Enough with the corny neck ties and soap on a rope. This Father’s Day, give Dad the adrenaline rush of a lifetime and take him to the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, Father’s Day weekend, June 15-17. Held at tradition-rich Bristol Dragway, the event is the 10th of 23 races in the 2012 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
While tickets to the race are a great present for NHRA’s legion of dedicated fans to give their fathers on this special holiday, some of the racers entered in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event hope to be able to give their dads a brand-new trophy by racing to a winning performance.
Seven-time NHRA world champion Tony Schumacher will be among those drivers in NHRA’s Nitro Generation hoping to come away with a Wally to share with his father, team owner Don Schumacher, an NHRA Funny Car pioneer. Several other second-generation drivers – Jeg Coughlin Jr., Brandon Bernstein, Courtney Force, and Vincent Nobile, to name a few – will also be trying to secure a victory in hopes of having a special Father’s Day moment in Bristol Dragway’s winner’s circle.
Schumacher, who has not won since October 2010, has a couple of other reasons for wanting a win at Bristol Dragway, where he has claimed four victories. The driver of the famed U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster wants to use some of that Thunder Valley magic to put an end to a pesky winless drought, at 32 races and counting.
“We have been fortunate to have had our share of success in Thunder Valley,” said Schumacher, whom fans call “the Sarge.” “It’s nothing I can easily explain, but I hope our history helps us get to victory lane this year. We need to get that first win of the season out of the way and get rid of that losing streak.”
Sitting in second place in the points standings, Schumacher has been to 11 final rounds since his last victory but has come up empty in all of them. He also needs a victory to secure a spot in the upcoming NHRA Traxxas Nitro Shootout for Top Fuel, a special race-within-a-race event in Indy where $100,000 will be up for grabs for the eight qualified drivers.
With all of his success at Bristol Dragway, this could be his time to finally break out of the rut.
“Bristol is one of those tracks I just enjoy racing at,” Schumacher said. “It’s a beautiful facility with a great racing surface. If the weather conditions are there, you can usually put up some good numbers.”
Other Top Fuel drivers to watch include points leader Spencer Massey, who has three victories this season and recently posted the national speed record at 332.18 mph and recorded the quickest run in his category at 3.728 seconds in his FRAM/Prestone dragster. Antron Brown, Morgan Lucas, Steve Torrence, and David Grubnic are all winners this season. Like Schumacher, two-time Bristol Top Fuel winner Bernstein also could use a little Bristol magic to try to end a winless slump that dates to October 2009.
In Funny Car, defending race winner Robert Hight is leading the points with four victories in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger driver Ron Capps, a two-time Bristol winner, is riding a five-race final-round streak and in Englishtown clocked the quickest time in Funny Car history at 3.964 seconds. Mike Neff, Johnny Gray, Jack Beckman, and 15-time world champ John Force have all won races this season and are among the pre-race favorites. Among the notable Funny Car drivers trying to break through for their first win this season are rookies Courtney Force and Alexis DeJoria, along with two-time champs Cruz and Tony Pedregon and defending world champ Matt Hagan, who lives in nearby Christiansburg, Va.
In Pro Stock, Greg Anderson leads the way in his brand-new Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with four wins and is followed by teammate Jason Line, who will debut his new Summit Camaro in Bristol. Local favorite Allen Johnson is a two-time winner this season and sits third in the points standings behind the wheel of his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger and would like nothing more than to grab a victory at his home track. New Yorker Nobile and defending race winner Mike Edwards also have scored wins this season in the competitive 200-mph category. Others to watch in the factory hot rod class are last season’s runner-up here, Erica Enders, who is trying to become the first female winner in Pro Stock history, and past Bristol winners Coughlin, Kurt Johnson, and “the Professor of Pro Stock,” Warren Johnson.
And to add to the excitement of celebrating Father’s Day at the track, NHRA and Bristol Dragway will be serving an assortment of memorable and fan-friendly activities all weekend.
On Friday evening, fans will be treated to the intense action of NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing action Thunder Valley style, under the lights at Bristol Dragway. When the 7,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars blast off the starting line for the Friday evening qualifying session with massive flames erupting from their header pipes, it is truly one of the most awesome spectacles in all of motorsports.
You’ll want to get your cameras ready for Saturday’s autograph session and Party in the Pits and take advantage of the opportunity to meet and greet some of NHRA’s hottest drivers on the circuit, starting at 4:30 p.m. in NHRA’s Nitro Alley. On Sunday morning, NHRA fans are invited to walk down the actual dragstrip at famed Bristol Dragway, meet their favorite NHRA drivers, and celebrate Father’s Day on the racing surface before the action gets under way. NHRA drivers who have participated in the popular track walk events include John Force, “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, Brown, Schumacher, Cory McClenathan, Gray, Tony Pedregon, Bernstein, and many more.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 15, and noon and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. Final eliminations will begin at noon on Sunday, June 17.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, call Bristol Dragway, 423-989-6900, or log on to www.bristoldragway.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, June 16. ESPN and ESPNHD will televise two hours of eliminations coverage at 5 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 17.
* LUCAS OIL SERIES: The Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers also will feature competition in four categories in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where some of the future stars of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series are born. Lucas Oil Series qualifying begins at 10 a.m. on June 15. Lucas Oil Series eliminations begin at 8 a.m. on June 16 and continue through June 17.
* NHRA PRO MOD SERIES PRESENTED BY PROCARE RX: NHRA’s popular Pro Mod touring series will make its fifth start of the 10-race 2012 season at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers. The series features some of the world’s fastest and most unique doorslammer cars, with an eclectic mix of vintage and late-model body styles, in quarter-mile competition. Two of three scheduled rounds of qualifying will be held on Friday, June 15, at 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. The final round of qualifying is set for 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, followed by the first round of eliminations at 4 p.m. Eliminations will continue on Sunday, June 17, at approximately 3:30 p.m.