NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
Event 11 of 24 (Bristol)
June 14-16, 2019
DSR Bristol Elimination Highlights:
Funny Car pilots Jack Beckman and Ron Capps recorded semifinal finishes in Thunder Valley
Antron Brown retained his No. 4 ranking in the Top Fuel point standings
Tommy Johnson Jr., Capps, and Beckman occupy the fourth, fifth and sixth spots, respectively, in the Funny Car rankings
Driver of the Matco Tools Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 4 (3.768 E.T. at 325.14 MPH)
E1: 3.863 E.T. at 318.24 MPH defeated Audrey Worm 4.082 E.T. at 279.21 MPH
E2: 6.602 E.T. at 110.14 MPH defeated by Mike Salinas 3.908 E.T. at 316.97 MPH
Aside from the recently reinstated Richmond, Va. event, the Thunder Valley Nationals is the only other race on the current NHRA schedule where Antron Brown hasn’t been able to seal the deal and leave with the Wally trophy. He qualified fourth for the 19th running of the Bristol Dragway race and drew Audrey Worm in the first round. Brown had the starting line advantage and navigated his Matco Tools Toyota straight down the groove for the win. Against Mike Salinas in the second round, Brown was once again first on the tree, but his machine lost traction right at the hit of the throttle, and his opponent was able to drive to the clean round win.
“This is a demanding track, and when you’re able to pull out a win here, you feel like you’ve done something special. We’re working hard. We qualified where we wanted to qualify at. We just need to get our strategy right. Our car wants to go really quick now. We’ve been working on making it aggressive early. We backed it down today, but we just didn’t back it down enough, and the track showed it to us. Nobody in the right lane made it past the starting line in the second Top Fuel session. Everyone smoked the tires right away. Our competitors went down there and ran a 3.90 (in round two) and got the job done. We’ve got Norwalk next week, and we’ll get right back after it. It’s a tight point battle right now. There’s still a lot of racing left. We’re going to keep pushing, and keep marching forward.”
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Top Fuel Dragster
Qualified: No. 2 (3.757 E.T. at 323.04 MPH)
E1: 4.972 E.T. at 162.39 MPH defeated by Lex Joon 4.536 E.T. at 205.41 MPH
Leah Pritchett entered race day in Thunder Valley seeking her first Bristol Dragway victory and first win of the year. A solid qualifying performance yielded five bonus points for the MOPAR-powered Top Fuel pilot and earned Pritchett her best starting position of the season. From the No. 2 spot, she faced Lex Joon in the opening session. Pritchett was first to stand on the throttle, but her machine went up in smoke almost immediately. She pedaled it but was unable to regain traction in a notoriously tricky right lane, and her opponent was able to claim the upset win.
“We really had some good momentum coming into race day from some solid qualifying runs. We have been chasing clutch-wear inconsistencies and just when we think we’ve got it under control, boom, it shows its face again. But, we will conquer it; this I know for sure, just as I will conquer patience in pedaling of the car in warmer conditions. It’s difficult when you see your opponent having trouble, too. You just want to get to the finish line first, and fight mode comes in. These challenges are definitely making us a stronger team, and we will prevail.”
Driver of the Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 4 (3.976 E.T. at 319.90 MPH)
E1: 4.031 E.T. at 318.47 MPH defeated Tim Wilkerson 4.063 E.T. at 310.48 MPH
E2: 4.076 E.T. at 315.64 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.397 E.T. at 284.81 MPH
E3: 7.532 E.T. at 97.47 MPH defeated by John Force 4.125 E.T. at 316.38 MPH
“Fast Jack” Beckman and his Infinite Hero Foundation team followed last week’s run to the final at the NHRA Heartland Nationals with another consistent weekend in Thunder Valley. Beckman piloted the MOPAR-powered Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car to the fourth position in qualifying and envisioned capturing his first Bristol triumph following his strong run of 3.912 seconds in the opening round to defeat Tim Wilkerson.
In round two, Beckman posted another stout run, a triumphant 4.076 E.T. over reigning Funny Car champion J.R. Todd. His third consecutive semifinal appearance pitted him against John Force. Beckman’s run for his first Wally of 2019 ended approximately 60 feet after his launch when he lost traction. The 2012 Funny Car world champion tried to recover, but Force was too far ahead and was able to claim the round win.
“In the last three races, we have put seven round wins together, and maybe more importantly, we have a predictable car. Once you make it consistent, you can lean on it and get quicker. What I see as confidence-inspiring is that we are now able to make good runs on cool tracks and hot tracks. I don’t think it’s going to matter what conditions we face going forward, because I think we have a tune-up solution for that. I do know that if we keep running like this that our first race win of the season is going to come pretty soon. The good thing is that you don’t want to get to this part of the season and start struggling. We are on an upward trend, and I expect that to continue.”
