There are no clear-cut favorites for this weekend’s Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway although some drivers appear to have a decent shot of hoisting a Wally for winning on Sunday evening.
The closest thing to a favorite is be points leader Doug Kalitta in Top Fuel.
In addition to having the fastest car in the class most of this season, Kalitta is a three-time Bristol winner. It’s a number only topped by seven-time NHRA champion Tony Schumacher’s five wins.
Steve Torrence was the surprise winner last year after fellow Texan Spencer Massey dominated the weekend’s action. Massey set a track speed record for 1,000 feet a 326.79 mph.
Other Top Fuel contenders have to be Antron Brown, who was the No. 1 qualifier in 2012 and defending series champion Shawn Langdon, who set an elapsed time record which was broken by Massey last year.
In addition, Australian Richie Crampton won the series’ last race at Englishtown, New Jersey.
John Force Racing has been the story for much of this season in the Funny Car ranks.
The company’s namesake won the first race of the season at Pomona and that followed his record-extending 16th NHRA World Championship.
His run to the championship truly started at Bristol last season, where he snapped a 31-race winless streak and beat rival Cruz Pedregon in the final round for his fourth Bristol win.
Two races ago in Topeka, Kansas, another Force beat Pedregon in the finals. It was Courtney Force, who captured the milestone 100th pro win for women.
Pedregon recovered to win the next race at Englishtown. Overall, the strongest driver of the season has been Robert Hight, John Force’s son-in-law and the current points leader, who has four wins .
Alexis DeJoria is also a multiple-time winner this season with victories at Phoenix and Las Vegas. Bristol was also the site of DeJoria’s breakout performance in the Funny Car ranks, making it to the final round in 2012.
Greeneville driver Allen Johnson is still looking for a first Pro Stock win. He lost to Mike Edwards in the closest finish in NHRA history in 2012 before getting upset by Greg Anderson in the quarterfinal round last season.
Johnson leads the series with three wins, while his teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. has two wins and comes into the race with three straight final-round appearances.
Erica Enders-Stevens has been the most consistent driver of the season. The current points leader, she reached the final round at Bristol last season before losing to first-time NHRA winner Rodger Brogdon.
The first of four qualifying sessions start today at 5 p.m. The always popular night qualifying session for the Nitro cars is scheduled for 8 p.m.
Bristol Dragway isn’t the only racing on the local calendar.
Kingsport Speedway has a six-division program tonight for the NASCAR Weekly All-American Series. A 60-lap feature for the Late Model Stock class highlights the action. The Street Stock, Pure 4, Rookie Pure 4, Mod 4 and Legends divisions are also on the schedule.
Volunteer Speedway has the 52-lap “Scott Sexton Memorial” Super Late Model division on tap for Saturday night.
Besides the Super Late Models, there are features scheduled for the Steel-Head Late Model, Crate Late Model and Modified Hobby divisions.
The Hot Summer Nights Supercross Series also returns to the Appalachian Fairgrounds this Saturday night.
Johnson City rider Mike Brown led the first lap and ultimately finished 12th in last weekend’s EnduroX competition at the X Games in Austin, Texas.
Justin Matney of Bristol, Virginia, finished 11th out of 16 drivers in the Stadium Super Trucks final. Former NASCAR and Indy Car star Robby Gordon posted the fastest qualifying time and finished third in the event.comments powered by Disqus