ST. LOUIS (October 1, 2023) — Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster raced to the quarterfinals today and will enter the back half of the NHRA Countdown firmly in the Top Fuel championship chase. The fourth-year team owner and driver is 77 points out of first place with races in Dallas, Las Vegas and Pomona remaining on the schedule. This weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals Ashley powered his way to race day as the No. 4 qualifier and a first round match up with veteran TJ Zizzo.
Justin Ashley and Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster, photo by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery
The last and only previous time Ashley raced Zizzo was at Lucas Oil Raceway in 2020 when the two drivers were each vying for their first professional Top Fuel win. Ashley took top honors on the way to Rookie of the Year honors in that race. Today was another wire-to-wire win for the now 11-time Top Fuel winner. Ashley was first off the line and made a smooth run to victory in front of Zizzo’s tire smoking 11,000-horsepower land rocket.
“You really have to go one round and one race at a time,” said Ashley. “On race day qualifying is in the past and we’re focused on the future. We’re doing the best we can, but we know this will be a long fight and an absolute battle. The countdown competition is so good you have to be at your best every run.
In the second round Ashley faced Toyota teammate and championship contender Steve Torrence. Ashley was giving up lane choice and he once again knew it would be a tough race. He took a starting line advantage, but Torrence made up the difference and as both dragsters flew down the track it was Torrence getting the nose of his Toyota machine out in front. The margin of victory according to Drag Race Central was .0015 seconds to approximately nine inches at over 320 mph. Ashley’s losing time was a 3.815 second run beside Torrence’s 3.773 second. It was almost a Herculean effort for the win by Ashley.
“That was a race in the second round,” said Ashley. “I could hear him right beside me the whole way and I didn’t know who won until the very last second. You hate to lose a race early, but we just came up a little short. We weren’t hurt too badly in the points and now it is anyone’s game. I have a lot of confidence heading to these final three tracks. This Phillips Connect Toyota team is starting to hit its stride again and I can’t wait to get back on track.
The Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel team will be looking to make it three wins in a row at Texas Motorplex for the NHRA Texas Fall Nationals, October 12-15. Ashley will be one of the featured drivers as part of the Stampede of Speed, a 10-day racing and music event held outside of Dallas at the state-of-the-art Texas Motorplex.
Q1: 3.730 sec, 331.69 mph; Qual. 4
Q2: No Time; Qual. 4
Q3: 3.745 sec, 330.55 mph; Qual. 4
Bonus Points: 0
Justin Ashley, Phillips Connect Toyota dragster, (.052), 3.769, 330.96 mph def. TJ Zizzo, Rust-Oleum dragster, (.086), 5.507, 119.79 mph
Steve Torrence, Capco Contractors dragster, (.073), 3.773, 322.50 mph def. Justin Ashley, Phillips Connect Toyota dragster, (.042), 3.815, 326.08 mph
Top Fuel Top Ten
1. Doug Kalitta 2348
2. Leah Pruett 2301
3. Steve Torrence 2297
4. Justin Ashley 2271
5. Antron Brown 2252
6. Mike Salinas 2224
7. Brittany Force 2210
8. Clay Millican 2196
9. Tony Schumacher 2163
10. Austin Prock 2162
About Maynard Ashley Racing Maynard Ashley Racing (MAR) was founded in 2023 with the express goal of delivering world class results, on and off the racetrack, for a growing community of marketing partners and fans drawn to Justin Ashley, the 2020 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year and seven-time Top Fuel national event winner. Behind Maynard Ashley Racing is a partnership between JCM Racing, led by Joe E. and Cathi Maynard, Joe C. Maynard, and Eric and Kim Lehman, who have taken the NHRA by storm over the last year, and Max Out Motorsports a partnership between Justin Ashley, Dustin Davis and Jim Epler.