Sunday news and notes from the Thunder Valley Nationals
Prior to the start of Sunday’s final eliminations, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme was inducted into the Legends of Thunder Valley, a Hall of Fame honor for those who have a long and storied history at Bristol Dragway. Prudhomme won the Bristol SpringNationals in 1967 and also enjoyed success at Thunder Valley during the track’s IHRA years. Prudhomme, who was on hand to receive the honor, joined a diverse group that includes Don Garlits, Connie Kalitta, Mark Oswald, Rickie Smith, NHRA Founder Wally Parks, and Dale Pulde among others.
Leah Pruett needs to make up some ground in the point battle to earn a Top 10 finish and she got it with a 3.835 victory against Austin Prock, who smoked the tires early. After a tough start to the season, Pruett has now reached the quarterfinals at the last two events. As a side note, her husband and team owner, Tony Stewart, returned to Bristol in the week hours of the morning after competing in the SRX series opener in Jacksonville, Fla. Last night
“Everything is about logic,” said Pruett. “We try to take the emotion out of it. Our team has spent a countless number of hours preparing so these wins are huge to us.”
Best race of the round? The battle between Josh Hart and Justin Ashley would be a great candidate. Ashley grabbed a slight lead at the start, as he often does, and held on for a narrow 3.824 to 3.827 victory. As the second pair out, Ashley and Hart were able to show that both lanes at Bristol Dragway were capable of yielding competitive elapsed times.
Most teams figured a low 3.8 would be enough to get the job done in the opening round of Top Fuel but apparently the Scrappers crew isn’t like most teams. Crew chief Rob Flynn too a somewhat more aggressive approach and was rewarded with a 3.745, the quickest run of the event thus far. Not that it would have mattered, but opponent Cameron Ferre smoked the tires almost immediately giving Salinas his fifth-straight round win.
On paper, the opening round battle between Lex Joon and four-time world champ Steve Torrence would appear to be a mismatch, but we don’t race on paper and the actually match was far closer than it would have appeared to be. Joon made his best run of the weekend with a 3.943 and Torrence race the exact same elapsed time after he wounded an engine in his Capco dragster.
“I was good on the Tree and got lucky at the end,” said Torrence. “Lex Joon did a great job and we just got through by the skin of our teeth.”
Alexis DeJoria defeated Bob Tasca III but the result of the run wasn’t readily apparent since she came dangerously close to the left side retaining wall. DeJoria’s Bandero Toyota dropped a cylinder and she fought to keep it straight. Somehow, she managed to avoid contact and her 4.134 was good enough to secure the W, after Tasca shut off.
“I just kept looking at wall with one eye and thinking ‘Not today. Not today.’” DeJoria said. “I also got him on starting line and that’s not an everyday occurrence. We got the win. That’s excellent. I don’t care what we ran as long as we got the win.”
Cruz Pedregon and J.R. Todd put on an entertaining show in round one with Pedregon’s Snap-on Dodge getting the best of the DHL Toyota, 4.148 to 4.168. Pedregon also helped himself with a competitive .049 reaction time.
“It’s treacherous out here,” said Pedregon’s crew chief, John Collins. “It’s warm and we’re trying to figure it out. The track is good, but I don’t like racing those guys. They can always step up but everyone is tough”
“Gotta love a track like this,” Pedregon added. “I really love it. It’s like a road course for NASCAR. You have to turn a few more knobs.”
Ron Capps made the best run of the round with a 4.052 in his win against Paul Lee, but it came with a cost as he spun the tires, dropped a cylinder, and then lifted a supercharger. The end result was a significant amount of damage to Capps’ new Toyota Supra body. After a brief fire, Capps brought the NAPA machine to a safe stop as his crew hustled to prepare for round two.
An apparent clutch malfunction cost Troy Coughlin Jr. a shot at a win over Fernando Cuadra Jr. Coughlin was in the lead early, but the JEGS.com Camaro began trailing sparks by half-track, an odd visual for a Pro Stock car. Cuadra was able to cruise by for the win while Coughlin slowed to a 7.41, continuing what has so far been a disappointing season.
