Freeman, who returned to the driver's seat for the first time in two decades a couple of weeks ago at Chicago, was 11th fastest in the first round of qualifying with an elapsed time of 6.808 seconds at 202.70 miles per hour before going a little quicker and faster at 6.774 seconds and 202.94 mph on his second pass.
He lost a position as the cars ran faster under cooler conditions, but Freeman was still happy with the efforts.
"It's great to get to race this Summit Chevrolet here at my hometown race," said Freeman, a Cloudland High School alum. “There isn't anything better. I was the first car out on the first run and it wasn't horrible — so I wanted to make it better on the second run."
Freeman, whose primary job is assistant crew chief for KB Racing, had reason to celebrate with teammate Greg Anderson proving fastest during Pro Stock qualifying at 6.674 seconds (205.44 mph). Anderson talked about seeing Freeman back on the track.
"It's cool. I sort of snicker and smile when I look over there and see that he's having a ball," Anderson said. "He means the world to this team and has been out here a long, long time. He knows a lot about drag racing and is just a hardcore racer. He loves to drive and he hasn't been able to drive in a long time. It's just a neat feeling to look over there and see a big ole smile on his face."
NEW THUNDER VALLEY LEGEND
Mark Oswald, who swept both NHRA and IHRA Funny Car World Championships in 1984, was named the latest Legend of Thunder Valley. He will be officially inducted in a ceremony on Sunday.
Oswald, currently the crew chief for three-time Top Fuel World Champion Antron Brown, picked up five Funny Car wins at Bristol between 1982-88. Picking up his first Bristol win in 1977, he also reached the final in 1982 behind the wheel of a Top Fuel car.
His Bristol wins helped the Houma, La., resident win three IHRA championships (1983, '84, '86) in four years. However, it was a race he didn't win that he most remembered.
"I remember coming here after we had won the championship and we were really struggling," Oswald said. "The car wouldn't cooperate the first part of the year. We came here and got in the late rounds and blew up and was on fire. I couldn't see where I was going so I guessed and turned to the right. I turned too much and turned left. It was the best thing that happened because it junked that car and forced us to go back to what we knew. The rest of the year was really good."
Tom "The Mongoose" McEwen, who died last week, was still on the hearts and minds of many of the drag racers on Friday at Bristol Dragway.
One driver was Ron Capps, the defending Funny Car winner at the Thunder Valley Nationals. Capps spent the first several years of his career driving for McEwen's old rival, Don "The Snake" Prudhomme, and even portrayed his car owner in the 2013 Snake vs. Mongoose movie.
The two drivers helped the sport of drag racing reach millions of new fans through their program with the Mattel toy company featuring "Snake" and "Mongoose" Funny Cars.
"I've got the best memories of hanging with Mongoose," Capps said. "Before the season I got a call from Snake, telling me to be careful and to stick up for those we should have respect for. It wasn't a week later I get a phone call from Goose and sure enough he said about the same thing. The kind of respect I had for them, all the old-school guys and what it meant to come to Bristol, I just love the history and loved their stories."