NHRA - National Hot Rod Association

Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Sunday Preview

It's race day at the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, and with an early start time, the underlying energy is anything but chill. Teams are preparing to chase glory on the strip at one of the most breathtaking facilities on the tour. Here are a few things you should know.
09 Jun 2024
Kelly Wade
Race coverage
Bristol Dragway

It's race day at the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, and with an early start time, the underlying energy at Bristol Dragway is anything but chill. Teams are preparing to chase glory on the strip and beat Mother Nature to the punch at one of the most breathtaking facilities on the tour. Here are a few things you should know.

The start time for Sunday eliminations at Bristol Dragway has been bumped up to 10 a.m. from the typical noon-start, and the result is a fresh layer of intensity. Clay Millican's enthusiasm never seems to waver, no matter the day or location, but this racetrack has a magical effect for the Tennessee native. His emotional victory here on Father's Day in 2017 has etched Bristol Dragway forever in his heart, and this weekend is playing out to be another big one for the driver who claimed the 26th No. 1 of his career and scored the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge title on Saturday. Millican and his Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster will square off with Cameron Ferre, who is aiding in the launch of a brand-new Top Fuel team owned by Jerry Freeman.

The most winning Top Fuel driver in Bristol is eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher, who is campaigning the Michael Waltrip Brewing Co./Leatherwood Distillery dragster this weekend. The Epping runner-up is qualified in the No. 12 position and will have a tall order against Team Scrappers racer Jasmine, who stepped into the driver's seat for the first time this season. Salinas, whose father, Mike, won here in 2019 and 2021, made big gains in qualifying and locked down her best qualifying position to date to earn a start from the No. 5 spot.

Incoming points leader Justin Ashley, driving the Scag Power Equipment Top Fueler and starting from the No. 2 position, has two wins in four final rounds on the season and is the defending event champion. He'll be racing Monster Energy pilot Brittany Force, who is in the hunt for a turnaround weekend. Reigning world champion Doug Kalitta is starting a very uncharacteristic 14th in his Mac Tool dragster. He'll have to square off with Matco Tools-backed Antron Brown, the No. 3 qualifier, in the first round.

No. 4 qualifier Shawn Langdon will race Shawn Reed, Billy Torrence and Josh Hart will go toe-to-toe, and Steve Torrence – who holds the track record for elapsed time at 3.667 – and young Cody Krohn are also set up for a showdown.

Incoming points leader and Bristol No. 1 qualifier Austin Prock, who also won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, is set for a first-round meeting with John Smith. Prock made a name for himself in Top Fuel and has been enjoying a stellar first season in Funny Car representing John Force Racing in Robert Hight's Cornwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet. He enters raceday with one win in four final rounds on his scorecard; he was runner-up to Force at New England Dragway.

NAPA Auto Care Toyota driver Ron Capps is the defending event champion in Funny Car, and his strong qualifying performance has him in the No. 3 position with a first-round meeting with Buddy Hull and the Jim Dunn Racing Dodge. Capps, looking for his first win of the season, is tied with Schumacher for the most Bristol Dragway wins – they each have six.

The next closest most winning Funny Car driver in Thunder Valley is also the most winning driver in the sport, John Force. Wheeling the Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet two weeks ago at New England Dragway, Force claimed the 168th victory of his esteemed career in a final-round standoff with teammate Prock. This weekend, he's aiming for a fifth Bristol Dragway win, but he'll have to get past second-generation driver Daniel Wilkerson and his Scag Ford first.

Reigning world champion Matt Hagan is looking to emerge from a bit of a troubled spot at a racetrack where he was the 2015 winner. After a first-round loss in Epping, the champ wants more than what his No. 12 qualifying position has so far shown. He'll bring his JHG Dodge to the starting line for a first-round meeting with No. 5 qualifier Chad Green and the Bond-Coat entry.

Terry Haddock's start from the No. 6 position is a career best, and he'll take that momentum to a first-round match with J.R. Todd. Paul Lee and Cruz Pedregon will also race in the first round, as will Bob Tasca III and Bobby Bode, and Alexis DeJoria and Dave Richards.

After winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday, defending event winner Erica Enders has high hopes of swooping in on a double at a racetrack where she turned her program around last season en route to a sixth series title. Qualified in the No. 2 position, the JHG/Melling Performance-backed driver will go head-to-head with Elite Motorsports teammate Fernando Cuadra Jr.

Five-time champion and the most winning driver in Pro Stock, HendrickCars.com racer Greg Anderson, will be representing his KB Titan Racing team as the No. 1 qualifier and looking for a 106th category win. Anderson will have the opportunity to race veteran drive and engine builder Larry Morgan in the first round, marking the 38th time the two have met in eliminations. Notably, Anderson earned the first win of his career at this event in 2001, and he won again in 2004 – precisely two decades ago.

Incoming Pro Stock points leader Dallas Glenn and his RAD Torque Systems Chevrolet has two wins in three final rounds on the season. He's starting fourth and set for a first-round match with KB Titan teammate Deric Kramer.

Troy Coughlin Jr., who defeated Elite Motorsports teammate Enders on a holeshot in Epping, will line up next to Kenny Delco in round one, while his uncle, two-time Bristol Pro Stock winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., will race Jerry Tucker. David Cuadra and Matt Hartford will also square off, as will 2022 Bristol winner Aaron Stanfield and Chris McGaha, and Brandon Foster and Cristian Cuadra.

Defending event champ Steve Johnson is the only Pro Stock Motorcycle rider with a chance of repeating at Bristol. The class only started racing here four years ago, and previous winners Angelle Sampey and Jerry Savoie are not entered. Johnson's first round will look a lot like the final round last year as he is slated to race points leader Gaige Herrera, the No. 4 qualifier and rider of one of the Vance & Hines RevZilla/Mission Suzukis.

Six-time world champion Matt Smith, No. 1 qualifier and winner of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge here in Bristol, will bring his Denso Buell forward to race El Bandido/Burromax-backed Ryan Oehler, while a hard-charging Richard Gadson, aboard the second RevZilla/Mission entry, is starting from the No. 2 spot and will have Kelly Clontz and the Steamfitters UA Local 602 Suzuki.

Matt Smith Racing riders John Hall (No. 5) and Jianna Evaristo (No. 6) will meet Christ Bostick and Marc Ingwersen, respectively, while #2Fast2Tasty runner-up Angie Smith will meet Hector Arana Jr. and the GETTRX Buell in round one.

2023 Rookie of the Year Chase Van Sant will enjoy a start from the No. 3 position on his Trick Tools/White Alligator Racing Suzuki, pairing him with Rat Racing/AllTech Signs rider Ron Tornow for round one.

Although the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series categories were run to completion on Saturday, the Sunday story will also be populated with intense action of elimination rounds in the Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown Series, the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Series, and the Johnson's Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock Series.



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, Pa.; 338.94 mph by B. Force, Nov. ‘22, Pomona, Calif.
Funny Car - 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. '17, Brainerd, Minn.; 339.87 mph by Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock - 6.450 sec. by Erica Enders, Mar. ’22, Gainesville, Fla.; 215.55 mph by Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle - 6.627 sec. by Gaige Herrera, Oct. '23, Gainesville, Fla.; 205.04 mph by Matt Smith, July '21, Sonoma, Calif.


SUNDAY, June 9: Pre-race ceremony, 11 a.m.; eliminations begin at 12 noon


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)