Defending Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson lost in the quarterfinals Sunday at Thunder Valley.
BRISTOL — Allen Johnson’s bid for a first NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals title will have to wait another year.
The Greeneville driver and defending Pro Stock champion lost to four-time Pro Stock champion Greg Anderson on a holeshot in Sunday’s quarterfinal round at Bristol Dragway.
Johnson had a .037 reaction time, compared to .022 for Anderson.
“This place, we just can’t get to the pinnacle,” Johnson said. “We didn’t make a very good run and the driver didn’t do his job. But we’ll use that as motivation to start our run to the championship.
“I thought we had overcome the bad luck this year and it was ours to win. But sometimes the most coveted awards you have to work the hardest for. We won’t quit working towards it, I can guarantee you that.”
Anderson, whose Summit Racing team has struggled over the first 10 races, called it the biggest round-win of the season. Anderson couldn’t keep the momentum going, however, losing a close race to Erica Enders-Stevens in the semifinals.
The biggest upset of the day occured one race after the Anderson-Johnson race. Mike Edwards, in his bid for a fifth straight Thunder Valley Nationals win, lost the very next race when he blew a motor in a loss to eventual race winner Rodger Brogdon.
On his way to a fourth Thunder Valley Nationals title, John Force defeated daughter Courtney in a classic Father’s Day drag race in the opening round.
The final margin of victory was a mere .003 of a second, with John Force down the track in an elapsed time of 4.125 seconds at 309.49 mph, while Courtney finished at 4.132 seconds (311.13).
“When I saw all the interview people running to her, I thought she had won,” John Force said. “I’m fighting (Bob) Tasca to stay in the top 10 and right now I needed to whup the girl, even on Father’s Day.”
It was the second time the two have met in the first round this season. Courtney Force won the first matchup between the two in Gainesville, Fla.
She had a slight advantage at half-track and originally thought she had beaten her father.
“I thought I actually won that one,” she said. “I didn’t see the win light at the end, but I was hoping I blew past it. But it was fun, a close race. I will tell him it’s a good Father’s Day present for him, even though I wanted to get the win.”
The two watched the replay on ESPN an hour after the actual matchup. Courtney just shook her head at the finish. John grinned and said, “I told you I didn’t teach them everything.”
Some of the other first-round pairings didn’t live up to the hype.
In Top Fuel, Tony Schumacher roared down the track at over 323 mph while teammate Antron Brown had trouble and struck the tires. Spencer Massey had a free pass later in the first round after the parachute on Doug Herbert’s car deployed after his burnout.
Del Worsham, the No. 1 qualifier in Funny Car, was able to pedal his machine down the track better than Robert Hight and advance to the quarterfinals.
There were some major Funny Car upsets in the first round.
Ron Capps, the defending race champion, broke at the starting line and lost to Chad Head. It came moments after defending series champion Jack Beckman lost to Blake Alexander, a 24-year-old from the Roanoke area who’s only running half the NHRA schedule.
Alexander defeated Bob Tasca III in the next round before losing to 15-time World Champion John Force in the semifinals
Jesse James, manufacture of custom-made motorcycles and a noted television personality, was in the pits working on the Funny Car driven by his girlfriend Alexis DeJoria.
James, the ex-husband of movie star Sandra Bullock, was turning wrenches and even helped on an oil change. DeJoria won her first-round race against Jeff Arend before falling to teammate Del Worsham in the quarterfinals.
The point standings are tight following Sunday’s races.
Tony Schumacher leads Shawn Langdon by just a single point (802-801) in Top Fuel, and Matt Hagan holds a 746-730 lead over Cruz Pedregon in Funny Car. Mike Edwards has a larger margin in Pro Stock, but teammates Allen Johnson and Jeg Coughlin are tied for second with 757 points apiece.
Besides the top three professional classes, championships in six other classes were contended.
Rickie Smith, the veteran King N.C. driver, beat Troy Coughlin for his second straight Bristol Pro Mod victory and Anthony Bertozzi of Ashland, Va., won the Super Stock final.