2014 Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Friday photo gallery
Friday, June 13, 2014

News and views from the Ford NHRA Thunder
Valley Nationals
presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers

Last update: 11:15 p.m.
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Bristol fans are greeted by its familiar tower and this sign behind it as they make their way into the track from the parking lots.

The Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers kicked off with action in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories. Sportsman racers made time runs prior to the start of NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying.

Welcome back, Shane Tucker! The Australian driver has re-joined the NHRA tour after a brief hiatus, and he has a new engine-leasing deal in place for the remainder of the year. After two passes on Friday, his team is still working out the bugs.

Vincent Nobile arrived in town at 2:30 a.m. on Friday due to airline problems getting out of New York on Thursday. With a 6.673-second run in the day’s first session, his purple Camaro was off to a good start in Bristol.

Robert Hight ran an off-the-trailer 4.074 in the first session. He didn’t get a run in Funny Car Q2 due to rain, but his earlier pass held up for the fourth spot in the provisional field.

Tommy Johnson Jr. said his team didn’t take Tuesday off, like the rest of the DSR teams. The extra work they put in a few days ago paid off in the form of a fine 4.074 in the first session.

Billy Torrence is making his first Top Fuel appearance of 2014, but it didn’t get off to the start he had hoped. He smoked the tires early in his run and slowed to a 4.77 that placed him 14th. Torrence’s son, Steve, also had a challenging opening to his event-title defense. A miscue on the car forced Steve to pull out of line before making a run.

Brittany Force’s team tuned her to a 3.82 that has last year’s Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner leading the Top Fuel field after the first day.

In the lane next to low qualifier Force, Tony Schumacher’s scoreboards read 3.676, but it was later determined debris in the starting-line beams caused the clocks to trigger late and give inaccurate times at all increments, and Schumacher’s time was disallowed.

J.R. Todd enters Saturday ranked second in the Top Fuel order after he drove Connie Kalitta’s Optima Batteries entry to a 3.83 in the only qualifying round.

The nitro Harleys are making their second (and final) appearance of 2014 this weekend. The fan favorites got one qualifying pass today, between NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions. One of the riders who went on a wild ride in the session was Rickey House, who had early troubles and slowed to an 11.35. Damian Cownden is the low qualifier at 6.28.

According to Shane Gray, his team has made “a gazillion test runs” this year. Perhaps it’s starting to pay off, as his Chevy Camaro ended up with the two quickest runs on Friday, 6.664 and 6.669 seconds.

Defending world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. is starting to heat up. His 6.662 lap in the second session was an in improvement over his earlier time and held up as the third-best pass in Q2.

Tim Wilkerson opened quite a few eyes before the evening session was cut short. His Ford Mustang tripped the top-end timers at 4.013 and 317 mph, which stood as the second-best run on Friday.

Del Worsham was the low qualifier at this race last year, and he’s halfway to locking it down again. With a track record 3.992 pass on Friday evening, the DHL Toyota driver ended day one in Bristol on a high note.

Midway through the second Funny Car qualifying round, lightning then rain hit the area, forcing officials to end the day a little earlier than expected.