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Justin Ashley Joins Erica Enders And John Force As Top Qualifiers At Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals

CONCORD, NC (September 24, 2022) --- It was an amazing day at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals and it ended with Justin Ashley, John Force, and Erica Enders atop their respective classes at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina.

Justin Ashley drove the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Vita C Energy to the No. 1 qualifier position at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals today at zMax Dragway. It was Ashley’s second career No. 1 qualifier and second consecutive No. 1 at zMax Dragway, after his No. 1 effort at the Circle K Four-Wide Nationals earlier this season. His No. 1 run came during a quick third and final session that saw four drivers run around provisional No. 1 qualifier Doug Kalitta before Ashley’s 3.668 second run at 335.65 mph secured the top spot.

“I usually try and stay within myself but that session I was peeking at the SunocoVision trying to see what the teams in front of us ran,” said Ashley in the zMax Dragway media center. “I could tell they ran in the 3.60s and those are some good teams. I knew Mike Green and Tommy DeLago would try and go up there to do the same. I figured Mike and Tommy were going to try and run a little quicker. You can try as much as you want but going out there and doing it successfully really speaks volumes about our team.”

The 2020 Rookie of the Year’s success at zMax Dragway has extended to his first career start in 2019 when he raced to a semifinal finish in his professional debut.

“Far and away this is the most beautiful facility on tour,” said Ashley, who raced to a runner-up finish last weekend at the first Countdown event. “I think as soon as you pull in you realize how gorgeous this place is and how clean it is. We have had a lot of success during qualifying here at the first two races in Charlotte this season. We are going to enjoy this one tonight and then put it behind us to focus on the race tomorrow.”

Ashley made the third quickest run Friday to earn one qualifying bonus point and his team picked up another three points with the quickest run of the third session. The ability to grab the little points has the four-time Top Fuel national event winner excited for his championship aspirations.

“Consistency is critical especially during the Countdown,” said Ashley, who has raced to at least the semifinals in six of the previous seven national events. “If you want to win races you obviously have to go A to B, but you also want to be able to collect those bonus points. All those points add up quickly. We are going down the track every run trying to stay within ourselves. We are not trying to shock the world. It is important to be consistent and to qualify well to put yourself in the best position to win the race on Sunday. The way the Top Fuel field is now no matter where you qualify it is going to be a difficult first round.”

Ashley will face No. 16 qualifier Alex Laughlin who has a 3-1 career head-to-head record against in the first round. Earlier this season Ashley defeated the versatile driver in the first round at the Sonoma races of the Countdown.

“Every race is a dogfight no matter who you are racing,” said Ashley. “I think the other teams would tell you that they are worrying about themselves. We are worried about ourselves. We have made the statement that we are here to play. We have great sponsors with Phillips Connect. We are out here having fun and trying to build something special. To see how far this program has come is a testament to this team and our marketing partners. To Dustin Davis, Mike and Tommy as whole everyone has done a great job putting us in this position.”

Off the efforts of his Friday night performance, John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS have secured their second No. 1 of the season, fifth at zMAX Dragway and 165th of Force’s career at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals.

After a 3.854-second pass at 330.47 mph on Friday night that ensured a No. 1 start, John Force and the PEAK Chevy had trouble getting down track both runs on Saturday. They would open the day smoking the tires early around the 300-foot mark to coast to a 5.343-second pass at 134.58 mph. In the final session, the Chevy moved a bit and Force had to shut off for a 4.158 at 226.35 mph.

“Well, we got it yesterday and it’s a good thing. I really thought someone else was going to get it today, we weren’t able to repeat it. Daniel Hood and Tim Fabrisi, these PEAK guys, they are doing a real good job. We’re all learning every week,” Force said. “You asked me yesterday about luck and I’m not superstitious, but the cards seem to be leaning my way this weekend. I know the competition out there is tough, these kids out here are good. I have a lot of work to do to keep up with them.”

The other JFR trio including Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy dragster moved into the No. 2 spot while Robert Hight sits No. 3 with the Automobile Club of Southern California Camaro and Austin Prock has the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team in 10th.

In Pro Stock, Erica Enders continued her weekend dominance by capturing the most points possible. Erica made the most of both Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions, leading the pack and looked somewhat unstoppable heading into Sunday.

Enders improved on her field-leading Friday 6.513 with a 6.510 in Q2 but got some closer competition from Elite teammate Troy Coughlin Jr., who overcame Friday’s nine-second run with a 6.522. Enders then reasserted that authority with a steady 6.514 in the final session, making for three runs within .004-second. It’s her fourth No. 1 of the year and the 27th of her career.

"I just think this says what we're capable of and that was our goal going into Reading where we got every point there except for one," she said, "but to come in here and to accumulate nine bonus points for qualifying. with each round is 20 points., so virtually a half a round here, half a round in Reading, that equals one. So we're just gonna keep chipping away at it and hopefully extend the lead.

"Having said that race days a different day, and we got a target on her back. So we got to go to work. The pressure's on me to just put my head down, go to work and do my job, make no mistakes and execute as perfectly as I can."

Troy Coughlin Jr. finished second on the day moving Greg Anderson down to third while both Matt Hartford and Dallas Glenn improved over their Friday times to record identical 6.530s with Hartford getting the fourth spot thanks to a barely better speed, 210.08 to 210.05 mph.

Aaron Stanfield (6.538), Kyle Koretsky (6.544), and Camrie Caruso (6.548) round out the top eight.

Eliminations at the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, the second of six NHRA Countdown to the Championship races, are slated to begin Sunday at noon. Television coverage of the event will be on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) and continues with a second qualifying show Sunday at 2 p.m. ET with eliminations coverage at 3 p.m. ET.

Check out the full Saturday recap from Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor:

Catch Saturday's photo gallery from NHRA National Dragster staff:

Content: Werner Communications / JFR PR / NHRA / RPM

Photo: RPM / NHRA


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