Schumacher, Prock, J. Coughlin, Herrera Win At Thunder Valley

Eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher picked up his first win in 37 races on Sunday at Bristol Dragway, defeating reigning world champ Doug Kalitta in the final round of the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Austin Prock (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the eighth of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season.

Schumacher pedaled his way to a run of 4.236-seconds at 259.41 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Waltrip Brewing Co./Leatherwood Distillery dragster, getting past Kalitta’s 4.890 in the finals and claiming his first victory since July of 2022. It’s the 87th career win for the most successful driver in Top Fuel history and also his seventh win at Bristol Dragway, which is tied with Ron Capps for the most in NHRA history.

Schumacher defeated Jasmine Salinas, Shawn Langdon and Clay Millican to reach the final round before extracting some revenge on Kalitta, who beat Schumacher last weekend in the finals at New England Dragway. He moved to fifth in points with the victory as well as the team continues to make big strides in recent weeks.

“We hadn’t gotten past half-track (in qualifying), but we found some things and it’s always great when the crew chief goes, no I’m serious, this is what we found, and you listen and it truly makes sense,” Schumacher said. “When you have a year like we had last year, a lot of things are like, ‘Oh we figured it out, but it doesn’t seem to progress into anything.’ The last couple of days, the last couple of weekends, even, it truly had. We didn’t qualify great, but the tune-up we had on raceday was exactly what we needed. From the first round on, I knew we had a racecar.

“After we get the momentum going, calm and cool, it’s so easy for me to race here. I’ve had so many good moments here, so much success. It just seems like we find a way to the winner’s circle. This is everything you could ask for at the home track for the boss (team owner Joe Maynard).”

Kalitta moved into the points lead over Justin Ashley on Sunday by advancing to the final round for the third time this season and 115th time in his career, defeating Antron Brown, Steve Torrence and Brittany Force.

Funny Car’s Austin Prock finished off a flawless weekend at Thunder Valley, as the points leader picked up his second victory of the season in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS, going 3.989 at 312.42 in the finals to defeat J.R. Todd. It made it a clean sweep of the weekend for the young standout, as he qualified No. 1, won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and the picked up the event victory all in the span of three days, extending what has been a tremendous first year in Funny Car for the former NHRA Rookie of the Year.

On Sunday, Prock and his team were ultra-consistent, as he knocked off John Smith, Cruz Pedregon and defending world champion Matt Hagan to reach the final round. He went 3.97, 3.98 and 3.98 over the final three rounds as well, driving away from Todd, who went 4.022 at 313.66 in the finals, to pick up his first career victory in Thunder Valley.

“It was just an outstanding job by my team this weekend,” said Prock, who now has six career wins. “Every time we went up there the thing was a car to contend with and we ended up sweeping it. I’m super proud of that. None of these guys are easy anymore, they’re so tough but we ended up getting it done.

“We had to race Matt Hagan in the semifinals and he’s absolutely brutal and you have to bring your A-game against him. We were victorious this time and ended up racing J.R. and you never know with that DHL car. It can throw some serious punches and J.R. is definitely one of the best on the starting line. We ended up getting by him and walking out of here with some gold, and I’m super proud of that.”

Todd, who is now third in points, reached his second final round this year and 47th in his career, getting past Terry Haddock, Ron Capps and Epping winner John Force, who remains second in points.

In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin Jr. added another win in his return to the category, this time dispatching longtime rival Greg Anderson in the championship round with a run of 6.707 at 204.94 in his Scag Power Equipment car. It’s already Coughlin’s second win this season and it’s back-to-back Coughlin Pro Stock wins after Troy Coughlin Jr. won last Sunday in Epping.

Jeg Coughlin Jr. followed suit in Thunder Valley, taking down Elite Motorsports teammates Jerry Tucker, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Erica Enders to reach the final round. Anderson shook the tires almost immediately on the starting line, helping give Coughlin his 67th career victory and third at Bristol Dragway. The veteran and five-time world champion also moved to fourth in points with the victory.

“It was quite a team battle as we started the day off. Pro Stock in today’s day and age reminds me a lot of the late 90s and early 2000s where fields are separated just by a couple hundredths of a second,” Coughlin said. “When the field is that tight, it does put a on the driver’s shoulders to drive well, get a good start and bang through the gears efficiently and not make any mistakes.

