NHRA Nevada Nationals
Event 20 of 21
Countdown Event 5 of 6
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Oct. 27-29, 2023
Justin Ashley Races to Runner-Up Finish in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (Oct. 29, 2023) – Justin Ashley and the Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster powered by Phillips Connect came up just short of their bid for a seventh Top Fuel victory this season today at the NHRA Nevada Nationals. Ashley, the No. 6 qualifier, outran Dan Mercier, Austin Prock and Steve Torrence before losing to Mike Salinas in the final round. The successful day kept Ashley in the championship conversation as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series heads to Pomona, California for the season finale in two weeks.
“I feel really good about the way the day went today,” said Ashley. “It was critical for us to be in the championship hunt and give ourselves a realistic chance going into Pomona by the time this race was over. I think that we did a good job of accomplishing that. One more round would have made a big difference and we would have loved to have come away with the win. Anytime you go to a final round in a race like this, at such a crucial point in the season that is super important. We feel good and I am just looking forward to trying to take those next steps.”
Ashley faced Canadian drag racer Mercier in the opening round looking to kick start his championship hopes. As the No. 6 qualifier, the Leatherwood Distillery Top Fuel dragster powered by Phillips Connect had lane choice and Ashley took full advantage, getting a starting line advantage and never trailing in the drag race. Ashley’s winning time of 3.736 seconds was enough to get the win over Mercier’s solid 3.752 second pass.
In the quarterfinals Ashley drew fellow Countdown competitor Prock and his John Force Racing backed Top Fuel dragster. Once again, Ashley was first off the line with a reaction time advantage of .043 to .060 and his much improved 3.703 second pass prevailed over Prock’s 3.727 second run. The win advanced Ashley into the semifinals against Torrence, one of the drivers he is chasing for the Top Fuel world championship.
Looking for a 40-point swing in the championship standings, Toyota teammates Ashley and Torrence pulled up to the starting line. Ashley was looking to overcome a slight performance disadvantage and he used his starting line expertise to jump off the line with a .036 second reaction time and held off Torrence at the finish line with a slower elapsed time of 3.730 seconds to 3.680 seconds. Ashley advanced to his eighth final round of the season.
“Our goal coming into this race was getting four win lights,” said Ashley, who raced to his first final round at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. “It's just so tough out here. Steve is a great competitor. He's a Toyota teammate and that car is running great but you know, there's no quit in this team. This Leatherwood Distillery Toyota Phillips Connect team, just grinds and grinds. I couldn’t be prouder of this team. We are trying to stack as many rounds up today as possible and we have more work to do.”
Racing the No. 1 qualifier Salinas in the final round, Ashley was looking for his seventh win of the season. Ashley was first off the line but his 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragster overpowered the track and opened the door for Salinas to race to the win. At the end of the day, Ashley is only 82 points out of first place, which with points-and-a-half, is only three rounds.
“Going to the final was big for points, which is most important but in addition to the points, it gives us more data and information,” said Ashley. “We haven't been able to go rounds the last few races so when you don't go rounds, you don't pick up the points but we also don't get more data and information. It was crucial for us just for the sake of momentum to stack some round wins on top of each other this weekend.”
