Robert Hight raced to his fourth Funny Car victory of the season Sunday and in the process set the national speed record at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were winners at Bristol Dragway in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Hight gained momentum with a consistent string of powerful runs throughout the rain-delayed day of racing and finished off final-round opponent Jack Beckman with another strong run in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Hight powered to a 4.092-second run at 314.90 mph while Beckman trailed with a 5.615 at 152.66 in his Aaron’s/Valvoline Dodge Charger. Hight’s final-round speed certified his earlier performance of 316.45 as the national record.
Hight defeated Ron Capps, teammate and series leader Mike Neff and Jeff Arend en route to the final round.
“We finally got Bristol, how about that?” said Hight of his 22nd victory. “I’ve had trouble with all the races that start with ‘B’ like Bristol or Brainerd, but we got this one. There’s nothing better than to win this race since it’s now Ford-sponsored. We made eight great runs, and when we needed it the most, Jimmy [Prock, crew chief] pulled it off. I’ve never set any kind of a record before, so that’s pretty cool, too. I know there are no points for a speed record, but it’s still cool to have.”
Despite his second-round exit, Neff maintained his series lead, with runner-up Beckman moving to second and Hight remaining in third.
In Top Fuel, Dixon claimed his first win of the season and his sixth Father’s Day victory by outrunning Antron Brown in the final round. Dixon took his 61st victory and second at Bristol Dragway with a 3.836 at 318.09 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to finish just in front of the hard-charging Brown, who posted a 3.851 at 306.19 in his Matco Tools dragster.
“Great job by the team, for one,” said Dixon, who beat Rod Fuller, Morgan Lucas and Spencer Massey in the first three rounds. “Since the beginning of the year, even last year, I think we’ve had a great car, but for one reason or another, we haven’t been able to get to the winner’s circle and last [race], that was all on me. This weekend, it’s Father’s Day. It’s unbelievable from that standpoint. It’s been so long I don’t even think this tower was built the last time I won at Bristol. I’m very elated. I’m really, really happy.”
With the win, defending world champ Dixon moved into second place in the standings, 31 points behind series leader Del Worsham, Dixon’s teammate who lost in the quarterfinals to Massey.
Edwards claimed his third consecutive Bristol Dragway win and 30th of his career and in the process denied Erica Enders a milestone victory as she tried to become the first woman to win in the history of the 41-year-old factory hot rod category. Enders left the starting line first in her ZaZa Energy Chevy Cobalt, but the car lost power near midtrack while Edwards sped down the track to finish in 6.685 at 205.79 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.
“We made some ugly runs, and somehow we were able to turn the win light on,” said Edwards of his second win of the season. “Some days, no matter how bad you do, you still win. That’s the kind of day we had today. Congrats to my team. They fought hard. This car has given us so many headaches. I hope we can build on this. We have the K&N Horsepower Challenge next week, so hopefully we can build off of this and something good will happen.”
Edwards moved to second in the series standings with the victory and trails Jason Line by 24 points.
Melanie Troxel raced to her first victory of the season in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series Sunday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.
After defeating early-round opponents Mike Knowles, Mike Janis and Leah Pruett-LeDuc, Troxel took the final-round win when Danny Rowe fouled at the start. It was Troxel’s first win in Pro Mod at Bristol Dragway and her second victory in the Pro Mod category. Troxel won in Funny Car at Bristol in 2008.
She was one of two women to take home Wally trophies during the event as Jenifer White won in Top Dragster in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. There could have been three female winners as Erica Enders came up short in her attempt to become the first woman to win in Pro Stock in NHRA history.
Troxel was consistently quick all day in her turbocharged RoadRage.com ’53 Corvette, and the win moves her into a tie for seventh in the Get Screened America Pro Mod point standings.
“It’s great to be getting back to some winning,” Troxel said. “On top of it, this engine combination, this car is something that (team owner) Roger Burgess has been working on for several years. He knew this was going to be a great combination for the sport when a lot of other people laughed and didn’t believe this car would run good. He stuck with it. We’ve known this car could win races all year long. We just had to get some of the kinks worked out of it. I’m very proud to be the one who has been able to bring this car to the winner’s circle and show everybody what it’s capable of.”
Bob Tasca raced to the No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car Saturday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.
Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel) and Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) also will lead their respective categories into Sunday’s noon eliminations as No. 1 qualifiers at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Tasca set both ends of the Bristol Dragway track performance record with a powerful pass of 4.056 seconds at 314.31 mph in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang. It is Tasca’s second No. 1 qualifying position of his career and first since taking the top spot at the 2009 Gatornationals. He will face rookie Daniel Wilkerson in the opening round of eliminations.
Just before the final qualifying session a thunderstorm front moved through the Tri-Cities area and created cooler conditions, which in turn produced a few track record performances, including two for Tasca.
