Accomplished crew chief Aaron Brooks knows what he will be doing for at least half of the 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Series.
Brooks will tune the Top Fuel dragster driven by second-generation driver Justin Ashley for Dustin Davis and the Davis Motorsports team.
Ashley is scheduled to compete in 12 NHRA national events, starting with the season-opening Lucas Oil Winternationals, Feb. 6-9 at Pomona, Calif.
“I worked with Justin last year at Charlotte (N.C., Oct. 11-14), Vegas (Oct. 31-Nov. 3) and Pomona (Nov. 14-17),” Brooks said. “It was really good working with him. He did excellent for just starting out in Top Fuel. Obviously, he raced A Fuel, but I think he’s going to be solid.”
Ashley qualified No. 12 in Charlotte and upset Mike Salinas in round one and then upended 2019 Rookie of Year Austin Prock in round two on a holeshot. Ashley’s day ended with a loss to eventual 2019 world champion Steve Torrence in the semifinals.
Ashley qualified No. 14 in Vegas and was outlasted by Billy Torrence in the first round. At the season-ending race in Pomona, Ashley once again qualified No. 14 and proceeded to upset Clay Millican in the first round. Ashley fell to eventual race winner Doug Kalitta in round two.
“You never really know what to expect with drivers, but Justin has done great,” Brooks said. “He has a good feel for the car and any little changes we have asked him to do, he gets it on the first try. He’s like a robot in there. He does it and does it and he has been knocking the tree down pretty much every time up there. Just anything we have asked him to do, whether it be to do this a little different or do that a little different whether it is the burnout or the warm-up procedure he gets it. He has been great. It looks like he has a lot of talent.”
Brooks said the Davis Motorsports team is planning on doing some testing at the PRO Winter Warn-Up in late January at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Phoenix.
“It’s always good to go test if anything else just to go out and get through the motions and kind of knock the rust off,” Brooks said. “Not to mention to make sure the car is good, especially with Justin. He has only been in this thing for three races so the more runs he gets the better off we will be. They are working on some sponsors and in a perfect world some more money will fall out of some trees and we will go to more races.”
In addition to working with Ashley, Brooks said he plans to also do some tuning for European Top Fuel racer Urs Erbacher, and NHRA nitro Funny Car driver Mike McIntyre.
Last year, Brooks also helped a handful of teams and he spent the 2017 season as the crew chief for nitro Funny Car world champion driver Cruz Pedregon but was released by Pedregon’s team the first week of August that season.
Prior to joining Pedregon in 2017, Brooks served as a crew chief at Morgan Lucas Racing from 2013-16 but was left looking for work when MLR was disbanded.
While at Morgan Lucas Racing, Brooks was the crew chief for Top Fuel driver Richie Crampton. He guided Crampton to seven national event wins and five No. 1 qualifying positions.
Brooks began his career working on crews for the legendary Don “The Snake” Prudhomme. By 2005, Brooks served as an assistant crew chief to Mike Neff when Funny Car driver Gary Scelzi won a world championship driving for Don Schumacher Racing. During his time at DSR, Brooks also tuned Frank Hawley’s Funny Car. In one season, he tuned Funny Car’s driven by Hawley, Mike Ashley, and Mark Oswald.
If you’re an underdog, then Chip Lofton is a big fan. Read about the man who specializes in helping small teams get over the hump. @thejustinashley @strutmasters #DragRacingNews #nhra – https://t.co/PBtRbp3nG2 pic.twitter.com/IjbIvghw3X
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) October 29, 2019