September 30, 2023


Only Automotive

An Interview With Justin Ashley, NHRA’s “Big Killer”

8 min read

To say that Justin Ashley has taken the drag racing world by storm could be an understatement. After being named the Nationwide Scorching Rod Affiliation (NHRA) Rookie of the Yr in 2020, the Plainview, New York native’s success on drag racing’s largest stage has solely accelerated.

Earlier than the beginning of the 2023 season, Ashley had already collected seven wins within the NHRA Prime Gas class. In doing so, he’d overwhelmed out a number of NHRA legends alongside the best way – by the age of 28. The second-generation racer then kicked off 2023 by winning two of the first three races of the season with back-to-back first-place finishes on the NHRA Arizona Winternationals and Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals.

Automoblog was in a position to catch Ashley sitting nonetheless simply lengthy sufficient to have a dialog in regards to the blazing sizzling begin to his profession, his plans for the longer term, and his love for drag racing.

Justin Ashley, NHRA 2020 Rookie of the Year smiling sitting in his Top Fuel dragster
Justin Ashley, 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Yr has already grow to be considered one of Prime Gas’s premier drivers by the age of 28. Picture by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery.

Are you able to describe the sensation of being named NHRA Rookie of the Yr in 2020?

“It was a tremendous feeling as a result of for us that 12 months, that was finally our purpose going into the 12 months. It wasn’t essentially to compete for a championship or lead the factors. Our purpose was to win Rookie of the Yr. That looks like a person award, however it’s a group award. 

For us to have the ability to obtain that our first 12 months out with so many good rookies and the Prime Gas competitors that award was significant. It was an essential notch in our belt for our group and for this system as an entire.”

Justin Ashley celebrating winning NHRA Rookie of the Year in 2020 with a person on either side, standing in front of a podium
Justin Ashley celebrates being named NHRA 2020 Rookie of the Yr. Picture by Ron Lewis.

To what do you credit score your progress and rising success since your debut season?

“It definitely could be a disservice to credit score one individual as a result of it’s actually been an entire group effort. Prime to backside you’ll want to encompass your self with good folks after which good issues occur. And I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by plenty of nice folks. 

My father, Mike Ashley, has been very significant in my life and has been very influential. Dustin Davis is a man that has completed an incredible job of working the day-to-day operations of the group, bringing in the best personnel and bringing in the best folks to make sure that now we have success each on and off the racetrack. 

In the end, we had been in a position to take it to that subsequent stage of success when Phillips Join got here on board in 2022, they usually have allowed us to take that sturdy basis and construct upon it and discover much more success.”

You’ve been known as a “big killer,” and as somebody below 30 profitable towards large names within the Prime Gas standings, I can see the place that comes from. What’s your first response to listening to accolades like that?

“It’s very humbling, as a result of when I’ve my identify included with a few of the biggest racers of all time, and people who I grew up watching, it truly is an incredible honor. Once you get talked about with guys like Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, Steve Torrence, Tony Schumacher, and the checklist goes on and on. 

These guys who’ve discovered a lot success and have received so many races. It’s a tremendous feeling and definitely one thing that’s very humbling. It’s one thing that I don’t take calmly.”

Justin Ashley's Top Fuel dragster at the starting line
Picture by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery.

What are your targets for the 2023 NHRA Prime Gas season?

“We take it one race at a time, it doesn’t matter what. Our group targets are the identical as everybody on the market: win the 2023 NHRA World Championship. We all know it’s a tall process, however we all know that the competitors is more durable now than it’s ever been earlier than. 

However that’s why we go to the races we anticipate to win. It’s going to be an extended, troublesome highway that may in all probability have loads of ups and downs, however that purpose will keep the identical.”

I consider you had your Prime Gas Dragster debut at Charlotte Motor Speedway? Does one other Nationals occasion there imply one thing a bit completely different to you?

“It’s definitely a particular place in my coronary heart as a result of I did make my debut there. It’s a good looking facility and one of many nicest tracks on the tour. It’s a spot that I all the time stay up for going to as a result of we’ve had success there prior to now. I actually take pleasure in racing in Charlotte.”

