrated tomorrow night at the 2022 NHRA Champions Banquet at the Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California.