This weekend marks Funny Car driver Alexis De Joria’s first visit to Virginia Motorsports Park. But the Bandero Premium Tequila Toyota Supra racer’s team owner and crew chief, Del Worsham, certainly is familiar with it. 

He won here 13 years ago in a Funny Car, and he said he loves the facility.

“The track surface at Virginia Motorsports Park is phenomenal, one of the best on tour,” Worsham said. “Tommy Franklin and the Franklin family have done such a great job with the facility. I’ve been racing there since the ’90s and won there in Funny Car in 2009.” 

It’s the same for Top Fuel contenders Justin Ashley and Josh Hart, although both have experience at the track from their Top Alcohol Dragster days in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. 

Ashley, who has the Phillips Connect and Vita C Shot Dragster in third place just 46 points behind leader Brittany Force, said, “I raced at VMP In Top Alcohol Dragster. I've driven here once in Top Alcohol Dragster at a regional event in 2018. And my dad, Mike, raced there a number of times in Funny Car. So I am relatively familiar with the racetrack. The biggest thing about racing a new track is just getting your visuals down. You want to know where the turn-offs are and how the track looks when you are in the race car. It doesn’t take long, but the little things matter. And preparation is key.” 

Overall, his impression of VMP, he was “Well, I think it's great. I mean, just coming into it, you heard a lot about how nice the actual track surface was, and you can tell being out there how actually smooth it was. And the facility's nice, and it's nice to see new fans. I've never really been here before for a Top Fuel race. So everyone's excited, engaged, and obviously a really great first impression.”

Based on his memory from 2018, he said the surface “is completely different. It's funny – if you would've told me we would be in this position in 2022, racing in Top Fuel back at the same place, I probably would've said you're crazy. So to be back here, racing in Top Fuel is a totally different experience for a national event. It's just something that, it really gives you an opportunity, it gives me an opportunity, to reflect and realize how far I've come because of the really great people that we've surrounded ourselves with.” 

Ashley said he didn’t have any out-of-the-ordinary apprehension Friday in trying to make a strong pass in iffy conditions: “I think there's always a certain level of apprehension, especially during the first qualifying round. Your goal is always in the first session to go A to B and then worry about the rest later so you know that you're solidly in the field and you'll be in the field for Sunday. I mean, the only apprehension is just making sure that we go down there and make a nice clean, safe lap.” He said he was pleased “not only [to] do that, but as a testament to Mike Green and Tommy DeLago, they did it and they did a great job of it, and we went all the way up to No. 2.” 

Brittany Force put herself in another time zone than every other Top Fuel racer Friday with a track-record elapsed time of 3.710 seconds and a track-record speed at 335.82 mph. Ashley posted a 3.725-second E.T., and Gatornationals finalist Doug Foley is third overnight at 3.733 seconds.   

Ashley said he knew his pass would be a good one. 

“It felt the whole way like it was going to make it. Honestly, it felt like there was even some air to spare there. Nothing really was on edge,” he said.” Everything came back, looked nice and clean. It was pretty much making it the whole way, and from a driver's perspective, it felt nice and smooth.”

For Hart, this weekend marks the second time this year he is competing at a track for the first time. But it isn’t a complete unknown. In 2019, Hart ran his career-quickest elapsed time in a Top Alcohol Dragster, 5.132 seconds, in a first-round victory at Virginia Motorsports Park. 

“I have experience from my Top Alcohol Dragster days in Virginia, but we haven’t raced in Virginia in a couple years,” he said. “I set my elapsed-time record for Top Alcohol Dragster at that track, so I feel pretty good about returning. The biggest difference will be racing my TechNet Dragster at over 320 mph but after the first pass I know it will be all good.” 

He said, “We had a great season in 2021 and got off to a good start this year,” said Hart. “Then we had some issues with the new car and some things that none of us had experienced before. We worked together to figure them out, and now I really feel this team is stronger than ever. This TechNet team is going to succeed.”