“Greg and I have been in so many elimination-rounds side-by-side. To see them make a mistake and have a hiccup after the stellar runs they’ve put down was amazing. I put it in fourth gear and kind of peeked over a little bit, it was spinning and shaking, got it into fifth gear and I peeked over again and I’m like, you’ve got to be kidding me. Surely, he’s going to be coming on like a freight train. Bottom line, what a great win for us today.”

Anderson, who was the No. 1 qualifier and remained second in points, reached the finals for the third time in 2024 and 179th time in his career after round wins against Larry Morgan, Cristian Cuadra and points leader Dallas Glenn.

Points leader Gaige Herrera enjoyed another record-setting day on Sunday in Pro Stock Motorcycle, winning his ninth straight race and picking up his 35th straight round win after defeating Jianna Evaristo in the final round with a run of 6.818 at 198.17 on his RevZilla/Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki. Herrera passed the great Dave Schultz for the most consecutive wins in Pro Stock Motorcycle history, while the nine straight wins and 35 consecutive round wins ties legendary Pro Stock racer Bob Glidden for the most in NHRA history.

It didn’t come easy on Sunday, as Herrera defeated defending event winner Steve Johnson, John Hall and No. 1 qualifier Matt Smith to reach the finals. The victory in a must-see matchup against Smith came on a holeshot, as Herrera’s 6.825 held off Smith’s 6.824 in the semifinals. Herrera, who now has four wins in 2024 and 15 in his career, led wire-to-wire in the finals, avenging last year’s loss at Bristol in the final round in the process.

“It was a good day, but kind of weird starting from the 5th position. We struggled a little bit here in Bristol, it’s a beautiful facility but it’s seemed to have my number,” Herrera said. “The semifinal was probably the highlight of my career so far. Matt was running well all weekend. What a day. The final against Jianna, I always love racing her, and I’m so happy for her. She’s been improving round by round and pass by pass, and to get the win over her is awesome. Not only that, to have basically two young guns in the final it’s very cool. I’m happy to go home with the Bristol win.

“To be mentioned with Dave Schultz and Bob Glidden, it’s a lot to take in. It’s obviously real, but it doesn’t feel real, what’s been accomplished in such a small time. But I’m enjoying the ride and trying to look at every little milestone that passes. As a kid, I never would have thought I would be in this position or have my name in the history. It gets emotional sometimes when I think about it.”

Evaristo advanced to her first final round of the season by knocking off Marc Ingwersen, Chase Van Sant and Richard Gadson.

The NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series returns to action with the Virginia NHRA Nationals on June 22-23 at Virginia Motorsports Park in Richmond, Va.

Sunday’s final results from the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the eighth of 20 in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel — Tony Schumacher, 4.236 seconds, 259.41 mph def. Doug Kalitta, 4.890 seconds, 150.06 mph.

Funny Car — Austin Prock, Chevy Camaro, 3.989, 312.42 def. J.R. Todd, Toyota GR Supra, 4.022, 313.66.

Pro Stock — Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.707, 204.94 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 20.530, 37.09.

Pro Stock Motorcycle — Gaige Herrera, Suzuki, 6.818, 198.17 def. Jianna Evaristo, Buell, 6.861, 197.94.

Super Stock — Byron Worner, Chevy Camaro, 9.882, 120.24 def. Jeff Adkinson, Camaro, 9.449, 140.43.

Stock Eliminator — Jimmy Hidalgo Jr., Pontiac GTO, 11.094, 113.81 def. Monty Bogan, Chevy Camaro, 10.929, 118.54.

Super Comp — Ray Miller III, Dragster, 8.931, 174.68 def. Vincent Nobile, Dragster, 8.933, 177.86.

Super Gas — Gene Brown, Chevy II, 9.906, 162.63 def. JJ Brock, Chevy Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

Top Dragster — Matt Sackman, Dragster, 6.191, 224.73 def. Vance Houston, Dragster, 6.532, 209.43.

Pro Modified — JR Gray, Chevy Camaro, 5.812, 247.61 def. Kris Thorne, Camaro, 5.937, 203.55.

Factory Stock Showdown — David Janac, Chevy Camaro, 8.037, 169.98 def. Stephen Bell, Camaro, 17.200, 60.47.

Mountain Motor Pro Stock — Bo Butner, Chevy Camaro, 6.712, 162.10 def. John DeFlorian Jr., Camaro, Foul – Red Light.

Legends Nitro Funny Car presented by Modern Warriors — Bobby Cottrell, Chevy Camaro, 4.810, 233.72 def. Geoff Monise, Pontiac Firebird, 8.510, 75.61.

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