The Best At Bristol!
A very relieving win in fuel Funny Car eliminator by Tommy Johnson Jr., highlighted the concluding rounds to NHRA’s Ford Thunder Valley Nationals held at Bristol Dragway in Tennessee….
By winning, Tommy Johnson Jr. snapped a couple of streaks that neither he nor DSR team owner Don Schumacher Racing have liked talking about.
When Johnson won the Funny Car title driving the Make-A-Wish Funny Car in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event,it marked his first event title since 2007 when he also won on Father’s Day.
The Indianapolis driver took his 10th career win and first at Bristol with a final round performance of 4.156 at 302.14 to defeat Tim Wilkerson’s Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang in the final.
For DSR, it is the first trip to a winner’s circle this season and waiting for the 10th race of a season is about as long as it’s ever taken since DSR began fielding a Funny Car in 2001.
When Terry Chandler opted to fund the fourth DSR Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car team at DSR, it was her choice to hire Johnson to drive for her. The only reason it had been seven years since he lost one was he has been limit to small, part-time schedules usually to lower funded teams.
That changed when he took the wheel of the Make-A-Wish Funny Car and took another giant step when DSR owner Don Schumacher decided to promote John Collins from assistant to crew chief on Johnson’s Dodge.
“There’s a lot of people I have to thank including everyone in the pits, but I have to thank Don Schumacher and Terry Chandler for the opportunity to drive the car,” he said.
“There’s a lot of jobs that I did when I didn’t have a full-time ride that I didn’t always like doing, but I wanted the opportunity to drive again so I did whatever it took to get back here and this feels really, really good.
“And it makes it even better to associate with Make-A-Wish and raise awareness for them, it’s just great. We just let everyone know what great things they do for these kids that are fighting life-threatening illnesses. To see them smile when they’re going through tough things warms my heart and now we got them a win.”
Several guests of Make-A-Wish were in attendance along with his father, Tommy Johnson Sr.
“This is third time I’ve won on Father’s Day,” including seven years and 53 events ago at Englishtown, N.J. “I love the fans, the sound of Thunder Valley. There’s nothing like it. This is a great facility. It was a tricky racetrack today, and all the guys on my team did a great job.”
The 10th event title of his career enabled him to jump four spots to third in the Mello Yello standings.
Erica Excels Again!
After leaving the final round of eliminations at Bristol Dragway three of the last four years winless, Elite Motorsports Pro Stock driver Erica Enders-Stevens sealed the deal Sunday by scoring her third win of the season at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
Capturing the 10th win of her career wasn’t an easy feat, going up against two Pro Stock champions in final eliminations. With a round-one victory over Larry Morgan, followed by red-lights from both Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin Jr., Enders-Stevens found herself paired up against Jonathan Gray in the final, but when Gray got a bad start off the line, Enders-Stevens motored her Chevy Camaro to the win with a 6.698-second pass at 207.15 mph.
“Bristol has always been really good to me,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve been to three finals in the last four years here and hadn’t been able to get it done until today. As a driver, sometimes you’d rather be lucky than good, and today was one of those days for us. Jeg should have beat us on paper. Fortunately for us, he went red and we were able to move on to the final.
“I’m really excited about the win but it’s definitely my team’s trophy. They’re the ones that gave me the race car that went A to B when it mattered. We were consistent and performed like a team and I couldn’t be more proud of them. I’ve struggled the last month, but it means a lot to me that they’re so encouraging and never waiver.”
Through it all, Enders-Stevens knew she had continual support this weekend, especially from a special passenger riding alongside her Sunday. An unexpected loss this week of Nicole Stevens, a close relative of Enders-Stevens’ husband, may have put a toll on emotions but Enders-Stevens was able to bring home the win in her honor.
“It’s a very sad situation that shouldn’t have happened the way it did,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’m just going to continue to have faith because God has a bigger plan and he needed her in heaven for some reason. I know she was probably riding along with me today. I’m just glad we were able to get it done this weekend after the week that we have had. Winning on Father’s Day is just an added bonus.”
To top it all off, with her win in Bristol Enders-Stevens has extended her championship points lead once again, but this time over Coughlin, who assumed the second spot from his teammate Allen Johnson.
“It’s pretty cool even though it’s unchartered territory for me,” Enders-Stevens said. “I’ve never been in this position, so it’s going to be something that I’m going to have to learn how to handle, but with a team like I’ve got I know we’re going to be just fine.”
