Story By: NHRA – BRISTOL, TN – The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol will have a lot more than just a new date this year, as Thunder Valley will come alive with even more nitro action than ever before in Bristol.
The postponed NHRA New England Nationals will be completed in Bristol on Friday and Saturday, adding even more excitement to a weekend loaded with events. Fans will now be able to enjoy the first round of eliminations from the NHRA New England Nationals under the lights on Friday, three rounds of thunderous 11,000-horsepower racing on Saturday – as well as the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in all four classes – and then eliminations at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday for the 22nd annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
The weekend in Bristol will give racers in Top Fuel and Funny a chance at three possible wins, including two on Saturday with the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge and completion of the Epping race. Add in autograph sessions – including the wildly-popular Saturday evening autograph session at the Guest Welcome Tent – special fan events, a variety of classes, Friday fireworks and more, and it all adds up to a spectacular weekend in Thunder Valley.
“I think it’s awesome,” Top Fuel’s Clay Millican said. “Everything we did this weekend is going to be important. For every single run to matter this much, it’s great. Friday night under the lights in Bristol, it’s gametime and from that point forward, every run really, really matters. I’m excited to stage up on Friday night and I think it’s going to be great for the fans. I know I’m pumped up and fired up to stomp on that loud peddle.”
The first round of eliminations from the NHRA New England Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car will now take place during the second qualifying round in Bristol at 8 p.m. ET on Friday, putting the thrill of raceday under the lights at the picturesque facility. The opening night finishes with fireworks immediately after Top Fuel.
The second round takes place during the third qualifying session at 2 p.m. on Saturday in Bristol, with the semifinals running between qualifying sessions on Saturday. That leads into the finals of the NHRA New England Nationals in Top Fuel and Funny Car, which are slated to run during the final qualifying session at 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday at Bristol Dragway.
Plus, the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge will run concurrent with the semifinals and finals on Saturday in Bristol, as a driver in each class will win twice on Saturday. It’s a super-sized two days of racing to lead into final eliminations of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, meaning two nitro drivers will have a chance to win three times this weekend.
“This is a first for me,” Funny Car’s Ron Capps said. “The fans are going to win, no matter what. It’s going to be a pretty epic two days, and then you still have eliminations on Sunday in Bristol, so I’m really looking forward to this weekend.”
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Capps (Funny Car), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of a race that will again be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) this year.
Justin Ashley powered to his first Top Fuel win at Bristol a season ago and already has two victories this season. Everyone is chasing points leader Steve Torrence, the four-time champ who hopes to pick up his first victory this year in Bristol. Other marquee names in the star-studded field includes defending world champ Brittany Force, Austin Prock, Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher.
In Funny Car, Capps claimed a memorable victory last year, defeating Tim Wilkerson in the final round. It gave him six victories at Thunder Valley, tied for the most in NHRA history at the facility. The defending world champ will be racing for his first win in 2023 against a loaded field that includes points leader Matt Hagan, 16-time world champ John Force, Robert Hight, Alexis DeJoria, J.R. Todd, Cruz Pedregon and Bob Tasca III.
On the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle front, eight drivers are set for their Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday as well. Chicago winner and points leader Dallas Glenn will face off with rookie Jerry Tucker, while the other matchup will include Deric Kramer and Stanfield. Others to watch in the category include reigning world champ Erica Enders, Greg Anderson, Camrie Caruso and Kyle Koretsky.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Gaige Herrera will race teammate Eddie Krawiec in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, with the other matchup featuring Chip Ellis and Hector Arana Jr. Herrera has been dominant in 2023, winning all three races and building a commanding points lead. He’s making his Bristol debut and will take on the likes of defending world champ Matt Smith, Angie Smith, Steve Johnson and Savoie.
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, featuring some of the top racers in the country, as well as the FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by Type A Motorsports and Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown. The NHRA Pro Mod category will also have a double-race weekend, as they will run eliminations from Epping on Friday and Saturday.
The weekend includes an appearance from the Legends Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars as well. An autograph session will take place on Saturday at the Toyota Display with Toyota-sponsored drivers, and a Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge autograph session on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. featuring drivers from PS and PSM, as well as a special autograph session and fanfest at the Bristol Dragway Welcome Tent in the midway immediately following final qualifying.
Fans will also be invited all weekend long to the Nitro Alley Stage, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into the nitro pits. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more.
Race fans at Bristol Dragway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Bristol event winners.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Bristol. This opportunity gives fans a unique chance to see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.