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Long Island’s Justin Ashley no long shot for NHRA Top Fuel title

Updated October 29, 2022 - 10:45 am

If you look at a map, Long Island in New York sort of resembles a drag strip. So perhaps it is not a major surprise that a guy who grew up there finds himself leading the Top Fuel class heading into this weekend’s NHRA Nevada Nationals at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But Long Island is not exactly the drag racing capital of the world. And given he is only 27 years old — Top Fuel’s youngest driver — nobody with the exception of Justin Ashley thought he would be in this position with just two races to go.

“My dad (Mike) was a racer, so I grew up around the sport. But it’s rare being from New York and Long Island and getting involved with NHRA drag racing — especially at the professional level,” said Ashley, a former wide receiver at Division III Ithaca who began the weekend with an 82-point edge over second-place Brittany Force.

Ashley hails from Plainview but graduated from Half Hallow Hills East high school in nearby Dix Hills. He said NHRA Pro Stock competitor John Monteclavo opened a drag strip on Long Island, and the racers there are supportive of his title pursuit even if most Long Island residents are unaware of it.

“Hopefully if we’re able to (win) it will help generate more interest than there is right now,” Ashley said about bringing home the trophy to the land strip that stretches into the Atlantic Ocean for 118 miles.

Unfinished business

This weekend, it is mostly about getting down LVMS’ near-quarter mile at lightning speed for Ashley, who gained the edge in points with a win in Texas. With only Las Vegas and the final at Pomona, California (which offers points and a half), remaining, the championship is within tantalizing reach.

But “this is the best Top Fuel field in history,” he said, alluding to 2017 champion Force and multitime titlists Antron Brown and Steve Torrence lurking in third and fourth place. “If you leave the door cracked open just a little, a lot of drivers are going to take advantage and slide in.”

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