The inaugural Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge, the creation of well-known sportsman racers Dave Connolly and Jeff and Don Strickland, comes to Bristol Dragway May 27-30. The top bracket racers from across the country will do battle for a guaranteed weekend purse in excess of $300,000.

"This has been a brainchild of ours for a while," explained multi-time NHRA and big dollar bracket winner Jeff Strickland. "We've talked about it and thought about it a lot, and we've tried to develop a race that we'd get excited about attending ourselves, as racers. Obviously, Dave, Dad and myself won't be competing in our own event, but we've raced enough to know that certain formats and ideas can make the weekend more enjoyable."

Saturday's main event winner's purse is based on the number of entrants, with as much as $150,000 going to the day's winner. At minimum, a $50,000 top prize is guaranteed by race officials. The rest of the purse is set, regardless of car count, with $25,000 going to the runner-up, $8,000 to the semi's, and $3,000 to the quarters.

In addition, race promoters will give $2,500 cash to any door car that can conquer the field to win Saturday's main event.  

On Friday and Sunday, racers will compete in $25,000-to-win races that bookend the Saturday main event. will present a Thursday gamblers' race boasting a $10,000 winner's purse to kick off the weekend festivities.

With 150 weekend entries, pay starts with 3rd round winners receiving $200 in the Friday and Sunday races and $500 in the main event (if under 150 entries, pay starts with 4th round winners). Weekend entry for the Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge is just $1500.

The Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge also will host a pair of shootouts. The first will be the American Race Cars 64-car shootout. Unlike the majority of dragster races assembled, this event will reward the winner with a new complete, turn-key American Race Cars Patriot swing-arm dragster, fresh with custom color from Todd's Extreme Paint. The winner actually can enter the car in the next day's race. Sunset Racecraft and Dart Machinery also will present a 32-car shootout for a new Sunset Engine. Entry fee for the American Race Cars 64-car shootout will be $1,000, while entry into the Sunset Racecraft/Dart Machinery 32-car Engine shootout will be $500. Shootout events are already filling, and racers should contact Dave Connolly to reserve a spot.

The Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge also will present a number of prizes and giveaways for competitors who are not fortunate enough to cash the big checks. Gift certificates will be awarded for the best winning and losing packages in the early rounds of competition in each day's event. The Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge will host a free raffle for all weekend entrants that will reward several prizes valued at more than $500.

Race promoters also will present the most unenviable award of the weekend, the Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge "Beat Down" award. If any competitor is unable to win a round of competition all weekend (to be eligible racers must buy back at every opportunity), race promoters will refund their entire $1500 entry fee (to one racer only: if multiple entrants qualify, the $1500 will be split amongst them).

"When we set out with this project, our goal was to create a real "racers' race," said former Pro Stock standout and multi-time sportsman winner Connolly.  "Our focal points are great payback and a fun atmosphere. We're paying third round winners every day. The prize money is strong throughout the purse; this isn't a race where you have to make a final to come out ahead. The shootout events, round prizes, "beat down" award, and sponsor giveaways allow us more opportunities to reward more entrants; we want everyone to come away with something.

"And finally, we've just got one race each day (plus the two shootouts), with one round of buybacks. So, as long as the weather cooperates, we'll be done at a decent hour each day which will allow everyone to have a good time and enjoy the camaraderie of their friends once the action on the track is done."

The main "after hours"event at the race track will be the "Saturday Night Time to Get Right Party," featuring live music and a racer cookout provided by the event staff.

The Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge will be an 1/8th mile event.

For additional event information or to have your company involved with this event, contact promoters Dave Connolly (941-773-3562) or Jeff Strickland (256-810-6162), or via e-mail at, or