“I predicted this last night, although it didn’t end up exactly the way I thought it would,” Tasca said. “In (the third qualifying session) we (dropped a cylinder) and it smoked the tires. We knew that we had a car that had run a 4.10 last night and (after the rain) we were thrilled to get another shot at it. By the time we ran we were seventh or eighth and when we pulled up I told Chris (Cunningham, crew chief) that we had nothing to lose. He said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s gonna go fast.’ It’s great having the track E.T. and speed record but we’re here to take that trophy home. I knew we were going to at least run 4.08 or quicker. We’ve been waiting four years for that run.”
Southwest Virginia cattle rancher Matt Hagan was second with a 4.082 at 308.07 in his DieHard Dodge Charger, while series points leader Mike Neff, 2008 runner-up at Bristol and a finalist in the last four races, was third with a 4.085 at 311.99 in his Castrol GTX Mustang.
In Top Fuel, Bernstein held on to claim his first No. 1 qualifying position since 2008 in Memphis. Bernstein posted a track record time of 3.828 at 316.52 in his Copart dragster to earn his 14th top qualifying position and third at Bristol Dragway. He will face rookie Austin Lambright in the first round as he tries to end a winless drought that dates back to Richmond 2009.
Larry Dixon had moved into the top spot during the final qualifying session, however the Copart dragster proved to be quick enough to take the top spot back in a thrilling final run of the evening by Bernstein.
“This felt really great,” Bernstein said. “We knew that (Al-Anabi Racing’s) Alan Johnson was going to throw everything after it, and I figured that my Friday night time wasn’t going to stand up under the cooler conditions after the rain delay. But my guys, (crew chiefs) Todd Smith and Donnie Bender, told me that we were going to go for it, and my dad (team owner and NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein) just told me to make sure and keep it in the groove. We really feel that we have a real race car right now. There’s a lot of satisfaction knowing that we can go fast when we really have to. It’s a good feeling to have someone take the No. 1 spot away from you and then get it back.”
Defending world champ Dixon settled for second with a 3.831 at 319.37 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and the winner of the last two events, Spencer Massey, was third with a 3.852 at 321.73 in his Prestone/FRAM dragster.
In Pro Stock, local favorite Johnson, from nearby Greeneville, Tenn., claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season, second consecutive at this track and 16th of his career when he drove his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger to a 6.668 at 206.89. Johnson, who won the most recent event in Englishtown, N.J., is looking for his second straight win of the season and first ever at his home track.
“Winning a Wally at Bristol, our hometown track, would really be something,” said Johnson, a nine-time NHRA tour winner. “It would rank right up there with the Wallys that we have won at our sponsor’s race in Denver.”
Given the consistency of his new race car, Johnson feels confident about his chances to make it two wins in a row during Sunday’s eliminations. He will face Steve Kent in the opening round.
“I’m really happy with our new Dodge Avenger,” Johnson said. “We made four very good runs this weekend. We’re easing into new waters with this car. We have a real quality product with this chassis, and it showed today because we were the quickest in both sessions.”
Defending event winner Mike Edwards was second with a 6.678 at 206.42 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP, while current national record holder Rodger Brogdon was third with a 6.696 at 206.45 in his Racers Edge GXP.
Top qualifier Brad Personett raced to a first-round victory Saturday during eliminations for the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.
Personett, who claimed his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and second of his career, powered his turbocharged ProCare Rx ’68 Camaro to a run of 6.068 seconds at 248.43 mph to defeat Steve Matusek’s late model Ford Mustang, which trailed with a 6.164 at 243.50.
“The (rain) delay made the race track really, really good,” said Personett, whose top qualifying performance was 5.961 at 252.80. “I underestimated the race track, and I didn’t tune the car up like I needed to.”
Three of Personett’s R2B2 Racing teammates – Roger Burgess, Melanie Troxel and Leah Pruett-LeDuc – also scored opening round wins.
However team owner Burgess won’t get to continue in eliminations. After driving his ProCare Rx ’68 Firebird to the first-round win over Kenny Lang, his car went out of control and crashed at the top end of the track. Burgess was extracted from the damaged car and was checked and released by NHRA emergency services officials.
“I can’t believe I’m getting this much attention for a Round 1 win, but it was on a holeshot so I guess I understand,” Burgess joked. “Seriously, I’m OK. I have a severely bruised (left) heel that I’m icing at the moment. We don’t think anything’s broken in there but we’re going to monitor the situation tonight. The Safety Safari was there immediately and we signaled back and forth to each other that I was OK. They eventually had to cut me out of there and the car is totaled. I will say that all the safety equipment worked exactly like it should and John (Medlen, VP of Research and Development at R2B2 Racing) was pleased with how well the cockpit looked. I’m very lucky.”
