Justin Ashley's first Top Fuel win, victories by Hagan, Green, and Andras wrap up rain-delayed Summernationals event
Justin Ashley, Matt Hagan, Chad Green, and Randal Andras finally added their names to 2020’s rollcall of winners as each won his rain-delayed final round from the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals during final qualifying Saturday at the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA U.S. Nationals.
The final rounds of Funny Car, Pro Mod, and Top Fuel Harley were postponed seven weeks ago by to a late-afternoon thunderstorm that rolled through Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis on July 19, leaving blank the final outcomes of NHRA’s second event in its Return to Racing after the pandemic outbreak.
First-time finalists Zizzo and Ashley were battling to become NHRA’s 109th different Top Fuel winner. It was the first time since the 1997 Summernationals (then held in Englishtown N, J.) that two first-time Top Fuel finalists squared off in the money round.
Ashley left first, as he almost always does, but Zizzo caught him early until his engine started to go away and Ashley roared away to his first victory, 3.95 to 4.05, despite pitching the blower belt just before the finish line.
“It is very emotional for me. This is something I dreamed about since I was a young kid,” said Ashley surrounded by his team after the victory. “I grew up around the race track so I knew this was going to be an emotional moment. I pictured it in my head over and over again. To actually be here right now means the world to me. The amazing thing is it is not even about me. It is about my crew guys behind me. It is about this Davis Motorsports team. They are the reason I am here holding this Wally. It is because of them and it is because of my parents who always believed in me. Right now I just have to take a deep breathe, take the moment in and enjoy this one as a team and then make no mistake we have to regroup and get focused for tomorrow.”
Zizzo reached his first career final by driving his Rust-Oleum dragster to convincing wins against Terry Totten, Todd Paton, and Terry McMillen. Ashley, who was appearing in his first final in his seventh start in the class, qualified just 14th but wheeled his Strutmasters.com entry past a tough line-up including Shawn Langdon, points leader Doug Kalitta, and Leah Pruett.
Don Schumacher Racing teammates Hagan and Jack Beckman were battling to see who would have the honor of registering DSR’s 350th team win, a total that started 50 years agio at this event when Don Schumacher won the Funny Car crown.
Hagan was gunning for his second win at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis this summer after having won the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at the historic facility. The two-time world champion defeated Ron Capps, J.R. Todd, and low qualifier Bob Tasca III to get to the final. Beckman drove his Infinite Hero Dodge to wins over Chad Green, Tim Wilkerson, and Tommy Johnson Jr. prior to the final.
The two left within a few thousandths of a second in the final before Hagan’s SRT Hellcat Redeye Dodge pulled away for a convincing win. 3.91 to 3.94 to collect the 35th win of his career, all of which have come under the DSR umbrella.
“This is amazing and what a huge milestone to get for Don,” Hagan said. “I was probably as nervous as I am running for a championship because you want to get it done for Mopar. This car is running so well, I’m just trying to do my job on the starting line. Don has been a big part of my career and to get a Wally on a Saturday, it doesn't get much better than that.”
Green drove his nitrous-assisted Bond Coat Camaro to his first career win in the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod Series presented by J&A Service, taking an exciting race from the supercharged entry of Jason Scruggs. The two left the starting line almost as one, with a minuscule .002-second advantage to Green but Scruggs quickly pulled ahead and seemed headed to a sure win before his car slowed and allowed Green to pass for the win 5.82 at 250.09 mph to Scruggs’ slowing 5.904 at just 204 mph.
To get to the final, Scruggs had bested Bo Butner, Mike Castellana, and Clint Satterfield in his three pre-final races while Green had defeated Todd Tutterow, Brandon Snider, and Kristopher Thorne.
Andras and teammate Jay Turner entered the Summernationals almost two months ago separated by just two points at the top of the Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley standings, so their final round could potentially decide the season championship. Andras took the win, his third in four events so far this season, with a 6.38 to defeat Turner’s engine-expiring 6.92/
Turner made it to the final by beating Rich Vreeland and Tyler Wilson while Andras had topped Ricky House and Ryan Peery.
The final round of the SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown, which also was delayed by the weather, was not contested as neither of the finalists chose to attend the U.S. Nationals.