Qualified: No. 6 (3.708 E.T. at 334.82 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.736 E.T. at 326.79 MPH defeated Dan Mercier 3.752 E.T. at 304.87 MPH
E2: 3.703 E.T. at 331.69 MPH defeated Austin Prock 3.727 E.T. at 319.07 MPH
E3: 3.730 E.T. at 328.46 MPH defeated Steve Torrence 3.680 E.T. at 331.77 MPH
E4: 5.796 E.T. at 120.56 MPH defeated by Mike Salinas 3.673 E.T. at 333.16 MPH
Tony Schumacher Finds Positives in Second-Round Finish at NHRA Nevada Nationals
Multi-time NHRA Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher went into the second round of eliminations at the NHRA Nevada Nationals full of confidence. His SCAG Power Equipment dragster was one of the most consistent cars in qualifying, and he made a weekend-best pass in the opening round of Sunday eliminations at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but a dead cylinder at the hit of the throttle prevented Schumacher from moving past the quarterfinals. Schumacher was ultra-consistent in qualifying. After a tire-smoking run in Friday’s first session, the eight-time world champion ran a trio of 3.72-second passes to qualify No. 9. That included a 3.729 E.T. at 330.63 MPH run in the second session on Friday and two 3.723-second passes on Saturday. He had the third-quickest E.T. of the third session to earn one bonus point. That consistency in qualifying gave crew chiefs Mike Neff and Jon Schaffer the confidence to get aggressive for Sunday’s first round of eliminations against Shawn Langdon. Schumacher left the starting line just a thousandth of a second behind Langdon before charging down the track with a 3.697-second pass to finish ahead of Langdon’s 3.744 E.T. Schumacher had the starting line advantage in the second round against No. 1 qualifier Mike Salinas, but he slowed to a 3.867-second pass next to Salinas and his 3.688 E.T. “That was a tough one,” said Schumacher, who’s reached the winner’s circle eight times in Las Vegas. “We made such a great run first round. I really thought we had it. There was so much left after that first round. We had a .67 in that car and I thought it was going to do it. It put a hole out at the step. That sucked the wind out of my sails because I thought we were going to win this race. We'll go to Pomona with a good car. We'll test on Monday because we have new parts and new pieces. This car will be starting out next year with some wins right away.” After taking part in the ‘Monday Nationals’ test session at The Strip, Schumacher and the SCAG Power Equipment team will chase down one final win of the 2023 NHRA Camping World Series season in two weeks at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals, Nov. 10-12, at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Pomona, Calif. Qualified: No. 9 (3.723 E.T. at 331.61 MPH) Elimination Round Results: E1: 3.697 E.T. at 326.87 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 3.744 E.T. at 323.74 MPH E2: 3.867 E.T. at 313.80 MPH defeated by Mike Salinas 3.688 E.T. at 334.48 MPH
Round One Explosion Ends Tim Wilkerson’s Day at Nevada Nationals
Tim Wilkerson’s weekend at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway ended in spectacular fashion on Sunday morning when he suffered a massive explosion during round one of eliminations. At the second-to-last event of the 2023 NHRA season, Wilkerson used a 3.907-second pass, the second-quickest run of Saturday’s first session, to qualify the SCAG Power Equipment/Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang ninth on the NHRA Nevada Nationals Funny Car eliminations ladder. Wilkerson went into race day armed with confidence after recording three solid runs during qualifying and faced No. 8 qualifier Alexis DeJoria for the second consecutive race weekend. At the NHRA Fall Nationals near Dallas two weeks prior, Wilkerson defeated DeJoria in the first round and went on to advance to the semifinals aboard the Maynard Wilkerson Racing entry. The two-time winner in 2023 was looking to extend his round-win lead over DeJoria on Sunday in Las Vegas. Wilkerson moved first to capture the early lead but near the 500-foot mark, his machine started to lose traction before suffering an engine explosion which sent his burst panel airborne while DeJoria made a full pull in the opposite lane for the win. “You know, when you see such good weather and a good track, you really want to get out there and get after it,“ said Wilkerson, who previously, only had one prior first-round loss in the 2023 NHRA Countdown. “I just threw a little bit too much at it and pushed the car way past the breaking point. My guys were working so hard and gave me a great car to race this weekend, so I’m mad at myself for blowing it up like I did and making a lot more work for them. “Overall, we had a good weekend. We had SCAG dealers from all over the country out with us, and we got to show them a great time at The Strip. It’s always a blast to see SCAG dealers coming out for second or third events because we really get to know these folks and they always have a great time out here with us.” Wilkerson will enter the final event of the series, the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals, at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip in Pomona, Calif., ranked eighth in the Camping World Series Funny Car standings. Qualified: No. 9 (3.907 E.T. at 332.18 MPH) Elimination Round Results: E1: 4.674 E.T. at 164.49 MPH defeated by Alexis DeJoria 3.923 E.T. at 326.16 MPH