Tuesday, December 6, 2011

TAN Driver Blog-Jeff Ashwell-TAFC

Most kids like to do what their parents do and it usually works out that if the parents like it, the kids will too. It was no exception for my brother Todd and I for our foray into one of the most addicting sports there is today: drag racing. In the early days our parents, Greg and Betty, would load us all up in our 1970's Ecoline van towing my dad's 1948 English Austin first to church, then up to Woodburn Dragstrip, which is about 15 miles north of us, and run a dial in. This was our first taste of the sport of drag racing and we always enjoyed going. From here on out it just became a progression of different style bodies, motor combinations, and the constant desire to always go quicker and faster.

We started to build our own chassis and by 1998 it was ready to be taken out to the track. We had carburetion for power and a 1979 Dodge Omni body and ran 9-second passes at around 120 mph. My brother and I both wanted to drive so we would switch off every so often. In 1999, we switched to an injected motor and started running in the 8-second zone. It was a great learning curve for us and to get our feet wet in the sport, but we soon wanted to go faster so we bought a blower, a 460ci BBC, and the old Teacher's Pet 1990 Corvette that Gary Densham had and ran the 7.50 index California Independent Funny Car Association.

In 2000, we ran a few races with that group down to Sacramento and Oregon. In 2001, we bought a Hemi motor and with it came our first 6-second pass, a 6.78 at 202 mph. We stepped up and bought a 2000 Camaro that we used in 2002-2004. Seattle 2004 was our very first NHRA national event and it sure was memorable. Todd was driving and we ran our personal best, 6.00 at 240, but blew the motor, caught fire, and pretty much destroyed what we had. We did, however, win "Best Appearing Crew", the first of three times for us. We took the rest of the year off, regrouped, and bought a 2005 Firebird that we still have today, and ran that for awhile. Also around this time we purchased a 1923 T Outlaw that we match raced at Woodburn, Madras, and Medford, where we ran a best of 6.02.

We had a great time with that car but we eventually sold it in late 2004 and bought a 1953 Corvette Pro Mod mold that we spent a year making it into a nostalgia funny car. We ran that mainly at Woodburn in their specialty events, with the quickest run being 6.00. In 2006, we finally ran our first 5-second pass, a 5.98 at over 240 mph and we backed it up later that day with an even quicker 5.92. That was a very satisfying day. We spent most of 2006-2009 racing at Woodburn Dragstrip as an exhibition car with both the Firebird and the 1953 'Vette. I must say, these years were really fun.

Todd and I were still switching off driving chores and we mainly ran at Woodburn, plus the Seattle national event and the Woodburn Divisional race. One of our best events to date was the 2009 Lucas Oil Division 6 race at Woodburn where we not only out-qualified every "heavy hitter" out of California, but I also managed to run my career best E.T. and MPH, a 5.740 at over 248 mph, to qualify 3rd. We retired the Firebird at the end of the 2009 season, sold the 1953 Corvette, and bought our current body that we have now, the 2009 Ford Mustang.

At some point, we had decided that we wanted to run the full Lucas Oil D6 schedule and we knew we needed to upgrade our stuff. We did quite well our first year out, winning our first ever round win in competition and going all the way to the final round, where we lost to Brian Hough in Woodburn. We ran very consistent that weekend and earned it based on performance, which we were very proud of ourselves. We ended the season 3rd in Division 6, which we felt was not too shabby being our first year out full-time.

In 2011, we struggled a bit with consistency and suffered a huge blow with the loss of our good friend and long-time crew chief Norm Christensen. He had been helping us since 2006 and if it weren't for him I have no idea where we would be in our racing ventures today. He was very instrumental in a lot of ways for us. I'm not completely sure what the 2012 season will bring us or what our plans are but I know I have been very fortunate to have come this far and be out here racing with my family and the same group of guys for as many years that we have.

Norm Christensen

We are also very thankful to have had Wilson's Napa Auto and Dave Walery of Walery's Pizza behind us and supporting us throughout the years as well. I still have goals that I want to accomplish out here, mainly to win a race, and hopefully 2012 is the year that I do just that.

Jeff Ashwell is the driver of the Wilson's NAPA Auto Parts/Walery's Pizza Top Alcohol Funny Car. You can follow Jeff and the Ashwell Racing team on Twitter at @AshwellRacing.

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