NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Tricky Tipster: NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

With the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing tour headed to scenic Bristol Dragway for the Thunder Valley Nationals, Tricky Tipster has given the nod to Brittany Force, Ron Capps, Dallas Glenn, and Gaige Herrera as the favorites to win in the four professional classes.
07 Jun 2023
NHRA National Dragster staff
Tricky Tipster®

Unfortunately, last week’s New England Nationals was a washout so we never got a chance to see who’d celebrate wins at the historic facility. The good news is that the tour heads straight to another historic venue, Bristol Dragway, where the New England race will be completed in conjunction with the Thunder Valley Nationals.

A week ago, we picked Brittany Force and Ron Capps as the favorites for New England and with almost no data available, there is no need to change course. Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle rejoin the tour this week so Tipster is going with Dallas Glenn and Gaige Herrera as the pre-race favorites.


The favorite: While she’s never won in Bristol, nor has she appeared in a final round, we have the sneaky feeling that Brittany Force and her Monster/Flav-R-Pac team are about to have a breakthrough season so we’re going to give them another shot this week. Force has been the low qualifier three times this season in just six (completed) races and she’s coming off a semifinal in Chicago so signs of progress have been evident. The reigning world champ is also No. 2 in the Camping World standings so this cannot be too much of a stretch.

The contenders: Justin Ashley is the defending event winner in Bristol so he figures to be in the mix for both titles and the same goes for Steve Torrence, who comes to Bristol as the championship leader. Torrence also won here in 2013 and was a runner-up in 2019 and 2021. Much like Force, we have a feeling that the Capco team is set for a breakout performance in the very near future.

Of course, the sentimental favorite is Chicago winner Clay Millican, who earned his first career NHRA victory in 2017. Millican’s Rick Ware-owned team has made massive strides this season, so they figure to enjoy contender status more often than not.

We’re also looking at Josh Hart, two-time Bristol winner Mike Salinas, Leah Pruett, Austin Prock, and Antron Brown, who are all within striking distance of the top spot.

The dark horse: Bristol Dragway has been a fantastic track for Kalitta Motorsports driver Shawn Langdon who was a winner here in 2016 and has two runner-up finishes in Top Fuel, including last year’s event. Langdon also won the Super Comp title here last season as he came within one round of a memorable double-up.

Brittany Force            Monster Energy                      4-1
Justin Ashley              Phillips Connect                      5-1
Steve Torrence          Capco Contractors                 5-1
Leah Pruett                Dodge Power Brokers           6-1
Josh Hart                     R+L Carriers                            7-1
Clay Millican               Parts Plus                                8-1
Antron Brown            Matco Tools                            9-1
Austin Prock              Montana Brands                    10-1
Mike Salinas               Scrappers                               10-1
Shawn Langdon        DHL                                          12-1
Field                                                                             19-1


The favorite: Ron Capps tends to perform well almost everywhere, but he’s been especially successful at Bristol Dragway with six wins in Funny Car including last year’s event, where he defeated Tim Wilkerson in the final round. Ironically, Capps went to the final round at the most recent race in Chicago where he dropped the final against Wilkerson. Honestly, it wouldn’t be the least bit surprising to see them race again in one of the final rounds that will be contested this weekend.

The contenders: The usual suspects in Funny Car include Matt Hagan, Robert Hight, Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III, JR Todd, and John Force, while Alexis DeJoria and Chad Green are both enjoying solid seasons. These days, there isn’t much separating the Top 10 drivers in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. While the parity makes these events tough to handicap, its great for the fans. Toyota teammates DeJoria and Todd raced in the final here in 2021 and it really wouldn’t be much of a shock to see them race again this weekend in either the Epping or Bristol final rounds.

The dark horse: Chad Green isn’t exactly a darkhorse since he’s appeared in four semifinals this season but the part-time Pro Mod racer is still looking for his first final round as a nitro race. That could easily change this weekend. Green’s Bondcoat Ford has been both fast and consistent this season as he’s already compiled a very respectable 9-6 record in elimination rounds.

