PLAINVIEW, NY (July 11, 2023) — With the Top Fuel points leader Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster are in a strong position to make a run at sweeping the historic Western Swing. Ashley, the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year, has raced to three consecutive final rounds heading into the Mile-High Nationals at historic Bandimere Speedway and has also collected the past two Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge specialty race victories. His lone loss in the month of June was the final round of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk. The standout driver and team owner has a category-leading four wins and four Mission Challenge victories to his credit this season as the NHRA Camping World Series heads to the three race in three weekends Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma stretch.
“We are definitely on a roll, but that doesn’t really mean anything heading into the Western Swing,” said Ashley, a nine-time Top Fuel national event winner. “This sport will humble you very quickly and the Western Swing is no joke. These are three amazing races in great locations with fantastic fans. There is a reason no one has won the Western Swing in Top Fuel in a long time. The competition has never been tougher and winning three races in a row any time is a great accomplishment.”
The last time a Top Fuel team swept the swing was 2009 when Ashley’s technology and development teammate Antron Brown won Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma. Only five Top Fuel drivers have swept the three-race gauntlet and two of them will be battling Ashley this season when Brown and Tony Schumacher look to become the first two-time Swing sweepers.
“You look at the drivers who have won the Western Swing and they all had great team behind them,” said Ashley. “Antron, Tony, Joe Amato, Larry Dixon, and Cory Mac with McDonalds. I feel like I have a team with this Phillips Connect Toyota group that is at that level. We have been getting better every year and every race under the leadership of Dustin Davis, Mike Green, and Tommy DeLago. We have all the pieces and we have been running well. I am excited to get back to Denver and see what could happen.”
This will be Ashley’s second visit to Bandimere Speedway as a Top Fuel competitor. Last year in his Denver debut he qualified No. 2 and raced to the semifinals before losing to eventual Mile-High Nationals winner Leah Pruett. It was a strong first effort on the mountain for the young driver and team owner.
“I would say racing on the mountain at Bandimere Speedway is a unique environment,” said Ashley, “I don’t think the altitude affected me but there were a ton of fans and it just felt special. The setting is amazing and you can tell the Bandimere family puts so much energy into promoting a great event. I am very appreciative of all their effort and we would love to win the last Wally they present for the Mile-High Nationals.”
The first race of the 2023 Western Swing will also be the final NHRA national event at Bandimere Speedway. After 65 years of operation, the Bandimere family announced they would be selling the property and possibly looking at other locations in the Denver area. Ashley recognizes that their contribution to the sport helped create a marketing and competitive environment for him to pursue his dream.
“We have national and global marketing partners that participate in NHRA drag racing because of the events that the Bandimere family has promoted and created over the past 60 years,” said Ashley. “From KATO Fastening Systems to Toyota to Phillips Connect, Mac Tools, Lucas Oil, Strutmasters and so many more, these companies get tremendous value and exposure from participating with our team at events like this. Our sport is growing so fast and our TV ratings on FOX are climbing because we get to race at some of the best facilities in the country in front of tens of thousands of fans. I want to thank the Bandimeres for their support.”
With fan engagement at an all-time high for Ashley the driver of the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster will have another busy weekend. He will be racing for his category leading fifth Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge title which will include a fan autograph session on Saturday at the Mission Food display in the pits. He will also be signing autographs for fans in the Top Eliminator Club and will be participating in the pre-race festivities. The team will have four qualifying runs over Saturday and Sunday looking to position themselves as high as possible in the 16-car elimination bracket on Sunday.
“I love weekends like this where you have four qualifying runs, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and lots of fan interaction,” said Ashley. “It keeps me in a really focused mindset and I think your energy stays up all weekend. There is nothing better than making a good run and coming back to the Phillips Connect Toyota pit area and seeing all our hospitality guests and fans at the ropes super excited.”
The final Mile-High Nationals will begin qualifying on Friday, July 14 with two qualifying sessions, 4:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. followed by two sessions on Saturday, July 15, at 3:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. with final eliminations beginning on Sunday, July 16, at 11 a.m. MDT. The race will be televised nationally on FOX.