Driver of the NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 7 (4.002 E.T. at 317.79 MPH)
E1: 4.005 E.T. at 314.53 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.383 E.T. at 212.16 MPH
E2: 4.039 E.T. at 312.28 MPH defeated Shawn Langdon 4.080 E.T. at 309.27 MPH
E3: 4.216 E.T. at 258.86 MPH defeated by Bob Tasca III 4.048 E.T. at 317.87 MPH
As the two-time defending event champion and winningest Funny Car driver in Bristol Dragway history, Ron Capps was looking to make it three-in-a-row on Father’s Day in Thunder Valley. A strong performance on Saturday pitted the No. 7 qualified NAPA AUTO PARTS Funny Car team against No. 10 qualifier Blake Alexander during round one on race day. Capps powered to a clean 4.005-second pass to easily defeat Alexander’s tire-smoking effort and earn lane choice against Shawn Langdon in the second round.
Against Langdon, Capps piloted the NAPA Dodge to the quickest pass of the round (4.039 seconds) to claim the win and earn a bid to the semifinals where he faced eventual race winner Bob Tasca III. In the semis, Capps was nearly even with Tasca leaving the starting line, but his car dropped a cylinder near half-track, and he was forced to give up on the run after drifting near the centerline.
“Obviously, we’re a little bummed we couldn’t get back to the final and have a shot at going three-in-a-row here. Still, we’re exceptionally pleased with how we did on Saturday, getting down the track and earning lane choice with a 4.002 in the heat. That’s typical Rahn Tobler. And then to go three rounds today was good. In the semis, the car got out there a little bit, and then Tasca pulled ahead, and I shut the car off early. We haven’t had a cylinder drop like that early into the run in a long time, so we’ll look at the data and see why it did that.
“It was still a great weekend points-wise, and we’ll keep chugging away. I think this is going to be a fun summer for our NAPA team. We’re starting to hit our stride. Tobler has been able to implement a couple of things into the clutch area that he wanted to, and that means good things for us.”
Driver of the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 9 (4.012 E.T. at 317.27 MPH)
E1: 4.376 E.T. at 223.50 MPH defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr. 3.964 E.T. at 311.92 MPH
Two-time world champion Matt Hagan continued his recent trend of running into fellow DSR Hellcat Funny Car racers during the early rounds of eliminations. After qualifying the MOPAR Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat ninth with his second round qualifying run of 4.012 seconds, Hagan was paired against Tommy Johnson Jr. to open eliminations. Both left the starting line with identical .080-reaction times, but Hagan dropped a cylinder early into the run and had to click it off when his machine made a hard move toward the centerline.
“This was a really tough weekend, and it all comes down to qualifying. We just have to have the results on Friday and Saturday to put us in a better position on Sunday. Top-half would have been huge today. We struggled with that left lane and kind of fell victim to it. We are going to test tomorrow and hoping we can make some runs to get ourselves squared away. That’s all we can really do is keep digging. We have a big responsibility to our sponsors in MOPAR, Pennzoil and Sandvik and all the people that make this happen. We are going to have turn things around and start making things happen.”
TOMMY JOHNSON JR.
Driver of the Make-A-Wish Foundation Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat
Qualified: No. 8 (4.003 E.T. at 318.24 MPH)
E1: 3.964 E.T. at 311.92 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 4.376 E.T. at 223.50 MPH
E2: 8.529 E.T. at 88.42 MPH defeated by John Force 4.044 E.T. at 318.32 MPH
Tommy Johnson Jr. earned his position in the top half of Sunday’s field by closing qualifying with an impressive run of 4.003 seconds to grab the eighth position. It marked the second time in the last five events where Johnson and Matt Hagan squared off in round one. Johnson was on the money in this race posting his best run of the weekend, a 3.964 E.T., to capture his third consecutive win over a slowing Hagan. The momentum from his first-round victory was short-lived as Johnson went up in smoke at the hit against John Force to end his chances of a second victory in three races.
“The track caught us off guard there in that second round run. It’s been pretty tricky all weekend, and we weren’t expecting that. We tuned for the conditions, and we’ve had a pretty good handle on it all weekend. We know we have a really fast Hellcat right now. We just need to keep doing what we are doing, and we’ll go some more rounds. I really thought with today’s conditions we had a great chance, but sometimes they’ll surprise you. We’ll get right back at it in Norwalk in a few days and see if we can end this four-race deal the same way we started it - with a victory.”
NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship Standings: Top Fuel
1. Steve Torrence - 1048
2. Doug Kalitta - 709
3. Mike Salinas - 691 4. Antron Brown - 676
5. Brittany Force - 663
6. Clay Millican - 611 7. Leah Pritchett - 571
8. Richie Crampton - 499
9. Austin Prock - 486
10. Terry McMillen - 470 Funny Car
1. Robert Hight - 990
2. John Force - 786 3. Tommy Johnson Jr - 783
4. Ron Capps - 741
5. Jack Beckman - 720
6. J.R. Todd - 711 7. Matt Hagan - 624
8. Tim Wilkerson - 587
9. Bob Tasca III - 574
10. Shawn Langdon - 528