Ashley back to winning form
Norwalk, Sunday: For the second time this season, Mike Ashley drove the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger R/T all the way to the Winner's circle in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing competition. With precision consistency, Ashley and the Gotham City Racing crew worked their way through stellar opponents to claim the title at the Inaugural Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio.
Dispatching Funny Car standout Robert Hight along with veterans Jim Head, Tony Pedregon and Kenny Bernstein, Ashley, a mortgage banker from Long Island New York, redeemed himself from two consecutive DNQ's after his first career win at Topeka, Kan. June 1.
"I am so proud of this entire team," said an ecstatic Ashley. "We went through some really difficult times with those DNQ's, but we never questioned ourselves. In fact, we maintained our confidence even in the face of that adversity. This proves that perseverance pays off and we definitely have what it takes to win.
"Everyone on this team lives with the expectation of winning every time we go to the line - and it pays off. Call it what you want, positive thinking, success orientation, whatever - but I guarantee it's not just dumb luck.
'Brian [Corradi, crew chief], Mark Oswald, Steve Boggs - all the guys worked so hard to get us where we are right now, their dedication and focus is the real story here. And, with Evan Knoll and Torco Race Fuels behind us, it feels so good to be back in the winner's circle after struggling over the past two weeks," he said.
After qualifying No. 8 on the strength of his track speed-record setting performance of 4.778/329.58, Ashley entered eliminations with lane choice over Jim Head in round one. From the right lane, Ashley's 4.848/320.51 handled Head's tire-smoking 6.317/141.83 attempt, teeing up a marquis match-up against John Force Racing's front-runner Robert Hight. Again with lane choice, Ashley blasted down the right lane into the semifinals, beating the No. 1 qualifying Hight 4.836/322.42 to 5.109/296.70.
"Every time I go head-to-head against a Force car, it's serious - and I focus on reacting like a robot - doing the same thing every time, because I don't want to let anything get in the way of winning - especially my emotions. I really try not to think about who is in the other lane, but, honestly, Robert is such a great racer, and he definitely had a hot rod all weekend, I was really focused when I got to the line," Ashley said.
"At the other end, when I knew we had the win, I was definitely relieved," he said.
Semifinal action paired Ashley against veteran racer Cruz Pedregon. Again from the right lane, Ashley drove past Pedregon who went up in smoke at about half-track. At the finish line, the Torco Race Fuels Dodge delivered a 4.865/320.51 performance, earning lane choice in the finals against legend Kenny Bernstein.
"We had such success on the right side, there was no doubt we'd be running that lane in the finals. Brian had the car running so consistently, we really didn't change anything on the car between rounds - and it proved to be absolutely the right decision."
In the final, Bernstein's car smoked the tires just after the hit, and Ashley drove away for the win with another 4.80-pass, a 4.823/321.88.
"Facing Kenny Bernstein in the finals was really an honor - he's a legend and a true racing professional," Ashley said.
Throughout eliminations, the Torco Dodge ran with ultra-consistency: 4.848/321.51, 4.836/322.42, 4.865/320.51 and 4.823/321.88 - a variance on only .042 seconds and less than 2 mph.
Ashley's win moves him into fourth place, up two spots in POWERade points just as the Countdown to the Championship moves into high gear. Unofficially, Ashley has 635 points, just one point behind Tony Pedregon and third place, and just 184 points out of the lead.
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