Ashley's Championship dreams come down to one race after early exit in Dallas ENNIS, Texas (September 23, 2007) - As if the tension and excitement couldn't be any greater in the POWERade Championship Countdown, Mike Ashley, driver of the Torco...
Ashley's Championship dreams come down to one race after early exit in Dallas
ENNIS, Texas (September 23, 2007) - As if the tension and excitement couldn't be any greater in the POWERade Championship Countdown, Mike Ashley, driver of the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger R/T, added more of his own gripping New York-style drama when he lost first round to Kenny Bernstein in the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals, forcing a showdown at the upcoming Torco Race Fuels Nationals in Richmond, Virginia, October 5-7.
Ashley pulled to the line at the Texas Motorplex opposite Bernstein in the first round of eliminations just as the skies started to sprinkle, and the two rushed to get their round in before racing was called to a temporary halt to wait out the rain. Bernstein led from the start, as Ashley's car hazed the tires about 600 feet into the run and, at the stripe, it was 4.888/312.35 to Ashley's 6.002/161.48.
"We just lost traction and couldn't catch up," Ashley said. "It's definitely not what we were hoping for, but, we're still in the hunt for the Championship based on the other guys who went out first round, too."
Ashley entered the event in sixth place, only 89 points behind leader Robert Hight. Just twelve points separated Ashley, Tony Pedregon, Ron Capps and Gary Scelzi, and all were less than two round-wins out of second place Jack Beckman before the event. In the first round of today's event, Capps, Beckman and Scelzi all lost, keeping the points-chase just as tight between the drivers heading into the next race.
Hight failed to qualify for the event, and John Force, who had made it to the quarterfinals, was involved in a devastating crash with Kenny Bernstein and was unable to race the semifinal match against Tony Pedregon. At the end of the day, Ashley fell to seventh place, but his confidence was unscathed.
"We are very much still in the countdown and excited that our destiny is in our hands," he said. "It all comes down to one race, and we have the opportunity to lock it up at my sponsors race -- what else can you really ask for?"
"I think it's tragic what happened today to John Force and Kenny Bernstein. I'm glad Kenny is ok, and I know John will be too. It's a testament to what that team has done in the name of safety that both drivers are as well off as they are, and I know in my heart John will be back racing very soon. He's a fighter, and a hero," Ashley said.
Ashley sat out qualifying on Saturday in observance of Yom Kippur, and while he spent the day at temple, his Gotham City Racing team used the time to completely examine the entire car. As they worked through every system, the team identified a few small issues that had been sapping horsepower from the traditionally powerful car and were able to replace and repair parts to return the car to its race-winning condition.
"It's like we have a totally brand new car. I have to hand it to these guys, we are like a band of brothers, and we all support each other in our goal of winning a championship. I don't know of any other team that has what we have here, they are the very best," he said.
"We've got a week off before Richmond, and then we'll hit it hard at the Torco Nationals to get into the Countdown to One," Ashley said.
The team will be back in action at the Torco Race Fuels Nationals in Richmond, Virginia, October 5-7.