Ashley clinches top-eight spot in Countdown
Brainerd, Sunday: Mike Ashley clinched his spot in the top eight Funny Car drivers in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship with his No. 1 qualifying performance and first round exit in the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. today. Ashley maintained third place in POWERade Championship points, moved up to second place from fifth in the SKOAL Showdown, and his team was awarded the Full Throttle Pit Crew Championship Award for their consistent efforts in qualifying as well.
After earning his fifth NHRA No.1 qualifying award with a blistering 4.781/327.51, Ashley ran his slowest pass all weekend against Scelzi, 4.903/305.42 to 4.841/317.19, and said parts attrition caused the sub-par performance.
"It's bittersweet, really," explained the 42-year-old driver of the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger R/T. "Going out first round against Gary Scelzi is disappointing, but if you look at the big picture, we're really in an amazing place.
"It was a $2 part that broke and cost us the round. At 60-feet, a stud on the manifold broke, and then another and another, till the 1000-foot mark where we had absolutely no blower boost at all. It's one of those things that happens, but, you never want it to happen in eliminations. Plus, we were having brake problems, and I couldn't hold the car in the lights, which is why Gary left so much quicker than I.
"Still, we had the lowest ET of qualifying and the fastest speed of the event, kept our position in the Countdown, and moved up to second in the SKOAL showdown. That really is pretty amazing," Ashley said.
It is the second year in a row that Ashley has set top speed at this event, last year running 326.32 mph and this year 327.51 mph.
"Brian Corradi and the guys have worked so hard all year, starting from when we first opened our new shop in Indy till today. We've had the goal of making the top eight all season, and today we clinched that. I couldn't be more proud of all my guys," he said.
Ashley and the Torco Dodge were never out of the top eight all season long, and has been in the top four for ten of the 16 races to date.
"We really have come a long way, and our performance has been so consistent all season. We've got one more race to defend our No. 3 spot in the points, and then the next round of the Countdown begins," Ashley said.
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