Las Vegas II: Mike Ashely preview

Mike Ashley Determined to Win One for Mindy LAS VEGAS (October 22, 2007) - He's won three races this year in the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger, qualified No. 1 five times, set track records across the country including running the fastest speed...

Mike Ashley Determined to Win One for Mindy

LAS VEGAS (October 22, 2007) - He's won three races this year in the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger, qualified No. 1 five times, set track records across the country including running the fastest speed ever in a nitro Funny Car - 334.32 mph at The Strip in Las Vegas, and he's even won the sport's biggest event: the U.S. Nationals. In fact, aside from not having the opportunity to race for the NHRA Funny Car championship, Mike Ashley has accomplished everything he wanted to this year except one thing: win an event while his wife Mindy is with him at the event. Ashley is determined to change that this weekend as NHRA drag racing returns to Las Vegas for the ACDelco Vegas Nationals.

After being eliminated from the championship hunt two weeks ago by failing to remain in the top four after the Torco Nationals in Virginia, the mortgage banker from New York hasn't lost any fire - if anything, he's gained laser focus on winning the final two races on the NHRA calendar.

"We've got the car to beat," said a confident Ashley. "We ran the quickest for both Saturday and Sunday in Richmond, and despite not being in the final playoffs, we're out here to win.

"My wife Mindy is coming with me and we're leaving the kids at home, so the weekend will be like a honeymoon for us. I'd love to hand her a golden Wally [event trophy] in the Winner's Circle Sunday evening, because she has been right beside me for so long - she more than anyone deserves it," he said.

"Evan Knoll and Latrell Preston from Torco will also be with us this weekend, and we always race well when they are there. They were with us for the big wins in Indy and Topeka, and I'm looking forward to spending some time with them, too," Ashley said.

Ashley's father, Ken Ashley, will be joining him as well, and, according to the younger Ashley, his father has not witnessed an NHRA event-winning performance in person either.

"I love my dad, and I want him to know the excitement on the starting line when we win an event. There's nothing like it, and my dad has been there for me, too, shouting directions and helping me always improve. He's a huge reason I am the way I am today," Ashley said.

The Gotham City Racing team will also be host to a variety of other special guests this weekend in the Torco Race Fuels hospitality suite. Joining the Ashleys will be a special young man who has brought encouragement and insight all season long, a huge Mike Ashley fan from Michigan, TJ.

"TJ is such a wonderful person, his spirit is so pure. He has struggled with health issues and we met through Make-a-Wish because he wanted to spend some time with a professional drag racing team, but, instead of him getting the blessing and dream come true, I'm the one who really got the good stuff. I got a little voice that's always so positive, just pushing me along.

"Even when the outcome on the track isn't positive, I can count on him to send me an email showing me the brighter side. He is about real life, and we met through this amazing sport of drag racing," Ashley said.

Also joining the team for the weekend will be NHRA Safety Safari staff member Jimmy Ledbetter and his wife Brenda who will be renewing their wedding vows Friday night in the hospitality area. The Ledbetters were married in Las Vegas five years ago, and, although his job is with the NHRA, she has never attended a National event.

Ledbetter said, "I've been keeping up with Mike's career since he won the Championship in Pro Mod and debuted his Funny Car in 2005, and Angelo, Mike's Team Manager, and I have been friends since the Las Vegas Race in 2004

"I told Angelo about what were trying to do this year for our anniversary, and, he and Mike just took off with it. Both Brenda and I are really excited to do this, and, to share it with Mike and his team really means a lot to both of us," Ledbetter said.

Ashley said, "This is one of the things I love most about drag racing - it's a huge family. Family is so important to me, and to be able to be a part of this special event for Jimmy and his wife is a real privilege."

The wedding ceremony will be conducted on Friday October 26 after nitro qualifying which is scheduled for 2 and 4:30 p.m. Qualifying continues on Saturday with rounds scheduled for 1:15 and 3:30, and eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. Sunday, October 28.

-credit: gcr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Ashley