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NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Saturday Preview

The hills are alive with the sound of 11,000-horsepower nitro cars this weekend at Bristol Dragway, and on Saturday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, those cars will be racing for New England Nationals trophies, Bristol qualifying positions, and Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA challenge glory.
10 Jun 2023
Kelly Wade
Race coverage
Bristol Dragway

The hills are alive with the sound of 11,000-horsepower nitro cars this weekend at Bristol Dragway, and on Saturday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, those cars will be racing for New England Nationals trophies, Bristol qualifying positions, and Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA challenge glory. For the Pro Stock cars and Pro Stock Motorcycles, qualifying will also include the #2Fast2Tasty competition, elevating an already electrifying day of qualifying at the scenic dragstrip to off-the-charts status. 

When persistently rainy weather pushed the full slate of NHRA New England Nationals elimination rounds to Bristol, it created an opportunity for drivers in Top Fuel and Funny Car to race for two trophies – plus the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge title – at one event. The rare double-header kicked off on Friday in ideal conditions, and the first round from Epping was contested. 

Epping No. 1 qualifier Antron Brown rattled the tires on a bye run in his Matco Tools dragster and is preparing for a second-round meeting with CAPCO's Steve Torrence, who eliminated Austin Prock, 3.75 to 3.78. Brittany Force tied the track record for speed in her David Grubnic-tuned Monster Energy rail to defeat Josh Hart, and she will race Justin Ashley and his Phillips Connect entry in round two. Ashley advanced on a 3.75 to Dan Mercier's 3.76.

On the other side of the ladder, Tony Schumacher and his SCAG Power Equipment Top Fueler defeated Shawn Langdon, 3.79 to 3.84, to earn a bye run into the semis, and Leah Pruett scored a round win over Doug Kalitta in her Rush Truck Centers dragster while also nabbing the provisional pole on a stout 3.74. She'll race Scrappers Racing pilot Mike Salinas, who was tardy at the tree (.177) but overcame Clay Millican's pass with a strong 3.76.

In Funny Car, Epping No. 1 qualifier Chad Green took a single when Jim Campbell was unable to make the event, and the Bond-Coat Mustang driver will get the second-round bye run and a smooth path to the semifinals. Bob Tasca III and his PPG Ford defeated reigning world champion Ron Capps on a holeshot, 3.97 to 3.96, and AAA/Cornwell Tools-backed Robert Hight thundered to the Bristol pole while also powering past Alexis DeJoria, 3.93 to 3.99. 

Across the ladder, points leader Matt Hagan's 4.05 in his Dodge SRT Funny Car defeated Terry Haddock's troubled 9.97 to set him up for a second-round meeting with DHL Toyota driver J.R. Todd, who utilized a 4.02 to beat Cruz Pedregon's 5.48. Alex Laughlin had a single when Blake Alexander was a no-show, and he will have the honor of being the 150th different driver that John Force has raced in eliminations. Force was a psychic .006 at the tree to defeat Tim Wilkerson in round one, 4.06 to 4.00.

The second round of eliminations will run during the third qualifying session at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Bristol, and the semifinals will run between qualifying sessions on Saturday. The final rounds of the NHRA New England Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car are slated to run during the final qualifying session at 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Bristol Dragway. 

The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge will run concurrent with the New England Nationals semifinals and finals on Saturday in Bristol. The Bristol #2Fast2Tasty fields in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle were set in Chicago, and those will be contested during qualifying on Saturday as well.

In Pro Stock, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge will feature Chicago winner and incoming points leader Dallas Glenn and his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet vs. Elite Motorsports-powered rookie Jerry Tucker. It will be the first #2Fast2Tasty bonus race for Tucker and the second for Glenn. 

A three-time winner on the season, Glenn is currently qualified in the No. 4 position for the Thunder Valley Nationals. Tucker has yet to make a clean pass down the racetrack, but his Elite Motorsports teammates occupy the top three positions, showing the team has capability and knowledge that could very well come in handy here. 

Glenn's KB Titan Racing teammate and Chicago runner-up Deric Kramer, driver of the GetBioFuel.com Chevy, will race Tucker's Elite teammate, Janac Bros. Racing driver Aaron Stanfield.  Sitting in the No. 3 position in Thunder Valley Nationals qualifying, Stanfield may have a bit of an upperhand; Kramer is No. 5 on the Bristol Dragway qualifying sheet. It will be the first challenge for each.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge will include Chicago winner Gaige Herrera vs. Vance & Hines Mission Foods teammate Eddie Krawiec.  They're well-matched as Herrera is currently No. 1 in Bristol qualifying with Krawiec just behind in the No. 2 spot. 

Their respective Suzukis will duel for the first time in the challenge; Herrera won the first of this year's specialty races for the Pro Stock Motorcycles, and Krawiec will be making his first appearance in the event-within-an-event. 

Across the ladder, Chicago runner-up Chip Ellis and Hector Arana Jr. will square off, and it will be the first #2Fast2Tasty appearance for Ellis and his DENSO Buell and Arana Jr. and the GETTRX entry. Arana's Buell was strong in Chicago, and he started from the No. 3 position before he was eliminated by Ellis in the semis. He's No. 8 in the Bristol lineup, while Ellis is No. 5 aboard the Matt Smith-tuned cycle.


Justin Ashley, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Aaron Stanfield, Pro Stock; Jerry Savoie, Pro Stock Motorcycle


Tony Schumacher, 6, TF; Ron Capps, 6, FC; Mike Edwards, 2, Pro Stock; Angelle Sampey and Jerry Savoie, 1 each, Pro Stock Motorcycle


Top Fuel - 3.667 seconds by Steve Torrence, Oct. '21; 334.48 mph by Justin Ashley, Oct. '21

Funny Car - 3.884 seconds by Ron Capps, June '16; 330.31 mph by Matt hagan, Oct. '21


Top Fuel - 3.623 sec. by Brittany Force, Sept. '19, Reading, Pa.; 338.94 mph by Brittany Force, Nov. ‘22, Pomona, Calif. 

Funny Car - 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. '17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif. 



NHRA Lucas Oil Series Drag Racing Series eliminations at 9:30 a.m. and 7:00 p.m. 

Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown qualifying at 12:00, 3:25, and 6:45 p.m.

FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series qualifying at 12:20 and 3:45 p.m. 

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 1:00 and 4:30 p.m. 

SUNDAY, June 11 

NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series eliminations begin at noon 


SATURDAY, June 10, FS1 will televise one and a half hours of the remaining Epping elimination rounds at 10:30 p.m. ET

SUNDAY, June 11, FS1 will televise one and a half hours of Bristol qualifying at 12:30 p.m. ET 

SUNDAY, June 11, FS1 will televise three hours of Bristol finals coverage at 7:00 p.m. ET

Or watch all day on NHRA.tv