NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series racing at Bristol is ripe with unexpected victors….

Alexis DeJoria powered to her first win in more than four years, rolling to the victory in Funny Car on Sunday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Mike Salinas (Top Fuel) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won in their respective categories at the 18th of 20 races during the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season and the fifth race in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. It was also the first time the race in Thunder Valley took place in October and during the playoffs.

DeJoria, who also qualified No. 1 for the first time since 2016, was impressive from start to finish this weekend in her 11,000-horsepower Bandero Premium Tequila ROKiT Toyota Camry and went 3.921-seconds at 327.66 mph in the final round to beat J.R. Todd, who went 3.939 at 326.22 in an all-Toyota Camry championship round. DeJoria knocked off Paul Lee and Robert Hight to reach the final round, making a weekend-best pass of 3.904 at 327.74 in the semifinals, rolling to her sixth career victory a round later.

“I was hungry and I know that feeling,” DeJoria said. “I was just happy to be there and I believed I was going to win. It’s one of the biggest wins of my career. Coming back after two years off, getting to work with my mentor and friend (Del Worsham), being able to do this, it’s huge. It’s just been a roller-coaster and it takes a toll on you.

Alexis DeJoria won her first NHRA title in four years when she beat JR Todd in an all Toyota Fuel FC final round.

“It’s very humbling, but I was just ready to win. I was calm and just excited, and when I’m in that headspace I do my best. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks and it’s just beautiful here. I just love it.”

Despite not winning, Todd made up major ground in advancing to the finals for the fifth time this season and 40th time in his career. He knocked off defending world champ Matt Hagan, John Force and points leader Ron Capps en route to the final round. He jumped to third in points and pulled to within 83 points of Capps with two races remaining in the 2021 season. Capps’ lead over Hagan is just one point.

In Top Fuel, Salinas picked up his second straight victory at Bristol Dragway, once again beating points leader Steve Torrence in the final round. Torrence ran into issues right off the starting line and Salinas’ run of 3.845 at 245.05 in his 11,000-horsepower Scrappers Racing dragster was enough to give Salinas his third career victory. He knocked off Antron Brown, Clay Millican and championship hopeful Brittany Force to reach the final round for the third straight time at Bristol. For the second straight time, he took care of business in Thunder Valley, staying fourth in Top Fuel points.

Mike Salinas won in Top Fuel – he was the defending Thunder Valley Nationals event champion (from 2019).

“It’s a great facility and I’m glad they welcome us here,” Salinas said. “This track loves me. I met so many nice people over the years here. We’ve got a great team, and all the parts and pieces, and I think I threw away 3-4 races at the beginning of the year trying to get my routine down. It’s hard when you’re running with all these guys, but I got a lot of help and I’ve made some big improvements. These guys in this class, they’re awesome. They cut good lights I found something that works perfectly for me and I think we’re getting there. I just try to race my lane and that’s it.”

Torrence, the three-time defending world champ and No. 1 qualifier, reached the final round for the 12th time this season and 74th in his career thanks to round wins against Cameron Ferre and Justin Ashley. By advancing to the championship round, Torrence also opened up a 73-point lead on Force heading to the last two races.

Sampey finished off a fantastic day in Pro Stock Motorcycle with her second victory in the Countdown to the Championship. In an all-female final round, Sampey beat Karen Stoffer on a holeshot on her Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki, as her run of 6.773-seconds at 196.85 held up. It gave Sampey her 45th career victory and second this season, as she pulled within 25 points of Matt Smith. That was a big moment, as was collecting the first Wally trophy for the class at Bristol. The category competed in exhibition races at the track in 1999 and 2000, but Sampey’s win marked the first points race for Pro Stock Motorcycle in Thunder Valley.

Angelle Sampey beat rival Karen Stoffer in the all female racer Pro Stock Motorcycle final round.

“I’ve been out here for so long, I’ve really learned to appreciate everything I get now,” Sampey said. “When I win a race, the emotions are 100 percent genuine because it’s a task to get it done. To get four round wins is really tough and it means so much to me. I love this sport so much and this team just works so hard. This mission was to catch back up in the points race and we made it happen. It was a fantastic day and it would be great to get the No. 1 back on the motorcycle.”

Sampey got to the final round with victories against Andrew Hines, Chris Bostick and Eddie Krawiec. Stoffer advanced to her second final round this season and 25th in her career thanks to round wins against Lance Bonham, Ron Tornow and points leader and defending world champ Smith in the semifinals. Smith also holds a 56-point lead against Steve Johnson heading to the final two events.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action Oct. 29-31 with the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

A Title Clinching Performance

Jose Gonzalez clinched his first career E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service world championship at Bristol Dragway. The event was the 10th of 11 events for the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series season.

It’s been a dominant 2021 season for Gonzalez, who clinched the world title by advancing to the final round in Bristol. He drove to five wins this season in his ProCharger-powered Q80 Camaro, advancing to six final rounds in all. Gonzalez suffered an early-season crash at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, but rebounded in dominant fashion, winning three straight races at one point and clinching the world championship a race before the final event of the season.

With a runner-up finish – Jose Gonzalez has clinched the 2021 E3 Spark Plugs World Championship for Pro Mod class racing.

“We went through a lot this year,” Gonzalez said. “Since our mishap in Charlotte, we started running really good. The effort of this whole team, they deserve it all. They’ve done a tremendous job and they’re the ones who have to get the car ready. I just have to get in it, so I’m probably doing the easy part right now. For me, I could never believe I’m doing this. I was just glad that we could win a couple of races. A championship is way over what I would have wanted.” 

In racing action on Sunday at Bristol Dragway, rookie J.R. Gray capped off his impressive weekend by racing to his first career NHRA Pro Mod victory. He went a strong 5.699-seconds at 250.64 mph in his blown Gray Construction Camaro in the final round to beat Gonzalez, who left the starting line too soon.

Former Outlaw/Small Tire racing expert JR Gray won for the first time in NHRA Pro Mod racing.

Gray advanced to his first career final round on Sunday on the strength of wins against No. 1 qualifier Rickie Smith and Mike Salinas, who also won on Sunday in Top Fuel. Gray went 5.699 at 251.53 in his first-round victory against Smith and then tied his career-best pass with another outstanding performance in the final round to cap off his memorable day in Thunder Valley.

“This is so surreal and amazing,” said Gray, who was the No. 14 qualifier. “I can’t even put into words what this means. We’ve been facing adversity all year, but this team kept digging and digging, and we haven’t stopped. There’s so many people who have been involved in this and I just want to thank everyone.”

Gonzalez reached the final round with round wins against Lyle Barnett, Khalid AlBalooshi and Stevie “Fast” Jackson, who had won the two previous world championships in the class before Gonzalez took control in 2021.

The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service closes out its 2021 season Oct. 29-31 with the Dodge//SRT NHRA Nationals presented by Pennzoil at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Lucas Oil Lowdown
(Final Round Results)

Super Stock — Greg Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 9.872, 131.91 def. Jeff Dona, Pontiac Firebird, 9.684, 139.33.

Stock Eliminator — Brett Candies, Ford Mustang, 9.147, 142.85 def. Mark Lewis, Chevy Camaro, 10.777, 115.89.

Super Comp — Jack Sepanek, Dragster, 8.930, 178.87 def. Adam Gerber, Dragster, 8.973, 152.73.

Super Gas — Jacob Elrod, Chevy Corvette, 10.039, 150.87 def. Tim Powell, Corvette, 11.361, 93.34.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers — Chad Taylor, Dragster, 7.088, 186.90 def. Steve Furr, Dragster, Broke.

Posted with files and photos courtesy of NHRA Communications