BRISTOL — Shane Gray and Jeg Coughlin Jr. had the same identical time in Pro Stock qualifying for Saturday’s Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Both Gray’s Chevrolet Camaro and Coughlin’s Dodge Dart ended with a 6.621-second elapsed time. The tiebreaker was the Gray’s speed of 208.78 mph barely faster than the 208.62 mph posted by Coughlin.
Both Gray’s time and speed were track records.
“I haven’t never been a No. 1 qualifier or had a track record before,” he said. “We’re just going to live for it today. It feels great.”
Greeneville driver Allen Johnson wound up fifth after a run of 6.636 (207.85), but feels this could finally be the weekend he picks up a first Bristol win. His car is identical to his teammate Coughlin’s on some fronts.
“We snuck into the top-five position at the end and we made a good run for Sunday,” he said. “Jeg is showing off more than we are, but that’s the set-up we have too. I think we’ll have two of the fastest cars tomorrow. The last run we had will be the exact conditions we will have and we were third-quickest. Everybody is grouped together right tight and it’s going to be a knock-down, drag-out.”
Brittany Force ended up the No. 1 qualifier in Top Fuel after her Friday time stood up. She will face 82-year-old Chris Karamesines in the first round of eliminations.
Karmesines’ last round-win came at Bristol in 2011 against three-time Thunder Valley Nationals champion Doug Kalitta. His last time making it to a final-round was some 24 years ago in Phoenix. Force, who is 55 years younger than Karmesines, talked about facing the driver nicknamed “The Golden Greek,” and what it would mean to win on Father’s Day with her father, John, racing in the Funny Car division.
“That’s pretty awesome, just to say I got to run in the lane next to him,” Force said. “That will be a good show for the fans. I would love coming to Bristol and I would love to get the win. That would be the ultimate Father’s Day win for my dad.”
Top Fuel drivers Tony Schumacher and Antron Brown helped the celebrate the U.S. Army’s 239th birthday before Saturday qualifying, complete with a cake from a local Food City bakery.
Schumacher, a seven-time NHRA World Champion, has five Bristol wins and six final-round appearances overall. He also has been No. 1 qualifier on three different occasions.
“I’ve said it before, but I feel like I’m living the dream,” Schumacher said. “I get to drive the baddest car there is and do it with an incredible group of guys and represent the Army soldiers who protect our country. Winning this weekend would be a great way to cap what should be another great American weekend.”
Brown, the 2012 Top Fuel champion, is a two-time top qualifier at Bristol. He also has one final-round appearance at Thunder Valley and currently ranks second in the Mello Yello point standings behind Doug Kalitta.
Defending track champion Chad Finchum pulled away from Kres VanDyke with 15 laps to win the 60-lap Late Model Stock feature for the NASCAR Weekly All-American Series Friday night at Kingsport Speedway.
It was the third win of the season for the Knoxville driver, tying him with VanDyke for the most this season.
Johnson City driver Zeke Shell finished third. Other finishers included Joey Trent of Gray in ninth and Phil Harris of Johnson City in 10th.
Nick Cole of Bristol won the Street Stock feature, while Keith Helton of Kingsport was victorious in Pure 4. Other winners were Virginia driver Kirby Gobble in Mod 4, and Kingsport drivers Craig Phelps in Rookie Pure 4 and Trey Lane in the Legends division.comments powered by Disqus