Brandon Bernstein has extra incentive to win during the Father’s Day weekend Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by the Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers. He sits behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster owned by his father, and drag racing legend, Kenny.

While driving for drag racing royalty carries much scrutiny, sharing the same last name has pressures of its own. Bernstein, however, is able to shoulder the load and hopes to make his father proud each time he slides in to the cockpit.

“It is an honor to drive for my father,” Bernstein explained. “For many years, I’ve been involved with the race team and to be able to be the driver for his team. When I think about all the years I’ve spent with him in the sport, it is a real honor to drive for him. He has done everything there is to do in this sport. I hope we can get some championships and have a career half as good as his. And now with me being a new father for a little over a year, it is a neat feeling knowing it is Father’s Day and that your daughter is home pulling for you.”

For fans considering a first-time trip to Thunder Valley as a Father’s Day gift, Bernstein was quick to explain what sets the sport of NHRA drag racing apart from others.

“This is a sensory overload,” he began. “Your eyes will water because of the nitro, your body will feel like it is coming out of its skin, but it is the most adrenaline-filled thing to experience as a fan. When these things with 8,000 horsepower are going down the track in three-and-a-half seconds at more than 300 mph, it is an awesome feeling. For people who have not been out, you need to experience it. Once you experience it, you will be hooked as a fan.

“You can come into what we call our locker room,” he continued. “You can come to the pits, next to the cars as they fire up and watch the guys thrash on these cars. And you get to see the drivers. All of our drivers are accessible. I don’t know anyone that doesn’t sign autographs. It is a really fan-friendly event and you get to get up-close and personal.”

Bernstein is excited about returning to Bristol and said fans who have never been to Thunder Valley should visit to see one of the best tracks on the circuit.

“Bristol is one of the tracks that you come to and you know it is an awesome facility,” he said. “It is something you look forward to. Every time I drive in to that place, it is so beautiful in the side of the mountain and with the NASCAR track next to it. Everything about it is so cool.

“When you come in, it is just Bristol; it is Thunder Valley. Everything about it is such a great venue. The track, the staff and the fans are terrific there and there is not a bad seat in the house. It is just a really, really great facility.”

He also mentioned that fans coming to Bristol should be prepared for an ultra-close race in Top Fuel due to the parity and intense competition in the class.

“What we saw last year, with only a few guys winning races, was an anomaly,” he said. “This year, teams have stepped up and are now running with those teams. This year, I think you will see several different winners although (Del) Worsham and (Larry) Dixon are still strong. They are the ones to beat, but I feel like we are close and we can really win on any given Sunday.”

Bernstein also is looking forward to honoring family friend and former Bristol Dragway President and General Manager Jeff Byrd. Bernstein’s father will lead a special track walk on Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m. to honor Byrd. Ticket-holding fans are welcome to take part and invitations to participate have been extended to all professional drivers.

“Jeff’s family and our family were super close,” he said. “He was an awesome, awesome man. He was a genuine sweetheart of a man. It is a shame the earth doesn’t have him on it anymore. It will be tough all weekend because we miss him. He has been a focal point in our family and a tremendous, tremendous friend.”

Fans looking for the ultimate Father’s Day gift should plan to spend the special weekend with Bernstein, his father and the excitement of the NHRA Drag Racing Series.

Gates open at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 17 with the first round of Pro Qualifying slated for 5 p.m.  The pro cars will return at 7:30 p.m. for the exciting night qualifying round. Gates open at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 18 with Pro Qualifying set for 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Fan Fest autograph session takes place following the final round of qualifying Saturday. Sunday’s action kicks off when gates open at 8:30 a.m. The track walk, open to fans, begins at 10:30 a.m. Final Eliminations begin at 12:00 noon. 

Ticket prices are as follows: Friday -- Sections A - D $30 Adult / $10 Junior; Sections E - U $35 Adult / $10 Junior; Thunder Terrace $35 Adult / $10 Junior, Saturday -- Sections A - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior; Sections E - U $55 Adult / $25 Junior; Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior, Sunday -- Sections A- B $20 Adult / $10 Junior, Sections C - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior, Section E – P $55 Adult/ $25 Junior, Section Q – U $20 Adult/$10 Junior, Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior. Weekend combos are: Sections A - B $79 Adult / $30 Junior, Section C – D $95 Adult/$30 Junior, Sections E - P $120 Adult / $50 Junior, Sections Q – U $95 Adult/$30 Junior and Thunder Terrace $120 Adult / $50 Junior. Thunder Valley Club admission for three days is $300 for adults and $100 for juniors. Three-day Bruton’s Suite admission is $450 for both adults and juniors.

To purchase tickets, please call the Bristol ticket office at 423-BRISTOL or visit www.thundervalleytix.com.