Rookie NHRA Mello Yello Series Top Fuel driver Justin Ashley can expect a shipment of pizzas from Chicago’s iconic Lou Malnati’s to his Long Island home soon.
His Saturday match-up with T.J. Zizzo—their completion of eliminations from the rain-interrupted Lucas Oil Summernationals in July at Indianapolis—crowned a first-time winner . . . with Chicago- vs. New York-style pizza on the line.
The two had made a friendly wager, and Ashley and his Strutmasters.com Dragster team for Davis Motorsports earned their free dinner during the final Top Fuel qualifying session for the Denso U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis.
Ashley covered the 1,000-foot course in 3.958 seconds with a 267.96-mph speed. The engine in Zizzo’s Rust-Oleum Rocket let go with a fiery blast at the end of his 4.056-second, 276.75-mph effort.
“I’m going to have to hold back tears right now, because this is a dream come true for me, [a dream] for a very long time. Truth of the matter is this isn’t even about me. It’s about this team and all the people and all our awesome marketing partners who have supported us and allowed us to get to this point,” Ashley said.
His father, Mike Ashley, won the Funny Car final here in 2007, and the 25-year-old son said, “There’s no doubt about it—this trophy right here is for my father.”
The Funny Car final guaranteed Don Schumacher Racing its NHRA-record 350thvictory. The only question was which Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat driver—Jack Beckman or Matt Hagan—would capture the “Wally” trophy.
The answer is Hagan, with a 3.919-second elapsed time at 328.54 mph to Beckman’s 3.940, 325.53 on the 1,000-foot course.
Beckman, in his Infinite Hero Foundation entry, and Hagan, in his Mopar/Pennzoil/Sandvik Dodge, entered this weekend in second and third places, respectively, with just 15 points separating them. In contrast to their Top Fuel counterparts, the two DSR mates, had a combined 67 victories. For Hagan, it was his 35th overall, and it lifted him to second place in the standings.
“I was as nervous as I was for a championship,” Hagan said. “To have a Wally already on Saturday night at the U.S. Nationals, ‘The Big Go,’ it can only get better from here.”
In the Pro Modified class, Chad Green won by about 25 feet as Jason Scruggs’ engine fell silent early in the battle between the Chevy Camaros. Green covered the quarter-mile in 5.823 seconds at 250.09 mph, and Scruggs glided to a 5.904-second elapsed time at 204.42 mph. Scruggs will lead the field in eliminations Sunday.
Ironically, the inaugural U.S. Nationals started at Great Bend, Kan., and finished 48 days later at Phoenix. The 2020 Summernationals began in July and finished at the U.S. Nationals—48 days later.
Top qualifiers for Sunday’s 66th U.S. Nationals eliminations are Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Tommy Johnson Jr. (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock), and Scotty Pollacheck (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
In other action, Randal Andras defeated Jay Turner in the Top Fuel Harley final round. Matt Smith won $25,000 for winning the Pro Bike Battle bonus race over Pollacheck, who fouled out by one-thousandth of a second.
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