Connect with us


Justin Ashley Looks for Continued Success in Epping

Justin Ashley set to stage early this month at Route 66 Raceway.

Justin Ashley is looking for his second straight New England Nationals win this weekend in Epping, NH. (Photo: Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

EPPING, N.H. – In possibly the most competitive NHRA Top Fuel season yet, Justin Ashley has started to lay claim as one of the favorites in the category. Ashley enters this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals as the points leader, but he is searching for consistency at a track at which he has been anything but so far in his career.

Ashley won the 2023 New England Nationals, but he did so in Bristol, Tennessee, after race day was washed out in Epping.

Ashley enters the weekend 71 points ahead of second place runner Shawn Langdon, and he looks to extend that lead with a strong showing in New Hampshire.

“The way Top Fuel is right now, there will be a lot of back and forth, and we’ll have a lot of different people lead the points,” Ashley said. “Not only is the competition so good, but the depth in the category is strong that it will be hard for anybody to go out and run away with it.”

Although he already has a pair of wins this season, a win at New England Dragway this weekend would give Ashley a commanding points lead with seven races left until the Countdown to the Championship kicks off at Maple Grove Raceway in September. However, even a commanding lead is not a safe lead.

“All of these teams are only going to get better as the season progresses,” Ashley said. “We’ve had a really good start to the season, but doing that consistently is going to be the key to our success this season.”

Limited Data Not a Concern For Ashley

Ashley has had mixed results in Epping in his three trips to the track. Last year’s race in Epping was rained out, and was delayed to the next weekend when it was run in Bristol. Ashley went on to win the delayed race, but did not get much data to use in Epping, where he only made one qualifying pass. In 2022, he finished runner up to Mike Salinas in Epping, but in 2021, his first year at the track, Ashley lost in the first round to Leah Pruett.

The race was not held in 2020 due to the pandemic, and between that, a first round exit in 2021, and the race being held in Bristol in 2023, Ashley and his team are working with far less data than some of their competitors. He does not see that as cause for concern, however.

“(Crew Chiefs) Mike Green and Tommy DeLago have been around this sport for a long time, and our entire team is phenomenal,” Ashley said. “They have been there plenty of times, and they do have some data. The team has put a lot of research and preparation into this weekend, and I am confident.”

He said he also shares some information with Scag Racing teammates Daniel Wilkerson and Dave Richards. Despite the fact that they are both Funny Car drivers, there is some value in comparing notes, according to Ashley.

Additionally, he said, he gets support from Toyota Racing, and his Toyota Racing teammates Antron Brown, Steve Torrence, Doug Kalitta and Shawn Langdon. That teamwork seems to be paying off, since those five drivers currently hold the top five spots in the Top Fuel standings.

“That relationship with Toyota comes into play where they provide us with great data and engineering input,” he said. “That relationship is incredibly important.”

Justin Ashley prepares his Top Fuel dragster for a round during the Route 66 Nationals earlier this season.

Justin Ashley lines up next to eventual race winner Antron Brown during the Route 66 Nationals earlier this month in Joliet, Ill.. (Photo: Maddie Skidan | The Podium Finish)

Ashley Looking for Some Home Cooking in Epping

Having grown up in Long Island, New York, Ashley said he considers Epping to be one of his two home tracks on the circuit, along with Reading, Pennsylvania. If he wins on Sunday, the record books will show that he won two straight New England Nationals, but getting a victory at the track in Epping would be extra special.

“These are two of my favorite stops, because they are the two that are closest to home,” he said. “These are the tracks where I am most likely to have people stop me and talk, or wish me good luck.”

He said the nostalgic charm of New England Dragway gives the event a throw-back feel, and he enjoys that atmosphere.

“The facility is smaller than most of the ones we compete at,” he said. “But there is a nostalgia to it that makes it special. Fans pack the place, and they are really knowledgeable.”

Ashley, who cut his teeth travelling up and down the East Coast in junior dragsters, said he is excited to get to the tracks close to home, and not only reconnect with familiar faces, but hopefully inspire some of the young drivers of the region as well.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More in NHRA