Ashley No. 7 heading into Sunday in Pomona POMONA, Calif. (November 3, 2007) - Reigning U.S. Nationals champion and Torco Race Fuels driver Mike Ashley finished qualifying in seventh position for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA...
Ashley No. 7 heading into Sunday in Pomona
POMONA, Calif. (November 3, 2007) - Reigning U.S. Nationals champion and Torco Race Fuels driver Mike Ashley finished qualifying in seventh position for the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals and will face John Force Racing rookie Mike Neff in the first round of eliminations tomorrow as Ashley pushes to reach fifth place in POWERade Championship points.
Coming into today's last two rounds of qualifying, Ashley was sitting beneath the bump spot at No. 22, but quickly closed the door to any questions about his racing in eliminations on Sunday. In the first round today, Ashley covered the quarter-mile in 4.807 seconds at 323.97 mph, netting him sixth place after that round. In the final qualifying round, Ashley ran a slightly slower 4.827/323.97 and dropped one spot to the "lucky seven" position in the ladder.
"Like I said last night, I was extremely confident coming into today. Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald and the guys had the car in great shape, and we took the track by storm," Ashley said.
"On the '.80, the car got a little out of shape at the end of the run, but I was able to hold on and get us well into the top of the pack. The last round was again, really consistent, and we've got a handle on what we think will be race-day conditions," he said.
On racing Mike Neff first round Sunday, Ashley said he can relate to what he things Neff might be feeling.
"When I started racing Funny Car, I started with just a few races left in the season, too, and really had a lot to learn. It doesn't mater how much you've been around these cars or what your racing history is, race day at Pomona in Funny Car is something you just have to experience. Mike has proven he's got what it takes to drive, and, driving a John Force car, we're obviously taking him very seriously.
"You always focus on racing your own race and doing your job, and that's what I'm planning for tomorrow. I've got the best team out there getting the Torco Race Fuels Charger ready for me, and I plan to relax tonight and get a good night's sleep to be ready for the races," he said.
Coming into this event, Ashley was 37 points out of fifth place in POWERade points - less than two rounds behind No. 5 Jack Beckman, and after qualifying, the gap between the two increased to 41 points. Should both drivers advance, Ashley and Beckman will face each other in round two, and Ashley would have to win the event to take over fifth spot. Should Beckman lose first round, Ashley would have to at least runner-up to move up.
"The points make it fun, but, the truth is, this team is a championship team, no matter if they are fifth or sixth. We're not really going to focus on that so much as, like I said, go out there and run our race. Ultimately, my goal is to win. Period. And that's exactly what I always expect to do - win every time I get in the car," Ashley said.
Ashley also had a special guest motivating him this weekend, 8-year-old Noah Landon, who Ashley said is someone who embodies the winning spirit. The young San Clemente-resident suffers from both Autism as well as an immune deficiency, and while he normally avoids hugs and high-fives, was truly at home with Torco's Jennifer Dudenhoffer and the entire Gotham City Racing team on Saturday, running and jumping and handing out hugs like it was Halloween candy.
"What we do out here is so much more than just racing - and winning is more than getting to the finish line first. It's winning in life and winning in attitude. I loved getting to spend some time with Noah and his mom, Julie. They are winning every day in their fight against Autism, and they motivate me more than points or championships," Ashley said.