Martin: Mike Ashley Sunday notes

Ashley advances to rain-delayed finals with motivation from special guest MARTIN, Mich. (August 5, 2007) - After advancing to the final round of eliminations in the IHRA Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals at Knoll Gas Motorsports Park in...

Ashley advances to rain-delayed finals with motivation from special guest

MARTIN, Mich. (August 5, 2007) - After advancing to the final round of eliminations in the IHRA Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals at Knoll Gas Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, Mike Ashley, driver of the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger R/T, will have to wait until Monday morning to face off against Mitch King, because persistent rain forced the postponement of the day's events. Ashley and Team Gotham's spirits were not dampened by the delayed final, however, due largely in part to the presence of a special guest.

The Make-A-Wish Foundation sent 15-year-old T.J. to join the team for the day, and the young man's effusive personality and unique perspective on life and drag racing gave the team an emotional and personal lift, despite the grey skies and damp weather.

"T.J. is an amazing person," Ashley said. "He's been through so much already in his life - these back-to-back races hardly seem worth thinking about any more. I always look for the positive in life, but he really embodies the phrase, 'expect to win.' I learned a lot today thanks to him."

The Make-A-Wish Foundation works to enrich the lives of children who have been diagnosed with life-threatening medical conditions through granting wishes, and T.J.'s wish involved racing - and helping others. After having been diagnosed with leukemia and undergoing chemotherapy, he struggled with the effects of the medication and the loss of his hair. He had to ask for a hat to cover his head, and since then has made it his personal mission to break the world record for hat collections, currently 87,000. T.J. hopes to give the hats he collects to others who suffer in similar situations. Among the other gifts he received Sunday, he definitely received a generous helping of hats.

After meeting other Torco drivers including Melanie Troxell, J.R Todd and Gary Densham, T.J. rode in the team's Durango as they went to collect Ashley after his semifinal win over Jack Wyatt. As he rode down the return road, track announcer Brian Olson welcomed the teen, and, according to others in the car, his smile was so big the car could hardly contain it. During his top-end interview, Ashley said, "I really want to thank my good luck charm, T.J. We're going to win this one for you, buddy. Never stop believing."

Later, Ashley said, "It's great, because we were able to treat him like the celebrity he is and show him a little bit of Gotham City/Torco hospitality. He was even able to spend some time with my son, Justin, and the two of them hit it off and were cruising around the pits in the golf cart.

"It's been great being back at an IHRA race and spending time with the folks from Torco and T.J. and his family. Sure, we're disappointed we couldn't wrap this all up today, but we're ready for tomorrow," he said.

Final elimination rounds are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. EDT Monday morning, August 6, weather permitting.

-credit: gcr

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Series Drag
Drivers Gary Densham , Mitch King , Melanie Troxel , Jack Wyatt , Mike Ashley , Brian Olson