What would you say has been the spotlight of your profession up to now?

“Profitable the Winternationals in 2022, as a result of that was our first race with Phillips Join and our first race with Toyota. It was actually a brand-new program with model new sponsors. 

We had been engaged on our basis and to have the ability to come out at a historic race, just like the Lucas Oil Winternationals, and that win was a dream come true.”

Justin Ashley and his team standing behind his Top Fuel dragster celebrating a win at the 2022 Winternationals
Justin Ashley and his group have a good time profitable the 2022 Winternationals. Picture by Ron Lewis.

What are a few of the qualities {that a} driver must be profitable at this stage of the game?

“Self-discipline and a brief reminiscence. I believe self-discipline is essential as a result of it comes with the method. I method each spherical the identical means, whether or not it’s the primary spherical of qualifying or the final spherical of eliminations. I believe one of the best drivers on the earth are those that may do this and never concentrate on all the pieces else that’s happening outdoors the automotive. 

You must maintain all the pieces beneath the visor. You need to have a brief reminiscence as a result of all of us make loads of errors. We’ve made numerous errors prior to now, we’re going to make errors sooner or later. You must be taught from them after which put them behind you.”

What would you recommend for somebody who’s all for drag racing and desires to be taught extra?

“The perfect factor is to return to the racetrack. It’s an ideal expertise and you may actually be taught so much in regards to the sport itself, the way it works and the complete panorama of the game. 

I believe that will be one of the best factor if there’s an area occasion within the space wherein you reside. I believe you possibly can be taught so much over the course of wherever from one to 3 days just by attending an occasion.” 

What makes drag racing completely different from different common forms of racing for drivers and followers?

“Our vehicles go from zero to 330 miles per hour in below 4 seconds. They’re 11,000 horsepower vehicles which can be the quickest accelerating autos on the planet that followers not solely odor them, they really feel them. That may be a big differentiator.

It’s an unimaginable sensory expertise and you then add within the entry that followers have to have the ability to have interaction with the groups and drivers, it’s a second to none expertise. I don’t know some other sport that’s like that, the place the followers are actually outdoors and up shut and private with what’s happening monitor. That’s one thing that definitely units our sport aside from some other sport on the market.”

Justin Ashley's Top Fuel dragster racing at the 2022 Winternationals
Justin Ashley’s Prime Gas dragster takes off en path to his win on the 2022 Winternationals. Picture by Gary Nastase/Auto Imagery.

How would you describe the tradition round NHRA drag racing and the way does it differ from different forms of automotive racing?

“I’m not too aware of different racing collection, however what I can say about NHRA races is now we have a household environment. All of us take care of one another, and all of us love one another. 

All of us have a mutual respect as a result of we all know that what one group does, the opposite group does and we’re all making an attempt to perform the identical goal, which isn’t a straightforward factor to do. There’s mutual respect and appreciation. There’s a household environment, one thing that’s distinctive about our sport and it stands out.”

What recommendation would you give to somebody who’s attending their first NHRA race?

“Do all the pieces you possibly can to place the telephone away. Simply take all of it in as a result of it’s not one thing that you just simply see, it’s one thing that you just odor and really feel. I believe it’s essential since this can be a sensory expertise to do all the pieces you possibly can to simply take the entire thing in and have an appreciation for the mechanics, the engineering, the pace, and all the pieces that goes into making these vehicles run. These vehicles are so quick. They’re going 330 mph in below 4 seconds. 

What you may miss is what goes on behind the scenes. I might advise folks to exit to the pits and take within the full expertise. Watch the groups, watch the drivers have interaction with the followers, however watch the groups break down the automotive – tearing them aside and placing them again collectively in lower than an hour.”

Automoblog will likely be dwell in attendance on the 2023 Circle Okay NHRA 4-Vast Nationals on the zMax Dragway in Harmony, North Carolina to observe Ashley try so as to add one other win to his complete. Keep tuned to the web site for extra NHRA content material and a follow-up report on the race.

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