Justin Ashley pulled off a major upset in the Top Fuel final at the Texas NHRA FallNationals defeating points-leading world champ and homestate favorite Steve Torrence by just .005-second for his second win in the class.
Both drivers left with brilliant .035 reaction times but Ashley’s Mike Green-tuned Smart Sanitizer/Vita C Shot entry got to the finish line first by 005-second, 3.759 to 3.764.
The victory is the second in Top Fuel for Ashley and his fourth overall and vindicated two tough final-round losses earlier this season. Ashley reached the finals of the time-shifted July Winternationals but was unable to contest the round due to heat exhaustion, then lost the final round in Reading by just .02-second to Torrence’s father, Billy.
Ashley, a two-time Alcohol Dragster winner whose first Top Fuel win came at last year’s July Indianapolis event and led to him being named 2020's rookie of the year, qualified in the No. 4 spot and handily beat Keith Murt in round one, then avenged his loss to 2019 Dallas winner Billy Torrence on a holeshot in round two, 3.75 to 3.74.
Ashley, renowned as the best leaver in the class, again lived up to that reputation by slaying the event’s performance monster, low qualifier Brittany Force’s David Grubnic-wrenched Monster Energy dragster, beating her on a 3.74 to 3.72 holeshot, taking the stripe by just .007-second. His victory carried him to third place in the standings.
"We looked at the ladder, and figured these are some guys and girls that we might have to go up against and they're tough, they're great competitors. but it's exactly what we wanted," he said. "Coming into this race for fifth their points we knew we needed to gain some ground
"Everybody did their job. I think that the best teams in the world are the ones who have each individual do their job and do it to the best of their ability. And it was a complete team effort today. You know, I was fortunate and did my job behind the wheel. Mike did an awesome job tuning this race car all weekend."
Torrence, who was looking for his 10th win in 17th events this season and his 50th victory in Top Fuel, had to play second fiddle to Force in qualifying, but her early exit in the semifinals allowed him to boost his tenuous points lead from 32 points to 52.
Torrence’s Capco Contractors destroyer raced past Texas Buddy Hull in round one with a 3.72 then beat Doug Kalitta in round two with a 3.75. Torrence advanced to the final, his 11th of the season, by driving around rookie Josh Hart’s slight holeshot to a 3.76 to 3.79 victory.