NHRA - National Hot Rod Association


NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Sportsman video highlights

26 Oct 2021
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

More than a quarter century after winning the last of his four world championships, Greg Stanfield appears to be well on his way to a fifth after claiming the Super Stock title at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals in Bristol. Stanfield won for the 14th time in his career when he drove his Camaro past Jeff Dona in the final round. As a result, he’s got the lead in the Super Stock standings with just a handful of races remaining in the 2021 season. 

Stanfield won in Bristol for the first time in his 40-year career and got to share the winner’s circle with fellow Sportsman champs Brett Candies (Stock), Jack Sepanek (Super Comp), Jacob Elrod (Super Gas), and Chad Taylor (Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers). 

Stanfield came out swinging earlier this season with three NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series divisional wins, and he’s recently begun to pick up the pace at national events with a runner-up finish at the delayed Houston event followed by his win in Bristol in Super Stock. Driving the same ’87 Camaro that he won all four of his championships in from 1990-94, Stanfield worked his way to the final, where he stopped Dona with a strong 9.872 on his 9.87 dial. Stanfield admittedly got a couple of breaks in eliminations, but he was also solid when he needed to be, specifically his .006 light in the second round against Johnny Raikes. Stanfield hasn’t yet locked up the title, but he’s got a sizable lead with just four weeks of racing left in the season. [video]

Candies, the son of Hall of Fame Funny Car racer Paul Candies, made it to his fifth career final round in Bristol and cashed in for his first victory by beating Mark Lewis in a competitive Stock final round. After an even start, Candies drove his Cobra Jet Mustang to a near-perfect 9.147 on his 9.14 dial to turn on the win light as Lewis trailed with a 10.777 on his 10.73 dial. Earlier this season, Candies went to a pair of final rounds at divisional races and recorded a win two weeks earlier in St. Louis. With his latest win in Bristol, Candies is on pace for a possible Top 10 finish. He’s currently ranked No. 11 but can still claim points at the final two national events this season in Las Vegas and Pomona. [video]

Sepanek left Bristol with his fourth NHRA national event Wally, all of them earned in the Super Comp category. Sepanek faced Adam Gerber in the final round, and both drivers left with matching .027 reaction times. At the finish line, Sepanek was almost perfect with an 8.901, and Gerber broke out with an 8.893. Sepanek was impressive in round two with a perfect 8.900 to beat Holden Laris, and he also stopped Bristol Super Gas champ Elrod in round three. Sepanek most recently won the 2015 Reading event, and his wife, Katie, is also a two-time national event winner in Stock. [video]

Elrod, the 2015 Super Gas world champ, brought home his third national event Wally following a final-round win against Tim Powell. The early part of the run went as expected with competitive reaction times for both drivers, but near the finish line, both cars got loose. Powell slowed to an 11.36, and Elrod captured the win with a 10.03. Elrod’s path to the final also included wins against Rob Kropfeld, Rusty Cook, Jonathan Anderson, and Larry Bernhausen. In that round, both Elrod and Bernhausen logged perfect 9.900 runs, but Elrod got to the finish line first thanks to his .027 to .042 reaction-time advantage. [video]

Taylor, the son of four-time world champ Jeff Taylor, picked up career win No. 3 and his second at Bristol Dragway when he stopped Steve Furr in the final of Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers. Taylor got off the starting line cleanly with a .012 light and ran a 7.088 on his 7.07 dial for the win after Furr broke a rear end just off the starting line. Taylor kicked off eliminations with a win against reigning Top Sportsman champ Darian Boesch and also defeated Frank Carpinelli, and Alexis Whitaker before earning a bye into the final. This was just the second race for Taylor in Top Dragster. He also competed in the fall Charlotte event but went out early in eliminations. [video]