“This sort of thing doesn’t happen often in a Pro Stock car but it does happen,” said Elite team owner Richard Freeman. “Poor T.J. has had a run of really bad luck lately. We fixed an issue with his car and now we’ve gone from one thing to the net. A new gremlin.”
The tide appears to be turning for Matt Hartford who picked up his third round win of the season following a close victory over Deric Kramer in round one. In one of the best races of the round, Hartford wheeled his Total Seal Camaro to a 6.651 to hold off Kramer’s 6.665.
Low qualifier Aaron Stanfield took care of business against No. 16 qualifier Wally Stroupe with a 6.614, the second-best run of the round. Last night, Stanfield took a thrilling ride in his Janac Bros. COPO Camaro Factory Stock Showdown entry. Stanfield did a giant wheelstand that lasted more than 200 feet but he managed to bring the car down with no damage. His win against Stroupe was far less thrilling.
Red-lights are a way of life in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class and the dreaded foul start bit Jimmy Underdahl in the opening round of eliminations. Underdahl missed a green light by just .001-second, and to add insult to injury, he also outran opponent Ryan Oehler, 6.949 to 6.967.
Angie Smith lowered the boom in round first round win against rookie Malcolm Phillips with a 6.820 that was low E.T. of the weekend by five-hundredths of a second. Some fans might remember that Smith didn't race last year in Bristol after hurting her hand in a pit-area accident. As a result, this is her first event at Bristol Dragway.
Smith, whose Denso Buell is one of the few V-twin bikes left in the field, will have lane choice in her second round battle against arch rival Steve Johnson, who made a competitive run with a 6.88.
Those who follow the Pro Stock Motorcycle class have probably noticed that Marc Ingwersen has begun to collect a few round wins lately. The Ohio-based racer was impressive again in round one when he topped Gainesville winner, 6.936 to 6.980.
Following a semifinal finish at the most recent event in Richmond, Ingwersen came into the Bristol round as the ninth ranked rider in the class and he’s likely to improve upon that although he’s got another tough opponent in the quarterfinals when he takes on reigning world champ Matt Smith.
Antron Brown needed a good showing in Bristol and so far he’s got one with a round two win against incoming points leader Brittany Force. Brown qualified No. 4 but that came with a steep price as he grenade a supercharger and an injector.
In round one, Brown defeated Tony Schumacher and he returned to post a 3.930 to reach the semi’s after Force smoked the tires at half-track. Brown’s only other semifinal appearance of the season came at the Las Vegas Four-Wide race. He now has five round wins on the season.
“I didn’t see Brittany around me,” Brown said. I’ just wanted it to hold on to the finish line. I had to stick with it. How about that Matco/Lucas Oil Team? We’re finally coming around.”
Shawn Langdon came into Sunday in Bristol with a shot to win two classes and he might still do that. Langdon has a bye into the final in Super Comp and he’s also going to the semi’s in Top Fuel following a holeshot win over low qualifier Mike Salinas.
Langdon was visibly ahead at the start and held on for the win with a 3.853 to top Salinas’ 3.816, the quickest run of the round.
Matt Hagan’s recent hot streak was ended in round two when he smoked the tires against Alexis DeJoria, who cruised to the semifinals with a 4.068. The loss marked just the second time in nine races that Hagan has not been to the semifinals. It also opened the door for the rest of the field to make a run at the points lead.
As for DeJoria, she’s in the final four for the second time this season and figures to make a move Northward from her eight-place ranking in the Camping World NHRA standings.
For the 110th time, veterans John Force and Cruz Pedregon met in eliminations and this time, the battle went to the 16-time world champion, who prevailed in a 4.093 to 4.177 battle.
“Those guys battle every time they race. We’re glad to get the win,” said Force crew chief Danny Hood. “They always test each other. The go way back.”
