TOP DRAGSTER - The supercharged Top Dragster driven by Ashley Johnson needs fuel for motivation. She, on the other hand, needs none. As a self-described thrill seeker, she produces her own.
If Johnson’s car runs on methanol, metaphorically speaking she runs on nitromethane. “I have a thrill for speed,” she said. “My car goes 200 miles per hour in the eighth-mile, and that’s not fast enough for me.” She has run her dragster flat out in the quarter-mile and hit 225 m.p.h. in 5.94 seconds.
Not surprisingly, if Johnson ever were asked to drive a Top Fuel dragster, she would say yes in the amount of time needed to cut a perfect light. “I would love to go pro, and Top Fuel is a given,” she said. “It’s far-fetched, though, because I would need a name and sponsorship and would have to bring in money. Top Alcohol Dragster would be nice, but the backing is not there.”
However, Johnson, 31, of Cynthiana, Ky., drives the next best thing for her thrill rides – a Top Dragster with gobs of horsepower. It is produced by a 521-inch Hemi topped with a PSI 14-71 blower and a ComSync fuel-injection system. The engine was built by her husband Andrew Johnson and her father Brian Tidrick.
“I like everything about driving the car,” Ashley Johnson said. “It is known for doing a wheelie, and that is super fun, but I also like the burnout and driving the finish line.”
Johnson Among the Top 10 Last Season
Johnson’s expertise behind the wheel led to a seventh-place finish in the 2019 Division 3 standings among 58 racers who garnered points. She had a strong start to the season with semifinals at Norwalk and Indy, but she was knocked out in the first round at Chicago. She won two rounds at Bowling Green before ending the year with a round-one loss at St. Louis.
Johnson competed in three national events. She went out in round one at Chicago and Indy and advanced one more round at the Jeg’s Sportsnationals. She ended up No. 42 nationally in points among 463 racers.
“At Bowling Green and the U.S. Nationals last year the crank trigger broke, so I was a sitting duck,” Johnson said. “But, I went to the semis in the beginning of the year, and that was good because I was back in the seat after being out a year and a half. I was really focused.”
Johnson’s racing in 2017-18 was limited by a damaged engine to begin the first year and the birth of her daughter the second year. In 2016, she finished 10th in D3 points among 54 competitors and 39th nationally out of 498 racers.
One ’16 highlight was a win at the Indy points meet (her second divisional career victory). Due to a rainout, the race actually was run at the Norwalk divisional. During it she needed to win one round to make her the Jeg’s All-Stars representative. However, during a race within a race for the four quickest qualifiers before the main event, a blown oil line resulted in a blown engine, sidelining her for the weekend and dashing her All-Stars hopes.
Almost An All-Johnson Final at Chicago
The other 2016 highlight was reaching the semifinals at the Chicago national event. Her husband was in the other semi, but he lost. Had the Johnsons won, they would have met in the final. It would have been just the second meeting of the pair. The first time he racked up the win light. She has not been able to even the score because he has switched to Top Sportsman.
2015 was Johnson’s best year, finishing fourth and 26th in division and national points, respectively. Seventy racers were at D3 events, and 531 were in all seven divisions on the national scene.
Johnson won her first career division race in ’15 at Chicago, which, due to a rainout, was run at Columbus. And, she finished as the runner-up in the Columbus event. “That was my most memorable because it was my first and I almost doubled,” she said. “And, my husband and my mom Shelley were also there.”
That year also stood out for her because she set an eighth-mile record of 3.63 while qualifying No. 1at the Snowbird Nationals at Bradenton in Andrew’s car, one of the first to have a Hemi with a ProCharger. The record stood until last year.
Johnson has been driving quick and fast dragsters since she was 17 years old. Her first car was a 1996 Spitzer with a 465-inch Chevy with a Roots blower, and she first competed in the Jeg’s Super Quick Series, running 4.50s at 165 miles per hour. She raced in it five years but did not win an event.
Progressing Through the Junior Dragster Ranks
After watching her father and her grandfather John Tidrick race, Johnson began competing at 8 years old in Junior Dragster, mostly at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis, which was 15 minutes from her home in Logansport, Ind. She ran the category eight years, and she reported she finished a best of second or third in the track standings.
A new car was built for Johnson in 2010 by Gary Agan in Greenwood, Ind. He once served as the crew chief on Bruce Litton’s Top Fuel dragster. She still races the same car and used it when she first entered T/D in 2014 after she earned a degree from Purdue University to become a registered dietitian and moved to Kentucky after meeting her husband.
“Speed wise, that was the biggest change I noticed going from Super Quick and eighth-mile and Top Dragster and quarter-mile,” Johnson said. “When you go faster, judging the finish line is so much harder to do. I also went the full quarter-mile, so I had to pull the chutes.
“It was fun,” she said. “I’d never gone the full quarter-mile, so it was a new experience and a whole new learning curve.”
Johnson learned well, attributable to her competitiveness. In school she was involved in competitive cheerleading and running track and cross-country. She was one of the top runners in the latter in individual and team formats. She continues to run, but not competitively.
Being Different Is Just Fine With Johnson
Instead, her main hobby is making runs in her dragster. She likes drag racing because it is a family sport, and “I like being different,” she said. “People never expect it from me when I tell them I drag race. In Junior Dragster, girls were only about 10 percent of the racers. Now in racing it is close to 50-50.”
Johnson eventually would like to tell people she is a champion at the division or national level. She will achieve the win lights she needs to be at the top through focus. “I try to be cool, calm, and collected and not let things bother me,” she said. “Everybody knows not to bother me and leave me once I’m in the car.”
The car, which was painted by Andy Camp at Andy's Collision Repair, Terre Haute, Ind., is equipped with Mickey Thompson tires and a torque converter and transmission from FTI. Both companies contribute Johnson’s racing effort, as does ComSync for its EFI.
Support is provided by Johnson’s parents, Brian and Shelley Tidrick, and her grandparents, John and Becky Tidrick. Johnson’s sister, Brittany Tidrick, occasionally competes in T/D as well as Quick 8 and Quick 16 events.
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