NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Friday preview
Breathtaking Bristol Dragway, also known as Thunder Valley, is the host of this week’s Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series race as the series officially heads into the dog days of summer. The event will feature a full roster of professional racing that includes Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock, and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Halfway through the regular season, points battle are shaping up particularly in Top Fuel where Brittany Force has a slight 30 point lead over Mike Salinas while four-time and reigning champ Steve Torrence is currently third, 99 points out of the lead.
Salinas has a lot going for him as he heads to Bristol. For one, he is the defending event champion and he’s also the winner of the most recent NHRA event in Epping, N.H. Salinas made a major change during the off-season when he hired veteran Rob Flynn as his tuner and that decision has so far paid big dividends with three wins so far.
Of the 16 Top Fuel drivers entered this weekend, six are former Bristol winners including Salinas, Torrence, Doug Kalitta, Tony Schumacher, Shawn Langdon, and Clay Millican, who scored his memorable first NHRA win in 2017.
In Funny Car, Matt Hagan comes to Bristol as the hottest driver in the class with wins at the last two events in Richmond and Epping and three wins overall. Hagan, the 2015 Bristol winner, has a 23-5 record in elimination rounds and he’s been the championship leader since the Las Vegas event in April.
Robert Hight is just 41 points behind Hagan he’s also a past Bristol winner (2011). Hagan and Hight have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in Funny Car, but that doesn’t make the class any less competitive. Reigning champ Ron Capps, Cruz Pedregon, John Force, J.R. Todd, Bob Tasca III, Tim Wilkerson, and defending event winner Alexis DeJoria are also among the leading contenders.
Ironically, the hottest driver in the sport right now isn’t Salinas or Hagan but rather Erica Enders who has won the last three races in Pro Stock and four overall. Enders hasn’t lost a round since the Gainesville event in March and her Melling/Elite Camaro is easily one of the class’ performance leaders.
The Elite team has so far had the upper hand with Enders’ teammate, Aaron Stanfield also claiming a win while reigning champ Greg Anderson is still seeking his milestone 100th victory. Anderson has two Bristol wins on his resume (2001, 2004) so he’s got a favorable history at Thunder Valley.
This will also be the first Bristol appearance for Pro Stock rookie Camrie Caruso, who announced her arrival to the class with a strong runner-up finish in Houston. Caruso comes to Bristol as the No. 7 ranked driver in the class.
Last season, the Pro Stock Motorcycle class made its first official appearance in Bristol with three-time champion Angelle Sampey securing the victory. So far this season, it’s another veteran, Steve Johnson, who has enjoyed the most success with two wins and a runner-up in three finals. Johnson took over the lead with his win in Houston and added to his total with another title in Charlotte. He’s currently 11-2 in elimination rounds.
The season’s other winners include Karen Stoffer, who set the elapsed time record in Gainesville and five-time world champ Matt Smith, who score his first win on a Suzuki when he won the most recent race in Richmond.
In addition to the Camping World NHRA Series pros, the Thunder Valley Nationals will also feature the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown and a solid roster of Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series action.
You can catch the action all weekend on FOX Sports 1 and NHRA.tv.
You can follow NHRA on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to get a closer look at the action.
2021 EVENT WINNERS
Mike Salinas, Top Fuel; Alexis DeJoria, Funny Car; Angelle Sampey, Pro Stock Motorcycle. (Pro Stock not contested).
3.667 seconds by Steve Torrence, Oct. 2021; 334.48 mph by Justin Ashley, Oct. 2021
3.884 seconds by Ron Capps, June 2016; 330.34 mph by Matt Hagan, Oct. 2021.
6.621 seconds by Shane Gray, June 2014; 209.26 mph by Bo Butner, June 2016
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE
6.760 seconds by Karen Stoffer, Oct. 2021; 199.29 by Eddie Krawiec, Oct. 2021.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 5 p.m. ET on Friday, June 17, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 18 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for noon on Sunday, June 19.
FRIDAY, June 17, FS1 will televise 90 minutes of qualifying at 8 p.m. (ET)
SATURDAY June 18, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 11 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, June 19, FOX network television will televise 3 hours of finals coverage at 3 p.m. (ET)