by Matthew Brammer, Gotham City Racing
TOPEKA, Kan. -- Mortgage banker Mike Ashley scored his very first NHRA national event win and drove the Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger nitro Funny Car all the way to the winner's circle at the O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.
Dispatching Del Worsham, Ashley Force, Jack Beckman and Jim Head en route to the event championship, Ashley said the day was 'practically perfect.'
"I knew it would happen if we just kept doing what we were doing and didn’t try to force anything," an ecstatic and emotional Ashley said. "I'm so proud of this team, Brian Corradi, Mark Oswald, Steve Boggs -- everyone, and everything they have done to get here - they are true champions."
On hand to watch Ashley receive his first Wally event trophy was team sponsor Evan Knoll, owner of Torco Race Fuels. Ashley said, "This has been such a journey and it all started a few years ago when Evan came to me and said, 'Let's do it.' We've been working towards this goal since then and Evan stuck with us through it all. This win is for all the dreamers out there. This is proof you can do anything you set your mind to."
Ashley and his Gotham City Racing crew displayed marksman-like consistency as they worked through their opponents, with only .154-seconds variance between his elapsed times of each round. In round one, Ashley beat former teammate Del Worsham, 4.793/321.88 to 4.894/316.45. In the quarterfinals, it was a ‘battle of the Ashleys’ - Mike Ashley versus Ashley Force, and Mike used a .036 reaction time to take the win against the quicker Ashley Force, 4.926/263.20 to Mike's 4.947/292.84.
Semifinal action saw the battle of the fastest Funny Cars on the planet, Ashley having recorded the fastest speed ever at 334.11, and 'Fast' Jack Beckman holding the NHRA official record at 333.66 mph. Ashley defeated Beckman with a stellar run, 4.882/310.41 to 4.949/304.12.
In the final round, the third of his Funny Car career, Ashley left the line first against Jim Head with a .052 reaction time, and never trailed, taking the stripe with 4.896/310.70 to Head's 4.928/303.09.
"It's all so emotional for me, really. This has been my dream for so long, and we finally accomplished it. It's a testament to the power of positive thinking, and working together as a team. We've all had the same vision and are working toward the same goal - and that's to win a championship, and this is a huge step toward that goal," he said.
The win put Ashley solidly in third place in POWERade points with 502, just 100 points behind second place Robert Hight and 153 behind leader Ron Capps. Ashley also jumped into second place in the Skoal Showdown points, a $100,000 race within a race for Funny Car drivers held at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals and reserved for the racers who qualify the best at the NHRA POWERade Series events completed since the previous year's Showdown.
"For my family, everyone at Lend America, all my Pro Mod guys - we did it! This is the most amazing feeling. I've won a lot of races and two championships in Pro Mod, but this is the most awesome feeling ever," Ashley said. Ashley is vice president of Lend America, the Official Mortgage Source of NHRA.
Team Gotham will have just a few short days to enjoy their win, as racing continues next weekend at the Torco Race Fuels Route 66 NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., June 7-10.