2014 Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Sunday photo gallery
Sunday, June 15, 2014

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

Last update: 7:45 p.m.
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With the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers taking place on Father’s Day weekend, it was definitely a family atmosphere at the track, and that carried into the Track Walk presented by Sealmaster. Several of the participating drivers, including Jonathan Gray, were joined by their family as they lead fans down the Bristol Dragway dragstrip.

It was another Chamber of Commerce day in Bristol, and the fans once again took full advantage of the nice weather and nitro, packing into Thunder Valley to watch final eliminations.

Don Schumacher became the latest inductee into the track’s Legends of Thunder Valley, being honored during the pre-race ceremony and having his name added to the sign above the grandstands on the left side of the track.

From left, Robert St. John, Eugene Hopkins, Dennis and Jujuan Prater, and Donald and Cathy Martin got an all-access pass behind the scenes during the pre-race ceremony as winners of the National Dragster Backstage Pass. NHRA members can vie for a similar experience at subsequent NHRA national events by sending an email to backstagepass@nhra.com.

Chris “the Greek” Karamesines pulled what was likely the upset of the entire day when he got around No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force in the first round of Top Fuel.

One pair after Chris Karamesines got his win, Terry McMillen followed suit, driving past Top Fuel’s No. 2 qualifier, J.R. Todd, who, like Brittany Force, smoked the tires.

Courtney Force couldn’t find her way back to the final round in Bristol after making a few appearances there of late. Qualified No. 6, she beat Jack Beckman in round one before falling to Tony Pedregon in the second round.

Alexis DeJoria, a multitime winner on the tour already this season, entered eliminations with a fairly consistent car through qualifying. After coming out on top in a first-round date with John Force, she couldn’t come up with the right combination to get past Tim Wilkerson in round two.

Greg Anderson wasn’t happy with his performance in Bristol. Although he picked up a first-round win over defending event champion Rodger Brogdon, he gambled in the second round and lost with a red-light. Even so, his 6.732 probably wouldn’t have been enough for Erica Enders-Stevens in the opposite lane.

Shane Gray set both ends of the track record in qualifying, securing his first race day start from the No. 1 position in Pro Stock, but lost out to brother Jonathan Gray in the second round. Adding insult to injury, they ran identical 6.703 e.t.s, and Jonathan won on a holeshot.

Bob Vandergriff Jr. advanced to his first semifinal of the season, winning the first round when Steve Torrence went red and outpedaling Tony Schumacher in round two.

As Tony Pedregon said, he might not have the e.t. slips to indicate a semifinal finish, but he’ll take three round appearances on Sunday any way he can get them. A surprising win over No. 3 qualifier Ron Capps in round one was then followed with a win over Courtney Force. His day ultimately ended at the hands of Tim Wilkerson in the semi’s, 4.240 to 4.533.

Jeg Coughlin Jr., long known as one of the most consistent – and best – drivers in the class, threw away his chance at a fourth straight final-round appearance when he hung a red-light (-.007) against Erica Enders-Stevens in the semi’s.

Erica Enders-Stevens, far lane, continues to pound the competition in Pro Stock. Already leading the points, she drove past the competition in Bristol with runs of 6.665, 6.697, and 6.703 before putting away Jonathan Gray in the final, using a 6.698 to pick up her third Wally of the season.

For the third time on Father’s Day in his career, Tommy Johnson Jr., far lane, landed in the winner’s circle and claimed a Wally. After rebuilding the front half of the chassis earlier in the week, Team T.J. used a string of 4-teens to slice up the competition. In the final, Johnson posted a 4.156 to Tim Wilkerson’s 4.4.23 effort.

Shawn Langdon, far lane, earned the final Traxxas NHRA Nitro Shootout spot when he outlasted Doug Kalitta in the Top Fuel final. Langdon posted a 3.90 while tire smoke slowed Kalitta.

Winners of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals were, from left, Shawn Langdon, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Erica Enders-Stevens.