NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Friday Preview

Spring is winding down and summer is about to come 'round the bend, but first, the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series is rumbling into picturesque Bristol Dragway for the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
06 Jun 2024
Kelly Wade
Race coverage
Bristol Dragway

Spring is winding down and summer is about to come 'round the bend, but first, the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series is rumbling into picturesque Bristol Dragway for the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

All four Professional classes will compete in the shadows of the Great Smoky Mountains, and the excitement will be elevated as the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series and Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown will be contested, along with Johnson's Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock and a slew of Sportsman action in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.

Top Fuel's incoming points leader, Justin Ashley, has won each of the most recent two events at Bristol Dragway, and he's undoubtedly hoping to make it three in a row. Seven races into the 2024 season, Ashley has already earned two wins in four final rounds in his Scag Power Equipment Toyota Top Fuel dragster. Tony Schumacher, though, knows how to win in Bristol. His six previous triumphs – most recently in 2018 – stand as the most for any Top Fuel driver in the history of the unique facility. The 2023 Bristol Dragway Legends of Thunder Valley inductee will be running a co-branded Michael Waltrip Brewing Co./Leatherwood Distillery paint scheme this weekend as he seeks to one-up his final-round finish at the NHRA New England Nationals one week ago. Reigning world champion Doug Kalitta, No. 2 in the standings, has three Bristol wins on his scorecard.

John Force and his Peak Antifreeze and Coolant Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car were the talk of the town in Epping, and rightfully so, as he claimed his career 157th win in dramatic fashion over the hottest guy in the class at present, teammate and points leader Austin Prock. Prock, who transitioned to Funny Car ahead of this season, reached the semifinals last season in Bristol driving a Top Fuel dragster. This time around, he has a different view as he's piloting the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car. Defending Funny Car world champion Matt Hagan and his Johnson's Horsepowered Garage Dodge SRT Hellcat will be looking to have his say in Bristol, though, as he has one win on the books there – earned in 2015 – and is eager to get back to the top of the Funny Car points. Seven-time Bristol winner Ron Capps stands above the rest in Thunder Valley, and after a less-than-fruitful start to the season in his NAPA AutoCare Toyota GR Supra, he's looking for a turnaround as the defending event champion and the man who's stood center stage on the Funny Car podium each of the last two seasons at historic Bristol Dragway.

Bristol was the turning point for incoming Pro Stock champion JHG/Melling Performance-backed Erica Enders last season, and winning the event sent her on an upswing to a sixth series title. She certainly isn't slacking with one win in three final rounds on the season, but she could use a boost this time around as well after falling to teammate Troy Coughlin Jr. on a holeshot in the Epping final. Enders is the most winning active Pro Stock driver in Bristol, with three victories so far earned. Greg Anderson, the most winning driver in the history of his class, started his climb to the top by logging his first win right here at Bristol Dragway – but his 2001 victory is one of only two races he's won here. Anderson, now campaigning the HendrickCars.com Chevrolet, also won the event in 2004. He's situated third in the points, just behind Enders, while Dallas Glenn and his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet Camaro are occupying the top spot with two wins so far recorded in the 2024 season.

The Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will mark just the third time that Pro Stock Motorcycle has been contested in Bristol, and the only rider with the opportunity to repeat is Steve Johnson. Angelle Sampey won in 2021, and Jerry Savoie scored the title in 2022; neither rider is competing at this time. Points leader Gaige Herrera has continued his reign of terror aboard the RevZilla/Mission/Vance & Hines Suzuki this season, and he lands in Bristol intending to avenge the loss to Johnson in last year's final. The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals were one of just four events in which the powerful rider did not leave victorious. LE Tonglet, No. 2 in the points after the Chicago event — where the Pro Stock Motorcycle gang last raced — is not entered for the event. That leaves a bit of stretching room for Denso riders Matt Smith, currently No. 3 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle points, and wife Angie, No. 4, to make up ground. John Hall and Richard Gadson, as well as Chicago finalist and 2023 NHRA Rookie of the Year Chase Van Sant, are also well in the mix.

The Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, pitting the semifinalists from the previous event against one another, will take place during Saturday qualifying, with first-round match-ups in Top Fuel set as Doug Kalitta vs. Shawn Langdon and Tony Schumacher vs. Clay Millican. In Funny Car, John Force will race J.R. Todd, while Austin Prock and Daniel Wilkerson will battle on the other side of the ladder. Pro Stock's Troy Coughlin Jr. and Dallas Glenn will square off, and Erica Enders and Jerry Tucker will go head-to-head. The Pro Stock Motorcycle match-ups will be Herrera vs. Matt Smith (who landed the spot when Tonglet did not enter for the event) and Van Sant vs. Angie Smith.  


Justin Ashley, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Erica Enders, Pro Stock; Steve Johnson, Pro Stock Motorcycle


Tony Schumacher, 6, TF; Ron Capps, 6, FC; Mike Edwards, 4, PS; Steve Johnson, Angelle Sampey, Jerry Savoie, 1, PSM


Top Fuel - 3.667 seconds by Steve Torrence, Oct. '21; 336.49 mph by Justin Ashley, June, '23
Funny Car - 3.843 seconds by Ron Capps, June '16; 337.16 mph by Matt Hagan, Oct. '21
Pro Stock - 6.621 seconds by Shane Gray, June '14; 209.26 mph by Bo Butner, June '16

Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.760 seconds by Karen Stoffer, Oct. 21; 199.29 mph by Eddie Krawiec, Oct. '21


Top Fuel - 3.623 sec. by Brittany Force, Sept. ‘19, Reading; 338.94 mph by B. Force, Nov. ‘22, Pomona
Funny Car - 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. '17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Hight, July ’17, Sonoma
Pro Stock - 6.450 sec. by Erica Enders, Mar. ’22, Gainesville; 215.55 mph by Enders, May ’14, Englishtown 
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.627 sec. by Gaige Herrera, Oct. '23, Gainesville; 205.04 mph by Matt Smith, July '21, Sonoma


FRIDAY, June 7: Lucas Oil Series qualifying and time trials at 9:30 a.m.; Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying at 4:45 p.m.; Top Fuel and Funny Car qualifying at 5:45 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 8: Lucas Oil Series eliminations at 8:30 a.m.; Pro Stock Motorcycle and Pro Stock qualifying at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.; Top Fuel and Funny Car qualifying at 1:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 9: Pre-race ceremony, 11 a.m.; eliminations begin at noon


FRIDAY, June 7: FS1 will televise one and a half hours of qualifying at 7 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, June 9: FS1 will televise one and a half hours of qualifying at 12:30 p.m. (ET)
SUNDAY, June 9:  FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage at 7 p.m. (ET)