2014 Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Saturday photo gallery
Saturday, June 14, 2014

News and views from the Ford NHRA Thunder
Valley Nationals
presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers

Last update: 7:15 p.m.
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Picture-perfect weather and the always-great action drew large crowds to Thunder Valley for the final day of qualifying at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.

NHRA and Top Fuel drivers Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher helped the U.S. Army celebrate its 239th birthday with a special cake-cutting ceremony prior to the first round of nitro qualifying today.

Tony Schumacher entered today with no official time after a timing malfunction yesterday, but he quickly remedied that, powering to a 3.85 in the first Top Fuel session of the day. Schumacher’s time held as the quickest run of Saturday and earned “the Sarge” the No. 3 starting spot. Schumacher was also quickest of the final session.

Rodger Brogdon, the defending Pro Stock event winner in Bristol, says he’s parking his ride after this race, with plans to sit out until Indy. However, with a 6.643 best qualifying run, his car could go some rounds on Sunday. Would that possibly change his mind?

Erica Enders-Stevens continues to benefit from that Elite Performance under the hood of her red Camaro. With a 6.631 run in Pro Stock Q4, she landed No. 3 on the Pro Stock ladder.

Jason Line may have quietly recorded one of the more impressive runs in Pro Stock qualifying. With a 6.636-second lap in Q4, he’ll start Sunday’s eliminations from the No. 4 position.

Fans were treated to an epic final pair of Pro Stock cars in Saturday’s fourth session. Shane Gray and Jeg Coughlin Jr. ran side-by-side 6.621 e.t.s, with Gray recording the quickest and fastest runs in Bristol Dragway history, courtesy of his 208.78 mph.

After a tough start to the weekend that included not making a run Friday, defending event Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence rebounded well during final qualifying, posting two of the day’s eight quickest runs. He opened with a 3.90, then improved to a 3.87.

Though he made his best run of the weekend in the final qualifying session, posting a 3.88, Shawn Langdon slipped one spot in the Top Fuel order, to seventh. That set up an Al-Anabi Racing intramural skirmish with his teammate, Khalid alBalooshi.

Terry McMillen, who missed the Top Fuel field here last year, had some drama in final qualifying. A broken part caused him to smoke the tires in Saturday’s first session, and when he rolled up for final qualifying, he was no longer in the field. Though McMillen’s final run was just a 4.44, that was good enough to get him back into the show, in 15th.

John Force posted two of the three best runs in all of Funny Car on Saturday, both at 4.14 seconds. His Castrol Mustang looks ready for race day.

Alexis DeJoria’s crew chief, Tommy Delago, was hopeful of maybe getting the Patron XO Café Toyota to maybe run a 4.10 on Saturday. However, a pair of 4.16s will have to suffice.

Ron Capps rattled off a pair of 4.17s on Saturday and looks to have a consistent race car heading into Sunday’s Funny Car eliminations, where he’ll start from the No. 3 position and take on Tony Pedregon in round one.

Bob Tasca III continues to struggle. After starting out the season in decent shape, he says his team has been too conservative with its tune-up of late, and a 5.349 best, putting him 15th in the Funny Car field, isn’t likely to do much for his confidence heading into eliminations.

Following qualifying today, series sponsor Mello Yello hosted an autograph session in their display area featuring drivers from all three Pro classes, including, from left, Khalid alBalooshi, Steve Torrence, and Richie Crampton.

What’s the perfect way to cool down on a hot day? Ice cream, of course, and the Pro Stock guys have easy access thanks to this machine located in the pits of Allen Johnson, Larry Morgan, and Jeg Coughlin Jr. Johnson and Morgan sampled the ice cream after qualifying today.