Justin Ashley used the first stop of the Western Swing to move into third place in the NHRA Top Fuel point standings and reel in the leaders of the category with a semifinal finish at the NHRA Mile High Nationals. Ashley raced his Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Energy to the final four from the No. 2 qualifier position before dropping a close race to the eventual race winner. He is now less than 100 points from the top spot in the category with five races remaining in the regular season of competition. The NHRA Sonoma Nationals will be another challenge for the third-year driver who is chasing his first championship, but Ashley knows his Phillips Connect team is up to the task.
“I have been talking all season about stacking round wins and making the most out of every round on the track,” said Ashley. “Last weekend was a perfect example of that process. We were able to go more rounds than the drivers in front of us and that has us in an even better position to challenge for the No. 1 spot going into the Countdown. We still have our work cut out for us, but we made progress in Denver.”
The four-time finalist in 2022, who has secured wins at the season-opening Winternationals in Pomona and Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol, will be looking to add to his win total at Sonoma Raceway. Throughout this season Ashley has been running with the leaders of the category and his recent success has helped separate the 2020 Rookie of the Year in the point standings.
Coming down off the mountain to a track known for high speeds and quick elapsed times also has Ashley eager to get back behind the wheel of his 11,000-horsepower land rocket. His crew chief combo of Mike Green and Tommy DeLago have had success in Sonoma and the experienced duo are ready to continue to power Ashley to strong qualifying positions and a solid race day tune-up.
“I am really looking forward to racing in Sonoma again,” said Ashley. “Last year we qualified No. 7 and lost a close first-round race. It was a great race, but we want to go rounds in Sonoma this year. I still remember being at the track when Antron Brown swept the swing. We can’t get the sweep, but we can get two out of three.”
Last weekend by defeating Cameron Ferre and Austin Prock in the opening rounds at Bandimere Speedway Ashley capitalized on early exits by four-time Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence, Brittany Force and Mike Salinas to add round wins in his ledger. The four-time national event winner has momentum heading to the track and he has his eyes on winning the Champion’s Goblet. The goblet, which is handcrafted by a Bay Area glass glower, incorporates the raceway’s rich wine country heritage to the winner’s circle.
Prior to the event Ashley along with Davis Motorsports and Phillips Connect will host a golf tournament and dinner to honor Oakdale, California native Eric Medlen. Proceeds from both events will be donated to Speedway Children’s Charities of Sonoma in honor of the NHRA rising star and 2006 Sonoma Nationals Funny Car winner who was killed in a testing accident in 2007.
“Dustin Davis is from the area and we wanted to continue to celebrate Eric Medlen’s memory,” said Ashley. “Dustin talked with Eric’s dad, John, and he was all for the idea. We will play a little golf and have a nice dinner to remember Eric and raise some money for Speedway Children’s Charities of Sonoma.”
Friday’s Sonoma Nationals will begin with one qualifying session under the lights followed by two more sessions on Saturday. The race will begin on Sunday at 10:30 a.m. PT with FOX broadcasting the race nationals beginning at 4 p.m. ET.