Score for Defending TF Champ!
Langdon raced to his first Bristol Dragway victory and ninth win of his career in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster by posting a final round performance of 3.819 seconds at 320.51 mph to defeat series points leader Doug Kalitta. With the win, Langdon moves to third in the points standings.
“With the stiff competition in Top Fuel, one thing you have to learn is patience and not to take anything for granted,” Langdon said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We’re still learning. Fortunately, we got this win and most importantly, we hope to continue earning those Mello Yello points.”
Langdon, who qualified No. 7 for the event, defeated teammate Khalid alBalooshi, Terry McMillen and Bob Vandergriff Jr. en route to his third final round appearance of the season.
“I was a little worried about pedalling in the final going up against the Kalitta group,” Langdon said. “They are definitely the hottest car in the circuit. That’s why it is great to be a part of the Alan Johnson and Al-Anabi Racing. You feel like you have a pretty good race car too.”
Breakthrough Pro Mod Winner
Massachusetts-based racer Pete Farber became the 5th different winner within NHRA’s Pro Mod Drag Racing Series this season when he scored in the RPM Pro Mod class event presentation.
Farber’s win, driving his very unique supercharged ’69 Dodge Daytona, was his first career win within NHRA national event competition.
After qualifying #13, Pete drove his PJ and Sons Towing/CRC Brakeleen 69’ Dodge Daytona to a 6.087-second pass at 240.51 mph to defeat No. 7 seed Steve Matusek in the final. Matusek trailed in with a 6.971 at 152.61 in his Agave Underground Tequila-backed ’68 Camaro.
Farber defeated Danny Rowe, Dan Stevenson and Jim Laurita en route to his first career final. With the victory, Farber moves to the eighth position in the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series points standings.
Mike Janis took over the points lead after he advanced to the semifinals and season-long leader Rickie Smith lost in the opening round.
Event Essentials: NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals (June 13-15th, 2014) Bristol TN
|Low ET:||Brittany Force||3.828|
|Top Speed:||Tony Schumacher||330.47|
|Winner:||Tommy Johnson Jr.||4.156||302.14||10th|
|Low ET:||Del Worsham||3.992|
|Top Speed:||Del Worsham||319.45|
|Low ET:||Shane Gray||6.621|
|Top Speed:||Shane Gray||207.78|
|Low ET:||Kevin Fiscus||5.958|
|Top Speed:||Don Walsh||248.43|
Posted with files from: Rob Geiger, Jeff Wolf, NHRA Communications, Eric Lotz & Bruce Biegler
Photos Courtesy of NHRA & Ron Lewis
Lucas Oil Lowdown
Drew Skillman marched his way through eliminations in not one but two classes at Bristol Dragway and the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers. Skillman, Greenwood, Ind., defended his event title from a year ago in Stock Eliminator by beating Kevin Wells, Midway, Ky., who left early with the red light giving the win to Skillman and a shot at the elusive NHRA national event double-up.
In his Super Stock final with Larry Miller, it was Skillman leaving early ending his hopes of the double and giving the win to Miller who ran his ’70 Barracuda to a 10.003 second lap at 131.02 mph.
In the Harley-Davidson Drag Racing Series Top Fuel Harley class, Tommy Grimes took the early lead over number one qualifier Damion Cownden and rode it out to the win in 6.413 seconds at 221.45 mph to Cownden’s 6.454, 214.04.
Jeff Taylor and Anthony Bertozzi added wins to their already impressive resumes as Taylor notched his 42nd NHRA national event win and Bertozzi his 17th. Taylor, Sellersburg, Ind., got out first on Kevin Brannon forcing Brannon to breakout as Taylor took the win at 8.917 seconds, 164.79 mph. Ashland, Va., resident Bertozzi, took the early lead on over Dylan Stott, Columbus, N.C., and held on to win with a lap of 7.397, 173.43.
Taking home their first wins on the national circuit were Scott Lawton in Super Gas and Tony Fagnilli in Top Sportsman. Lawton, Sanford, N.C., had a slight advantage at the start and posted a time of 9.912 seconds at 150.63 mph for the win while Fagnilli, Coraopolis, Pa., needed a holeshot to beat Marco Abruzzi, Warren, Ohio. Fagnilli’s .007 second reaction time gave him what he needed for the win and the trophy.