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NHRA’s Ashley looks to widen points margin in the Top Fuel championship race

by Michael Haag | Posted on Friday, October 14th, 2022

Justin Ashley. Photo courtesy of the NHRA


By Michael Haag 

ENNIS, Texas — Despite being the youngest driver competing in NHRA’s premier Top Fuel Dragster category, Justin Ashley has proved his name to be among the best. Ashley sits atop the standings ahead of the NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex. 

Justin Ashley. Photo courtesy of the NHRA

The 27-year-old holds a 14-point lead over 2021 Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence. Ashley is pleased with his performance to this point, but said the pressure amps up in the postseason. 

“Really happy with how things went, but once we get to the Countdown, everything kind of shifts,” Ashley said. “There’s a little bit of that added sense of intensity. You kind of feel the pressure coming on so it’s been an important first few races.”

Aiding in that pressure and intensity is the fact that Torrence, who’s won four-straight world titles, looms closely behind. Ashley, the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year, said he’s keeping close tabs on those beneath him, especially Torrence.

“I worry about everybody,” Ashley said. “Even when they said Steve [Torrence] was – and I quote ‘struggling’ – he was never struggling. He was having a great season, but everything is relevant. With a guy like Steve, this is not over until it’s over. If you want to leave the door cracked open even a little bit, he’s going to find a way to slither in.”

Justin Ashley. Photo courtesy of the NHRA

In order to replicate success, Ashley said he needs to maintain the same approach from the regular season to the playoffs. He added that “the biggest mistake you can make once the playoffs come is to change what actually got you there.”

Regarding the FallNationals, he is still leaving no doubt about going all in to win. 

“Make no mistake about it, we want to win,” said Ashley, who has six career Top Fuel wins. “We’re going to do everything we can to win.”

However, the Plainview, N.Y. native is trying to keep it as simple as possible. He said there’s highs and lows to a season, but to have success, he needs to keep a level-headed approach.

Justin Ashley. Photo courtesy of NHRA

“You don’t want to ride that emotional rollercoaster,” Ashley said. “You want to stay as linear as you can because at the end of the day, that’s going to give you the best chance to win.”

The Top Fuel standings remain tight, with Brittany Force 30 points back along with Mike Salinas (-35) and Antron Brown (-43) to round out the top five. The margin of error is thin and Ashley hopes to maintain on top through the end of the weekend. 



Interview with Justin Ashley:

About the Author

Michael Haag is a Journalism student at Baylor University in Waco, TX. He is also Sports Editor for the school's student newspaper, the Baylor Lariat. He has covered the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl and multiple Texas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the site in Waco. Michael has covered Baylor football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and more for the Baylor Lariat. He plans to finish in the spring of 2025 with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism.