Second-year driver Brittany Force earned the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway.
Del Worsham (Funny Car) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) also will lead their categories into Sunday’s noon eliminations as the No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
Force claimed her second No. 1 qualifying position of the season by making a 3.828-second pass at 317.94 mph in her Castrol Edge dragster. The sophomore driver is seeking her first career win and says that would be the perfect Father’s Day gift for her 16-time world championship dad, John Force.
“[Winning] would be the ultimate Father’s Day present to my dad,” said Force, who is paired against legendary Chris Karamesines in the first round. “I love coming here to Bristol. It’s one of my favorite tracks by far. It’s just beautiful and green, and I had forgotten how loud it is when you’re standing down here at Thunder Valley. I’m excited for race day, and I would love to end up in the winner’s circle. I think it’s pretty awesome to be running alongside the legendary 'Greek.' ”
Optima Batteries dragster driver J.R. Todd qualified second with a 3.835 at 315.12 and will face Terry McMillen in the opening round, and seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher, a five-time Bristol winner, qualified third in his U.S. Army dragster with a 3.854 at 330.47 and will meet Billy Torrence in the opener.
In Funny Car, Worsham set both ends of the track record with a 3.992 at 319.45 in his DHL Toyota Camry on Friday to earn his second consecutive No. 1 qualifying position at this event. Worsham will face fellow Californian Jeff Arend in the first round of eliminations. It was the second No. 1 of the season for Worsham and 15th of his career.
“Every race seems like we’ve gotten stronger and stronger,” the two-time Bristol event winner said. “Hopefully, tomorrow we can maintain that strength. It should be a great race against my good friend Jeff Arend tomorrow.”
Tim Wilkerson is the No. 2 qualifier following his career-best elapsed time of 4.013 at 317.72 and will face Bob Tasca III in the first round. Three-time Bristol winner Ron Capps qualified third with a run of 4.024 at 316.38 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger. He will race Tony Pedregon in the opening round.
In Pro Stock, Gray set both ends of the Bristol track record to claim his first career No. 1 qualifying position with a performance of 6.621 at 208.78 during the final session in his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray will meet Curt Steinbach in the opening round as he pursues his first win of the season.
“We are living for today,” Gray said. “I wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for my crew. We definitely have the equipment to do what we did today. I’m not going to worry too much until tomorrow and have some fun.”
Reigning Pro Stock world champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. qualified in the No. 2 position in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart and will race Kenny Delco in the first round, while points leader Erica Enders-Stevens posted the quickest run of the final qualifying session and moved up to No. 3 with a 6.631 at 208.17 in her Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro. She will face Larry Morgan in the opener. Local favorite Allen Johnson, driver of the Mopar/Magneti Marelli Dodge Dart, qualified fifth and will face Dave Connolly in the opening round.
Kevin Fiscus secured the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the event.
Other top-seeded first-round winners were Mike Castellana, Steve Matusek, and Jim Laurita.
There were several upset winners in the first round, including Pete Farber outrunning No. 4 qualifier Danny Rowe, Dan Stevenson taking out No. 5 qualifier Clint Satterfield, Mike Knowles defeating No. 3 qualifier Don Walsh and Mike Janis beating No. 6 qualifier Steve Whiteley.
Pro Mod eliminations continue Sunday at approximately 2:30 p.m. with the following second round pairings: Fiscus vs. Laurita, Farber vs. Stevenson, Castellana vs. Matusek, and Knowles vs. Janis.
Friday: Force, Worsham, Gray lead Friday qualifying in Bristol