Ashley wins Indy
Indianapolis, Monday: It's been called the Super Bowl of drag racing: Indianapolis, the biggest drag race of the season where the very best come together to compete to be called Champion of the MAC Tools U.S. Nationals - and for mortgage banker Mike Ashley, it's a dream that came true today. After four rounds of grueling eliminations, Ashley drove the special-edition Eric Blake Faulkner Foundation Tribute Car all the way to the Winner's Circle and into second place in POWERade Championship points-race.
"This one is for the dreamers - because it's been a dream of mine to win at Indy since we debuted two years ago," said an ecstatic Ashley. "This means so much, not only for the team and for Evan Knoll, Torco, and all our sponsors, but because of the Eric Blake Faulkner Foundation and how important this win is to them."
Ashley drove the Chip Foose-designed tribute car with masterful precision throughout eliminations, facing the sport's very best. In the first round, Ashley defeated Torco teammate Gary Densham 4.835/327.11 to 5.023/ 265.17 in a solid race that set the benchmark for what was to come. Next, he stopped 'Fast' Jack Beckman who was hoping to double up on his $100,000 Skoal Showdown win, with a straight shot down the quarter-mile, 4.882/324.12 to 5.305/ 299.66.
The semifinals saw Ashley face former teammate Del Worsham, whom to date has dominated in prior head-to-head competition. Ashley turned the tide, however, as Worsham smoked the tires in the treacherous right lane, running a 6.526/169.68 to Ashley's 4.961/319.90.
His semifinal performance earned lane choice over Robert Hight in his Force Racing Mustang, and that proved to be all-important to the eventual outcome. In the final, Ashley ran a solid 4.894/323.74 as Hight smoked the tires and watched Ashley drive the Tribute car to the win and U.S. Nationals title.
"It's funny, really," Ashley said. "We DNQ'd in Englishtown and won the next race in Norwalk. And then we DNQ'd in Reading and won here in Indy. I think that says so much about how we run this car - we swing for the fences with every pass. Sometimes you strike out - like in Reading - and sometimes you hit a home run, like we did here today at Indy.
"I can't say thank you enough to Evan Knoll, who two years ago said he believed in me and let me do this, and this is exactly what I said I would do for him - contend for the championship. Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald [crew chiefs], Steve Boggs and the rest of the team - they all proved what we have been talking about all year: that we have a commitment to winning the Championship, and I think this really proved that today," he said.
Aside from the win at the U.S. Nationals, Ashley noted how the victory would help bring awareness to the Foundation. After this one-race appearance of the "Purpose beyond Reason"-titled car, it is being sent to Scottsdale Ariz. where it will be auctioned off at the Barrett-Jackson Classic Car Auction January 12-20, 2008, with all funds raised going directly to the Foundation to support the Perinatal Loss Program at the St. Vincent Health System Hospital in Little Rock, Ark.
The Foundation was created by Donnie and Hollie Faulkner in memory of their son, Eric Blake, who was stillborn May 24, 2007, with the single goal of helping other parents who suffer similar loss.
In addition to Evan Knoll who donated his sponsorship of Ashley's car at the U.S. Nationals, support for the project includes Ashley, who is donating a rolling chassis and coordinating the project; Jim Jannard, founder of Oakley and Red, a sponsor of Ashley's and longtime friend of the Faulkners; Chip Foose, the legendary auto designer who has directed the design and worked with Mark Adkins and the team at Illusions Custom Paint and Body of Bristol, Tenn. to create the one-of-a-kind paint scheme; Valspar, who has donated all the paint for the project; MOPAR, who has donated the 2007 Dodge Charger R/T body specifically for the project; Phoenix Custom Apparel; and MAC Tools, the title sponsor of the US Nationals, who has donated a complete rolling toolbox painted to match the original FOOSE design. Other contributors to the project include Phoenix Custom Apparel and Impact Racing Products.
"It's really an awesome thing, to win the U.S. Nationals, and I couldn't be prouder of all my guys," Ashley said.
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