NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Prock, Millican, Anderson, and Smith rise to the top in Thunder Valley

At the conclusion of an action-packed day of qualifying for the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Clay Millican, Austin Prock, Greg Anderson, and Matt Smith locked down low qualifier awards in their respective categories to set the tone for Sunday at Bristol Dragway.
08 Jun 2024
Kelly Wade
Race coverage
Austin Prock

At the conclusion of an action-packed day of qualifying for the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Clay Millican, Austin Prock, Greg Anderson, and Matt Smith locked down low qualifier awards in their respective categories to set the tone for Sunday at Bristol Dragway.

Austin Prock, driving the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro, earned his sixth No. 1 qualifier in eight races thanks to his 3.958-second pass at 317.34 mph on Friday. He’ll open eliminations against John Smith, looking to sweep the weekend for the first time.

“It was another outstanding day for this team," said Prock, who also won the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge over his boss and the most winning driver in the history of the sport, John Force. "Everyone is doing a great job and this car is so much fun to drive. It’s a good day all-around and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I love those earlier starts."

Alexis DeJoria qualified in the No. 2 position with a 3.973 at 319.90, and Ron Capps, who has won back-to-back races in Bristol, is third with a 3.976 at 320.74.

Top Fuel's Millican, in his Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster, enjoyed another magical day at Bristol Dragway, winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge for the first time and closing the deal on the 26th No. 1 of his career and first of the season. Millican's pass of 3.786-second pass at 325.06 mph on Friday night was the decider.

Millican is now focused on going four rounds on Sunday, starting eliminations with a first-round matchup with Cameron Ferre.

“This is absolutely awesome,” said Millican, acknowledging the impact of qualifying in the top spot as well as winning the specialty race with Rick Ware on the property. “We are definitely chasing points. Last year we made a mistake and bumped ourselves out of the top 10, so we are looking for every single point we can get."

Points leader Justin Ashley qualified second with Friday’s 3.795 at 322.42 and Antron Brown was third, thanks to Friday’s 3.809 at 321.27.

Anderson delivered a standout run to open Pro Stock qualifying on Saturday, so much so that his pass of 6.615 at 205.38 in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro sent him to the No. 1 qualifier position. It’s Anderson’s second No. 1 qualifier this season and the 126th in the veteran’s remarkable career. He’ll open eliminations against Larry Morgan and was thrilled with what the team was able to put together on Saturday.

Anderson nearly eclipsed his own track record, no small feat during the warmer temperatures in the final two qualifying rounds. Now, he will look to win for the third time this season at a track where he picked up his first career Pro Stock victory in 2001. Anderson is also looking for his first Bristol win in 20 years; his most recent win there was in 2004.

“You really never get out of the car at the finish line – at least I don't – and say, you know what, I think we got it all. I got out first run this morning and I think we got more than it all,” Anderson said. “I know I've never said that before, so it’s fantastic when you do something like that and can back it up on the next run the same day.

“The competition out here is so mean and so tough, you have a different hero every week, and you never know who can beat who. To come out here today and outrun the competition by a couple of hundredths – that's a mile in Pro Stock. It doesn't guarantee you a win, but to get an advantage like that, it's priceless. I'm super happy today and hopefully we can carry it into tomorrow. I love racing here. This is where I won my very first ever NHRA national event back in 2001. If it wasn't for this place and the jump-start I got here to start the great career I've had, I wouldn't be where I'm at today. It's been a hell of a ride, and I love racing up here at Thunder Valley.”

Erica Enders, who was the victor in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, finished second in qualifying with her 6.631 at 206.92, while Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s 6.639 at 206.45 put him third.

Smith enjoyed an incredible day in Pro Stock Motorcycle, taking the No. 1 qualifier and his first Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win of the season with a pair of standout runs. He picked up the bonus victory over his wife, Angie, going 6.802 at 199.05 on his Denso Auto Parts Buell, knocking off points leader Gaige Herrera earlier in the day with a tremendous 6.759 at 200.05. Both are track records, and it was also the first 200-mph run at Bristol Dragway in Pro Stock Motorcycle history. He’ll get the opportunity to sweep the weekend, taking on Ryan Oehler to open eliminations.

“I didn't think .75 was possible,” Smith said. “Last night's pass when I went to the centerline, I knew we could have gone .77, I thought we could go .76, but this morning we just got all of it. We went 1.04 60-foot and the scoreboard popped up. That was pretty much a perfect pass for us. Then we come back for Q4 and we're low of the round again. All in all, I think we have a good deal for tomorrow. 

“Hats off to my whole team. I'm the privileged one that gets to ride the thing, and all these guys working on it are the ones making it really good. We've got a really good program.”

Richard Gadson’s 6.825 at 197.74 gave him the second spot in qualifying, while Chase Van Sant qualified third with a 6.827 at 10636. Herrera is currently qualified fourth. He is undefeated in 2024 and a win on Sunday would tie the defending world champion with Bob Glidden for the most consecutive wins (9) and round wins (35) in NHRA history.

Eliminations for the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.