Words Brad Littlefield
The successful national event debut of Justin Ashley in Top Alcohol Dragster could figuratively be described as being shot out of a cannon.
That's what the 22-year-old driver must have felt like in a physical sense with how hard the Epic Motorsports Marketing/Randy Meyer Racing A/Fuel dragster planted him in the seat during a barrage of 5.1-second, 280-mph performances.
Ashley, son of former Funny Car and Pro Mod competitor Mike, added the New York-based family to the list of NHRA family winners in a dominant performance. He ran a 5.150, now the sixth-quickest run in class history, right off the trailer and followed that up with a 5.143, the fourth-quickest run ever. He and teammate Megan Meyer, who won the East Region opener the previous weekend, qualified Nos. 1 and 2 with Meyer running a 5.153 which equaled the ninth-quickest run ever.
“It’s a big help,” Ashley said of his teammate. “It’s very easy to relate because of the similarities – we’re around the same age, both our fathers raced for a long time, things like that. To be able to lean on someone for guidance and understanding how to drive better is huge. She has been tremendously helpful to me.”
Ashley was also aided by the flawless preparation of the entry by the Randy Meyer Racing team and the mental pointers by his father.
“It makes my job that much easier as a driver,” said Ashley. “I used the same approach in the first qualifying round as I did in the final. I tried to do everything right mechanically, cut the best light I could, and keep it straight. Randy Meyer did everything he possibly could to make my job easy.”
Ashley stayed mired in the 5.1s throughout eliminations until he took on defending event champion and class veteran Rich McPhillips in the final. The injected nitro burners traded the lead a couple times until Ashley’s horsepower won out to grant the impressive rookie his first victory 5.232 to 5.258 decision.
“The race was back and forth, and I had no idea if I was ahead or behind at any point on the track,” Ashley recalled. “I saw the win light when I pulled the chutes, and it really set it when I turned the corner. Rich is so good at what he does, so to race him in the final and win a tight drag race was really fun.”
Ashley thanked Randy Meyer Racing, Meyer Sisters Racing, Epic Motorsports Marketing, and Realty Warehouse.
“It was amazing,” said Ashley. “We ran the regional event the weekend before and qualified No. 1 with a 5.20, so we knew we had a car that ran good and could win the race. Being that it was my first national event, it really couldn’t have gone much better. To qualify No. 1, make some of the quickest runs ever, and win the race was amazing.”
The young driver plans to continue his stampede in the alcohol category after stepping up from the Top Dragster class.
“I started last year in Top Dragster racing with Barry Brown,” said Ashley. “Barry is amazing and taught me how to drive. The timing felt right to step into the alcohol class. We spoke with a close family friend, Brian Corradi, and he had mentioned the Meyers. We knew it would be a good opportunity to move forward if we could find a team that was a good fit for us. I got my license in Charlotte last year and started making runs at the Phoenix test session. The plan for the season is to race 10 events total this year including the regional and national events in Gainesville.”