Sep 15th 2021


CHARLOTTE, NC (September 15, 2021) --- Second year driver and 2020 Rookie of the Year Justin Ashley got off to a strong start in his first official Countdown race grabbing a runner-up finish last weekend at the Mopar Express Lane NHRA Nationals. The Smart Sanitizer Top Fuel dragster powered by Strutmasters.com qualified No. 6 his third top half of the field starting position in the last four races. This weekend the driver who jumped from seventh to fourth in the Camping World Top Fuel point standings will be looking to keep that momentum moving forward at the DeWalt NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. Ashley’s history at the Carolina Nationals dates to before his rookie season when he raced to a semifinal finish in his first NHRA Top Fuel race in 2019.

“I love everything about racing in Charlotte. It is a beautiful facility since it is a Bruton Smith track you know everything will be first-class,” said Ashley. “I remember my first race there in 2019. I just wanted to do my best and we raced to the semifinals and almost made the finals.”

With the Countdown point reshuffle and Ashley’s strong performance, defeating three Countdown competitors in Reading, Pennsylvania before losing a close race to a fourth Countdown racer the driver from Plainview, New York, sits just 55 points out of first place. This deficit is less than three rounds of racing with six playoff races left in the season. Ashley raced a Countdown qualified driver in every round of racing last weekend, which gave him the toughest path on race day.

“Everyone out here racing at an NHRA National event is a tough competitor but when you also add on the fact that every driver I raced on Sunday was in the Countdown that makes me very proud of this Smart Sanitizer Strutmasters.com Top Fuel team,” said Ashley. “I know how hard (team owner) Dustin Davis, (crew chief) Mike Green and the crew guys are working and it is a complete team effort.”

The final round appearance was Ashley’s second of the season and third of his career. As a rookie Ashley won his first final round appearance beating veteran TJ Zizzo for the Summernationals title. Earlier this season Ashley worked his way through a tough field at the NHRA Winternationals before Leah Pruett took the win in Pomona. The fact that his team returned to a final round in the fourth race after his second final gives Ashley even more confidence they are gelling at the perfect time.

“We are a young team. We’ve made it to two finals in the last five races. That’s a testament to Mike Green. He’s gone above and beyond to put his imprint on this program,” said Ashley. “I could not be more pleased with the results, and I think getting to race every weekend for four weeks in a row will be a huge test for us but one that I think we will pass with flying colors. This is what I have dreamed about and I am so fortunate to be able to chase this Top Fuel championship with this group of amazing teammates.”

This season Ashley has been focused on improving his performance behind the wheel and maintaining his reputation as one of the best “leavers” in the category. His reactions time average continues to keep him top of the class and his skills on-track are also improving as was the case in his semifinal win over point leader and three-time world champion Steve Torrence when Ashley pedaled his race car to victory.

“You don’t really get a chance to practice reacting to your race car when it smokes the tires so you have to learn on the fly,” explained Ashley. “I have had a couple instances where we smoked the tires and I had to react and you really just have to have a feel for what is happening in the race car and you have to be patient. That comes with experience. The semifinal win over Steve was a big one. I learned a lot from that race and I know I still have a lot to learn.”