Ron Capps                  NAPA Toyota                                        4-1
Robert Hight               Flav-R-Pak Chevy                                5-1
Tim Wilkerson            SCAG Mowers Ford                            6-1
Matt Hagan                Dodge Power Brokers Dodge           6-1
Bob Tasca III              Motorcraft Ford                                   7-1
Alexis DeJoria            Bandero Tequila Toyota                    8-1
Cruz Pedregon          Snap-on Dodge                                   9-1
J.R. Todd                     DHL Toyota                                         10-1
Chad Green               Bondcoat Ford                                    11-1
John Force                  Peak/Blu Def Chevy                           12-1 
Field                                                                                           18-1


The favorite: At this point, it’s hard to argue against Dallas Glenn since he’s the incoming championship leader and he’s won three of the first six races. Glenn has a 15-3 record in elimination rounds this season which is incredibly impressive considering the amount of parity that currently exists in the Pro Stock class. Glenn has not been to a final round at Bristol Dragway but that could easily change this weekend.

The contenders: Right now, the KB Titan cars seem to have a slight advantage against their Elite rivals but in most cases it’s negligible. Matt Hartford and Deric Kramer, who are second and third respectively in the standings, are KB Titan customers but Gainesville winner Troy Coughlin Jr., and Elite driver, is fourth and is just 15 points out of second.

Last year in Bristol, Aaron Stanfield and Erica Enders met in a memorable final round where Enders hurt and, engine at halftrack, allowing her teammate to take the victory. Both drivers could use a few round wins, especially Enders, who is off to a slow start, but is still well within striking distance of the Top 10.

The dark horse: Only three drivers in this year’s field have previously won a Pro Stock race in Bristol; Enders, Stanfield, and Greg Anderson, who won here in 2001 and 2004. Anderson is also off to a slow start this season with just one semifinal in six races but he did score an impressive victory over Hartford at the most recent Pro Stock event in Chicago.

Dallas Glenn                    RAD Torque Systems Camaro           3-1
Matt Hartford                  Total Seal Camaro                              4-1
Troy Coughlin Jr.             JEGS.com Camaro                               5-1
Deric Kramer                  GetBioFuel.com Camaro                    5-1
Aaron Stanfield               Janac Bros/J3 Energy Camaro           6-1
Camrie Caruso                Powerbuilt Tools Camaro                  8-1
Cristian Cuadra               Corral Boots Mustang                        9-1
Erica Enders                     JHG/Elite Camaro                               9-1
Kyle Koretsky                   Lucas Oil Camaro                              10-1
Greg Anderson                HendrickCars.com Camaro             11-1    
Field                                                                                                18-1


The favorite: With three wins in three races and a perfect 11-0 record in elimination rounds, Gaige Herrera, the runaway leader in Pro Stock Motorcycle, is the easiest selection on the board. At some point, Herrera and his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki, will lose a round, but based on their recent performance, it might be a while. For the record, Herrera has also been the top qualifier at the first three races this season and there’s not a single reason to think that streak won’t continue this week as well.

The contenders: The Pro Stock Motorcycle class doesn’t have much history at Bristol Dragway since it’s been contested just twice as a championship eliminator. That being the case, it’s best to rank the contenders purely on performance which means that Eddie Krawiec, Matt Smith, rookie Chase Van Sant, and Joey Gladstone deserve mention since they’re all ranked in the Top 5.

In addition to the aforementioned riders, its worth taking a look at Angie Smith and Hector Arana Jr. as contenders. Smith is the wife and teammate of reigning world champ Matt Smith and has comparable power. Arana Jr. enjoyed his best outing of the season in Chicago with a No. 3 qualifying effort and a semifinal finish. After winning a pair of events late last season, he’s easily someone who could hand Herrera his first loss of the year.

The dark horse: At the last race in Chicago, Chip Ellis rode to the final round aboard one of Matt Smith’s V-twin Buell entries and as a result, he’s moved into the Top 10 even though he missed the Charlotte event. Ellis has a bike that is capable of getting the job done and he’s also well known as being one of Pro Stock Motorcycle’s most technical riders.

Gaige Herrera             Vance & Hines Suzuki                2-1
Matt Smith                  Denso Suzuki                              7-2
Eddie Krawiec             Vance & Hines Suzuki               5-1
Chase Van Sant          Trick Tools Suzuki                      6-1
Joey Gladstone           Reed Motorsports Suzuki         7-1
Hector Arana Jr.         GETTRX Buell                               8-1
Angie Smith                Denso Buell                                 8-1
Steve Johnson           Mac-Rak Suzuki                            10-1
Chip Ellis                    MSR Buell                                      12-1
Jianna Evaristo         Scrappers Suzuki                          14-1
Field                                                                                    17-1