Erica Enders extended her lead in the Pro Stock standings with a solid quarterfinal win against Matt Hartford, a driver who has been known to give her fits over the past few seasons. Hartford did what he could with a sold .017 reaction time and a 6.689, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Enders, who countered with a .022 light and a 6.668.
Enders has now won 14-straight rounds and has an amazing 18-2 record in elimination rounds this season.
Dallas Glenn scored a big win over rookie Camrie Caruso, who shook the tires, but the real drama came after the finish line when Glenn’s RAD Torque Systems Camaro had no parachute. Glenn managed to get the car stopped just a few feet before the sand trap, giving the KB team ample time to prepare for their big semifinals race against Erica Enders.
“I think we just need to do what I’ve bene doing,” said Glenn, when asked what it would take to beat the points leader. “I feel good. Hopefully we can get the job done in the next one.”
The Pro Stock Motorcycle semifinals features an eclectic mix of racers including two former world champs (Angelle Sampey and Jerry Savoie) as well as a two-time winner in Angie Smith and Marc Ingerwersen, a rider looking for his first NHRA final.
Smith would appear to be the favorite as her Denso Buell has been the quickest bike in the field on race day. After beating Malcolm Phillips in round one, Smith topped Steve Johnson in the quarterfinals with an impressive 6.803.
Smith will race against Savoie’s White Alligator Suzuki while Sampey will be paired against Ingwersen.
Justin Ashley will race in the Top Fuel final after taking out reigning world champ Steve Torrence, 3.816 to 3.783. Neither driver was particularly impressive off the starting line but Ashley’s Phillips Connect dragster made its best run of the weekend to advance.
Ashley, seeking the fourth win of his career and second of the season, will be paired with Shawn Langdon, who went to his 47th final after defeating Antron Brown in the other half of the semi’s. Langdon will attempt to join the short list of drivers to double at a national event as he’s already won the Super Comp final. Langdon’s last Top Fuel victory came during the 2020 season when he defeated Leah Pruett at Indy.
Tim Wilkerson missed the Tree a bit in his semifinal race against John Force but that didn’t prevent the Levi, Ray & Shoup driver from reaching the final round for the first time this season. Wilkerson ran a 4.135 for the win after Force smoked the tires. Wilkerson last won the Fall Charlotte event last season.
Ron Capps made perhaps the most impressive run of the day when he [powered to a 4.016 to outlast Alexis DeJoria’s very competitive 4.050. Capps, in the final for the 134th time in his career, will have lane choice when he races Wilkerson in the final. For the record, Capps and Wilkerson have raced in a final round eight times with Capps holding a 5-3 edge.
The win streak remains intact for Erica Enders who will race in her 68th career final round in Bristol. Enders was once again rock-solid with a competitive light and a 6.657 to top Dallas Glenn’s 6.678 in the semifinals. Enders has not lost a round since the Gatornaitonals in March and is looking to win for the fifth time this season.
Enders will race a familiar opponent when she takes on her teammate, Aaron Stanfield, who has lane choice thanks to a 6.637 to 6.691 win against Kyle Koretsky’s Lucas Oil Camaro. Stanfield, the low qualifier, previously won in Phoenix and has appeared in two other finals this season.
Marc Ingwersen had a big lead in his semifinal race against Angelle Sampey but his V-twin quit before the finish line, allowing the three-time champion to reach the Bristol final for the second-straight year. Sampey rode to a 6.907 for the win on her Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki.
Jerry Savoie will be Sampey’s opponent after he defeated Angie Smith in a close race, 6.978 to 6.984. Smith had the quickest bike in the field in the quarterfinals with a 6.80, but could not maintain that pace, allowing Savoie and his White Alligator team to make the final for the first time this season.
LUCAS OIL SERIES SPORTSMAN RESULTS
Mike Crutchfield def. Scott Libersher
Daren Poole-Adams def. Todd Ewing
Shawn Langdon def. John Labbous Jr.
Chris Lewis def. Ausby Brewington
TOP SPORTSMAN presented by Vortech Superchargers
Tyler Caheely def. Cole Prejean