MIKE ASHLEY TO RETURN TO COMPETITION IN 2009 RACING A SECOND MAR TOP FUEL DRAGSTER Three-time Funny Car winner looks to become just the 15th driver in NHRA history to win races in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. BROWNSBURG, Ind. (May 18, 2009) -...
MIKE ASHLEY TO RETURN TO COMPETITION IN 2009
RACING A SECOND MAR TOP FUEL DRAGSTER
Three-time Funny Car winner looks to become just the 15th driver in NHRA history to win races in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.
BROWNSBURG, Ind. (May 18, 2009) - Mike Ashley, a three-time NHRA Funny Car winner and owner of Antron Brown's Matco Tools dragster, will return to professional competition this season Ashley announced today. The 2007 U.S. Nationals winner will field a second MAR Top Fuel dragster to team with Brown and the Matco Tools crew at the final four races on the 2009 NHRA schedule.
Ashley, who clocked the fastest Funny Car speed in NHRA history at 334.32 mph (Las Vegas 1 2007), will compete at the Memphis, Richmond, Las Vegas 2 and Pomona 2 races. He also will race a second MAR dragster on a part-time basis during the 2010 NHRA season. The dragster will fly the colors of Lend America. Chuck Ford and Rob Wendland will serve as co-crew chiefs on the Lend America dragster teaming with MAR's current tuning duo of Brian Corradi and Mark Oswald who have tuned Antron Brown to two Top Fuel wins this season and a second-place ranking.
"I'm very excited to take on the challenge of driving a Top Fuel dragster," Ashley said. "After driving the Pro Mod and then a nitro Funny Car, oddly enough, I think Top Fuel is a combination of both in terms of driving style. I am excited to have Chuck (Ford) and Rob (Wendland) run my car and I am confident with guidance from Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) we will be in the thick of things."
Ashley's move to Top Fuel means the popular racer will make a bid to join an elite group of NHRA racers who have collected "Wally" trophies in both nitromethane-powered categories. Oswald, the 1984 NHRA Funny Car champion, was the second of 14 drivers in NHRA history to score wins in both Top Fuel and Funny Car following racing legend Don "the Snake" Prudhomme. Other NHRA champions to accomplish the feat are Frank Hawley, Kenny Bernstein, Scott Kalitta and Gary Scelzi.
"I'd love to win some races along the way," Ashley said. "However, Antron (Brown) and our Matco Tools team is the priority. This second effort will always play second fiddle to that team and our goal is that any added information will help Antron and the Matco team advance their research and development curve."
Ashley previously teamed with Ford to win consecutive AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod Challenge titles in 2004-05. Ford currently directs Ashley's Pro Mod operation driven by Joe Baker. Ashley will attempt to earn his crossover Top Fuel license after the Charlotte NHRA race in September at zMax Dragway at Concord. Wendland joined the MAR team this spring and previously was the car chief for John Force.
"Mike's (Ashley) been trying to get me to come over to this side for a few years, but it just never happened," Ford said. "It will be a different challenge for me. I'm both excited and apprehensive. I've worked with Mike since 2002 and he's a great guy to work for. He gives us everything we need to be successful. I've done some work for Brian (Corradi) and Mark (Oswald) for a few years now, so we have a great relationship. I'm excited to get things going on this new project."
Ashley, who earned his NHRA Funny Car license in July 2005, made his professional debut at the prestigious U.S. Nationals that year. He earned his first professional round win at the Las Vegas 2 event that fall. The New York native advanced to his first career Funny Car final round at Dallas in 2006. Ashley experienced a banner season in 2007 behind the wheel of his Corradi and Oswald-tuned flopper. The mortgage executive earned his first career No. 1 qualifying award at Las Vegas 1 with a lap of 4.725 seconds at 334.32 mph. It remains the fastest Funny Car speed ever. It was the first of five poles that season for Ashley. The enthusiastic racer collected his first professional "Wally" trophy when he defeated Jim Head in the final round at Heartland Park Topeka. He won again at the inaugural Norwalk, Ohio race and capped off a spectacular '07 season by racing to the winner's circle at O'Reilly Raceway Park to earn the celebrated U.S. Nationals trophy. In 2008, Ashley swapped the drivers seat for the board room to focus his efforts on Lend America. As a team owner, he has seen both Melanie Troxel and Brown win races.