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After reaching a personal racing career high of being the Decoglaze Glass Splashbacks Top Qualifier and Modified Runner-Up in Darwin, Ashley Johnson is hoping to go one better when the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series hits Mildura’s Sunset Strip this weekend.

The Sunset Nationals will be hosted by the Sunraysia Drag Racing Association in Mildura across September 16 and 17, with more than 160 racers signed up for the event.

“Being the Top Qualifier and Runner-Up at the Hidden Valley Drag Strip is my best racing achievement so far,” Johnson said.

“The Hidden Valley track is a great venue for me, as the previous time I raced there in my first dragster, I came third.

“It felt fantastic to get those results. It is a real achievement to be the Top Qualifier and then to come Runner-Up as well was just amazing – especially considering I had not raced since pre-COVID (March 2020) and the fact that I had experienced some unforeseen challenges which put my racing in Darwin in doubt just two weeks before I was set to leave!

“I also had a oil down during the second qualifying run on the Friday night and we were struggling to find the cause, so to finally solve that and go on to get those results was a great boost to my confidence and very rewarding.”

Heading to Mildura, a track he knows exceptionally well, Johnson is feeling quietly confident.

“It is a great confidence boost to have had those results as we head into the Mildura event,” he said.

“I am always confident of a good result as anyone can win if you and the car are right on the day. And having already dusted off the cobwebs with Darwin will hopefully be an advantage as well.

“I have raced many times at Mildura and it is a fabulous venue; the officials and volunteers do an amazing job, while the locals come out in force to support us.

“Being an eighth-mile track, it is going to be a competitive and tough competition. I have got to go in saying I’d love to win it of course, so the plan is to go through as many eliminations rounds as possible and take it from there.”

It isn’t just an event win that Johnson has his eye on either.

“We have big plans ahead – I am planning on going to as many of the rounds as possible in the NDRC Western Conference and as the NDRC championship finale is on my birthday, it would be a huge bonus to win that title, but we’ll have to wait and see how things pan out,” he grinned.

Johnson’s current racing machine has plenty of championship form, having been previously raced to national Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series Modified title glory by Matt Czerny (2018) and also Kenny Stewart (2012). His previous dragster which he built himself from a roller with a stock LS1 is currently for sale.

“My current dragster is my second rear-end dragster and is a Sean Mullins chassis with a 415ci chevy motor and two-speed powerglide. I like this style as they are easy to work on, aerodynamic and light,” Johnson said.

“Its two previous owners have each won championships in it, so I would really like to make it three from three!”

While a lifelong drag racing fan, Johnson had to wait quite a while before he could turn his hand to pursuing his dream of racing.

“As a teenager I became interested in cars and drag racing specifically and used to go to all the meets at Calder Park. It was always my dream to build my own car and drag race,” Johnson explained.

“Well, family came along, and the dream had to be shelved. Finally, when the kids had grown up and an opportunity to purchase a roller came up, I realised my dream – building my own dragster and debuting in the 2016 season.

“Since then, I have learnt from those first outings about racing strategy, the various track conditions eighth-mile versus quarter-mile and the nuances of the car. In 2018 I was starting to think it was time to go faster and so I upgraded to the current dragster that was two seconds faster.”

Johnson is a big cheerleader for the Modified bracket, which he says is a great way to get involved in the sport of drag racing.

“If you have a dream of getting into drag racing, I really recommend getting into the sport via the Modified bracket – it can be cost effective to do and you don’t have to spend a lot. Our first dragster has a stock LS1 and runs pump unleaded fuel and all we do between runs is make a cuppa and have a chat, so it can certainly be attainable,” he said.

“Aside from all of that, I just really enjoy racing in the Modified bracket – it is a great class, it is fun, and it doesn’t matter how fast your car is, anyone can win as consistency is the key and knowing the track conditions.

“I really enjoy the community within the bracket too, the competitors are great and help each other out. If someone is interested in getting into drag racing, I really encourage them to come and visit the pits and talk to the drivers and crew.”

As he gets ready to take on the Mildura track once again, Johnson was quick to point out that there is a long list of people he needs to recognise for the roles they play in his racing.

“I really appreciate firstly, all of the track officials, volunteers, and ANDRA – without them there would be no competition. They make the event,” he said.

“I also could not race with out the following people, so I am so thankful for their support: my wife Leanne, my daughter Victoria and son-in-law Alex and their budding Junior Axton who is nearly two and who loves to help; my local crew Tony McAlister, the Tanner family who are my Darwin crew, and the Coxon family who are my Perth crew.

“Also, I must acknowledge the support of Matt Czerny and Paul ‘Plucka’ Drady, whose help is invaluable.”

Part of the Summit Racing Equipment Sportsman Series, the Sunset Nationals will be hosted by the Sunraysia Drag Racing Association at Mildura’s Sunset Strip across September 16 and 17. For event information, visit

For more from ANDRA, visit

Photo Credit: Ed Forman/HighRPM

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