John Force claimed his record 130th career win on Sunday at the 10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, TN. In doing so, Force also regained the class points lead that he held early in the season before relinquishing it to teammate Robert Hight. Tony Schumacher returned to the Top Fuel winners circle, and Mike Edwards continued his stranglehold on Pro Stock with wins on Fathers Day after a sweltering hot weekend of action in Bristol.
Schumacher began his run to the final with a narrow defeat of part timer Dog Herbert in round one, 3.99 to 4.01 after Herbert got the jump at the tree. He then easily handled an up-in-smoke Morgan Lucas in round two to set the semifinal matchup with Cory McClenathan. Tony and Cory were welded together down the course in a great drag race, 3.97 to 3.99. With lane choice in the final, the U.S. Army team won their fourth even of the season with a 3.98 after Bernstein’s Copart dragster erupted in a fireball and slowed.
“That was an amazing deal, me, Dixon (98) and (Joe) Amato were all at 99 (final rounds) and only one guy’s getting to 100 first. To be the first to go to 100 finals in Top Fuel is just awesome,” said Schumacher.
Force kicked off eliminations with a defeat of Paul Lee in the opening stanza, and then disposed of Matt Hagan,s Diehard Charger in round two, 4.29 to 4.35. In the semifinals, he was paired with the Ford of bob Tasca III. Tasca hazed the tires early, giving Force a trip to the money round., where he would continue his consistency in the heat with a 4.31 that was never headed by Wilkerson after he banged the blower right at the hit.
“To get this win is really great. I’ll be honest, I was jacked up on so much Full Throttle I thought I was going to explode … oxygen, everything I could take just to keep up with the kids,” said the 61-year old Force, who left Bristol with a 58-point lead over teammate Robert Hight as he seeks to win his NHRA-record 15th championship. “I’m going to stay young and thank the fans who keep screaming and giving me the energy.”
What else is there to say about Mike Edwards? He collected his eight win of the season on Sunday with Rickie Jones’ red light in the final round. Edwards as vulnerable though, getting out of shape and lifting at half track. Edwards sat down Bob Yonke, Greg Stanfield, and Jeg Coughlin on his trip to the final round.
“(Bristol Dragway) is probably my favorite place to come race, just an awesome place. The fans … they’re just race fans, no matter what kind of racing it is, they’re race fans,” Edwards said. “It is my second time winning here and with so much heritage and tradition around here, this track and that big track over there, it’s just a real honor to come here and run good and win this race.”
Von smith won his second straight Get Screened America Pro Mod Challenge event in his Barwa-backed ’68 Camaro, defeating Jay Payne in the final, 5.99 to 6.03. With the win, he holds a commanding 92 point lead in the series standings. Smith rode wins over Tony Pontieri, Rick Stivers, and Ray Commisso to the money round.
Antron Brown held onto his 3.856-second provisional pole run from Friday to nail down his first top spot of the season going into Sundays eliminations. He will open Sundays action alongside Doug Kalitta.
Said Brown “the track today is as hot as it has been all weekend long, and it’s just tricky. That last run, it was actually spinning out there before the finish line, so it popped a little early, and we still went a 4-flat. I think if tomorrow we can run anywhere between a 3.97 to a 4-flat or 4.01, that’s what it’s going to take to win rounds tomorrow. I’ve got all the confidence in the world in my team, and when the weather gets like this, we can definitely get our car A to B. I feel confident for tomorrow, but we’ve just got to take it one round at a time.”
Ashley Force Hood also maintained her class best run set on Friday night as the heat prevented anyone from stepping up to overtake her benchmark, a 4151 at 296.70 MPH to lead Funny Car into Sunday for the second time in 2010. She will ace Jeff Diehl in the opening round.
“I think it’s going to be exciting for the fans (Sunday) because it’s going to be very unpredictable what’s going to happen. This is not a race that goes along on paper what you think is going to happen. I think people that either can recover from tire smoke and get their car down or even people that just get A to B are going to have the best shot at winning the race tomorrow, so obviously we’ll try to get A to B but if that doesn’t happen, I’ll do my best to pedal it and get it down there, but this is a very tricky track.”
Local Tennessean Allen Johnson has been steadily creeping up on the Mike Edwards juggernaut, and on Satursay, moved around Edwards in the heat to grab the Pro Stock pole position with a 6.722 at 205.10 MPH and will face Warren Johnson in the first round.
“It’s been awhile since we’ve had our whole family here, but this weekend, family, friends, employees, everybody is here and Dad (crew chief Roy Johnson) worked so hard and has for 20-something years at this. To come out here and do this, it’s just so emotional for me,” said Johnson.
Mike Castellana grabbed the top qualifying spot in Pro Modified behind the wheel of his Al-Anabi Racing ’68 Camaro with a 5.993 and led the list of opening round winners on Saturday afternoon, besting Joe Baker with a low-for-the-round 6.002.
Antron Brown set the pace in Top Fuel under the lights in Bristol valley, nailing down a 3.856 at 314.24 MPH to lead the field into Saturday’s final two round of qualifying. The hot forecast may play into Brown’s favor to hang on for his fourth number one qualifier of the season.
“We just want to keep on doing well and carry it into raceday,” Brown said.
Ashley Force Hood also grabbed the provisional pole in Funny Car on Friday night to open the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway with a 4.151 at 296.70 MPH.
“It’s always fun to run good on the Friday night session, but we all know that it won’t do us any good on Sunday other than position,” said Force Hood, who pilots the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. “The conditions are not going to be anything like tonight. It’s fun to run in the night session and do well, but we’d be just as happy if we can get some good runs (Saturday) in the heat because that’s what’s going to help us on Sunday.”
Cruz Pedregon, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, and Jack Beckman rounded out the top five.
Mike Edwards continued right where he finishes off on most weekends these days, at the top of the Pro Stock pack, with a 6.722 at 204.94 MPH that leads Kurt Johnson, Ron Krisher, Allen Johnson, and Johnny Gray.
“I think that battles between our team and A.J. for the No. 1 spot are what you’re going to see more often in the races to come,” Edwards said. “If Allen and Roy Johnson haven’t caught us, they certainly have closed the gap. A couple of other teams are gaining on us too, and I think that by the Countdown that there will be about four or five other cars that we’re going to have to contend with.”
Mike Castellana grabbed the early lead in Pro Modified qualifying – a rarity these days for a nitrous-equipped car – with a 5.993 at 241.10 MPH lap. Nipping at his heels with one round of qualifying remaining on Saturday are Jay Payne (5.998), Danny Rowe (5.999), and fellow nitrous racer Rickie Smith (6.006).