Del Worsham raced to the qualifying lead in Funny Car Friday during a rain-shortened day of action at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Areas Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway.
Persistent rain showers in the area forced NHRA officials to cancel the day’s second session midway through Funny Car’s final attempt. Brittany Force (Top Fuel) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel world champion, set both ends of the track record in his DHL Toyota Camry with a performance of 3.992 seconds at 319.45 mph. Worsham, who was the No. 1 qualifier in Bristol last season, seeks a third career win at the event.
“To come back here at Bristol and do it again is pretty exciting,” Worsham said. “The run was smooth and clean. Everybody on the team went after it. This is definitely a great track at Bristol with great fans.”
Worsham has shown championship form this season with two semifinal finishes and one runner-up. The veteran California driver, who currently sits fourth in the points standings, is in position to repeat his winning ways in Bristol.
“We’ve been making some great runs this season,” Worsham said. “It’s bittersweet that a few guys did not get a run because of the rain, but we hope we can continue where we left off tomorrow.”
Tim Wilkerson’s Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang holds the second position with a 4.013 at 317.72. Three-time Bristol winner Ron Capps sits in third with a performance of 4.024 at 316.38 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.
Force, the 2013 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner, set the pace in Top Fuel in her Castrol Edge dragster with a performance of 3.828 at 317.94.
“When they told me I was No. 1, I was shocked,” Force said. “It’s unfortunate with the rain, but I’m excited to be on the top of the field.”
The sophomore driver is seeking her second No. 1 qualifying position of the season.
J.R. Todd is second with a performance of 3.835 at 315.12 in his Optima Batteries/Bounty Hunter dragster, followed by 2012 world champion Antron Brown with a 3.873 at 313.07.
Gray topped the Pro Stock field with a performance of 6.644 seconds at 207.88 mph at the controls of his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray is seeking his first career No. 1 qualifying position.
"I’m thrilled for the program put together by my dad,” Gray said. “It’s a good team bringing the scheme we had last year. If it holds tomorrow, it’s hard to say because you have a tough field out there. It’s a work in progress and anybody’s race.”
Local favorite Allen Johnson was second with a performance of 6.657 seconds at 206.73 mph in his Mopar/Magnetti Marelli Dodge Dart, and teammate and reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. was third in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart with a pass of 6.657 at 206.64.
Pro Stock series leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464 seconds, 215.55 mph) in Englishtown, is sixth overall after two rounds of qualifying.
Qualifying continues Saturday with rounds scheduled for 12:30 and 3 p.m. Sunday’s eliminations start at noon.
Kevin Fiscus raced to the qualifying lead Friday in the Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the event.
Fiscus drove his '12 Ford Mustang to a top performance of 5.958 seconds at 245.54 mph to lead the category. The Florida native, who earned the No. 1 qualifying position at the most recent event in Englishtown, is seeking his second No. 1 qualifying position and first career win.
Mike Castellana sits second with a 5.958 at 240.08 in his Al-Anabi Racing ’12 Camaro. Danny Rowe, who was the No. 1 qualifier in Bristol last season, is third with a 5.983-second pass at 240.51 mph in his Agave Underground Tequila Chevy Camaro.
The final NHRA Pro Mod Series qualifying session is Saturday at 2 p.m. and will be followed by the first round of eliminations at 4:30 p.m. Pro Mod eliminations will continue on Sunday at 1:15 p.m.