Series points leader Khalid Balooshi posted the quickest run of the weekend in his nitrous-injected Speedtech ’68 Camaro. His performance of 5.960 seconds at 239.31 mph earned him a first round win over veteran driver Jay Payne.
Other first round winners included Danny Rowe, Troy Coughlin and Mike Janis.
Second round matchups include: Personett vs. Rowe; Coughlin vs. Balooshi; Troxel vs. Janis; and Pruett-LeDuc vs. Burgess.
Brandon Bernstein raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway.
Bob Tasca (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
The effort was a much needed momentum boost for Bernstein, who hasn’t claimed a No. 1 qualifying position since the 2008 season and has not won since 2009. The second-generation driver claimed the top spot with a performance of 3.859 seconds at 312.50 mph in his Copart dragster.
“We knew that those cars behind us could run as well or better than us, but that was a great run by our Copart Team,” said Bernstein, a two-time winner at Bristol Dragway. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this position. We’re working hard just to make four good qualifying runs. Donnie [Bender, crew chief] does have some success here and any kind of data they have to pull from helps us. We struggled in the beginning of the season, and he’s fine-tuned it. Donnie and Todd [Smith, crew chief] have been working overtime to get this car to where it needs to be. We run good numbers but we just need to get the consistency there.”
Antron Brown was second with a 3.864 at 317.12 in his Matco Tools dragster, defending world champ Larry Dixon was third with a 3.864 at 310.13 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and red-hot Spencer Massey, who has won the last two events, was fourth with a 3.866 at 321.73 in his Prestone/FRAM dragster.
In Funny Car, Tasca powered his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang to a run of 4.107 at 308.21 mph to qualify in front of fellow Mustang driver Robert Hight, who posted a 4.110 at 301.33 in his Auto Club Ford. Local favorite Matt Hagan was third with a 4.112 at 303.50 in his DieHard Dodge Charger.
“With night racing, as a driver finding the groove is important,” said Tasca, whose only No. 1 qualifying effort came in 2009 at Gainesville, Fla. “I got out there and it started really moving around. I had my hands full and finally hit the chutes. I didn’t think a 4.10 would hold. We’re real happy with it. It was a better run than we gave it credit for. I’ll tell you, sitting in that car when you hit the throttle at night, you see an orange amber glow, then as the header flames start to lay back the orange disappears. There is nothing like it.”
“The track got really good there tonight for sure,” Edwards said. “You never know what’s going to happen. We just try to run one session at a time. We made a good run. We’re indecisive right now about a couple of things, but we are looking at making a few changes for tomorrow. The starting line got so much better than (it was during) the first run, and that’s why we ran so good. It cooled off, and the starting line gets really good here. We made most of our E.T. early in the run because of it. I honestly thought several cars would run as good as we did. I was surprised, very surprised. I think we ran what we should have run, but I’m not counting anything yet. Last year, I was No. 1 and some guy named Allen Johnson came along and kicked me.”
National record holder Rodger Brogdon was second with a 6.696 at 206.45 in his Racers Edge GXP, while another local favorite, Allen Johnson, who won two weeks ago in Englishtown, N.J., was third in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger with a 6.696 at 206.70.
Brad Personett raced to the qualifying lead Friday in the NHRA Get Screened America Pro Mod Drag Racing Series portion of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers.
Personett set both ends of the track record by covering the Bristol Dragway quarter-mile in 5.961 seconds at 252.80 mph in his turbocharged ProCare Rx ’68 Camaro to lead the 16-car lineup.
Two of Personett’s teammates – Melanie Troxel and Leah Pruett-LeDuc – were second and third respectively. Troxel posted a 5.962 at 252.66 in her turbocharged RoadRage.com ’53 Corvette, while Pruett-LeDuc covered the distance in 5.987 at 241.89 in her supercharged RoadRage.com ’68 Camaro.
“We’re starting to see the consistency we were missing earlier in the year and it’s a welcome sight,” Personett said. “We got onto something in Englishtown and it’s carried over. It’s easy to panic and make big moves that usually get you into more trouble but we were able to stick to our gameplan and just work through it. To have all five of the R2B2 Racing cars running so well is pretty cool, especially with the top three cars all from our team. There’s been a lot of long hours put into this and it’s nice to see the hard work paying off.”
Series points leader Khalid Balooshi, who has won two races this season, was fifth overall in his nitrous injected Speedtech ’68 Camaro, with a performance of 6.014 at 242.15.
Veteran driver and Bristol Dragway legend Rickie Smith was involved in a high-speed crash during the second qualifying session. Smith was reported to have suffered a fractured left knee in the incident by medical officials at the Bristol Regional Medical Center. Smith’s ’68 Camaro went out of control and collided with Pete Farber’s ’69 Daytona as the pair were making a side-by-side qualifying run. Farber was checked and released at the track by NHRA emergency services officials.