Force, Worsham and Gray Lead Pro Classes into Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Sunday Eliminations
More than the air temperature heated up at Thunder Valley Saturday afternoon as drivers and teams pushed the envelope and made it work as brackets were set for Sunday's eliminations at the NHRA Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Despite track readings that increased by 20 to 30 degrees than what existed for Friday evening's qualifying session, Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Nitro Funny Car) and Shane Gray (Pro Stock) all held on to the top qualifying spots. And Gray did it in record fashion.
Force earned her second top qualifying position of the 2014 NHRA season with a pass of 3.828 seconds at 317.94 miles per hour. The 27-year-old starts her pursuit of the Wally by squaring off in Sunday's first round against 16th-place qualifier, 82-year-old Chris Karamesines who ran in the first NHRA Spring Nationals in Thunder Valley in 1965.
Force said there would be special meaning to pick up her from Top Fuel win on Father's Day.
"That would be awesome," Force said. "That would be the ultimate Father's Day gift for my dad. I love coming here to Bristol. It's one of my favorite tracks by far. It's beautiful, it's green and I forgot how loud it is when you're standing down here in Thunder Valley. … It intensifies the entire experience.
"We made three pretty good passes. Anytime that car goes down the track I am learning as a driver in the car and it's just something that my team can work on to get us ready to race."
The biggest Top Fuel move of the day came when four-time Thunder Valley winner Tony Schumacher moved from 16th to third. Despite posting an earth-rocking run north off 330 mph, Schumacher's elapsed time, which is the determining factor in qualifying, was disallowed because of a glitch with the timing light at the starting line.
Worsham blew the doors off the Funny Car field Friday night and earned the top spot with the only sub-four-second pass in the class.
His 3.992-second elapsed time and speed to 319.45 mph both set Thunder Valley Funny Car records.
Shane Gray beat the heat and topped his top speed from Friday night with an NHRA Pro Stock track-record E.T. of 6.621 seconds (207.78 mph). Ironically, Jeg Coughlin Jr. also broke the track record on the same run with the same E.T., but was just clipped by Gray at the line.
"We are just going to kind of live for it today and worry about tomorrow when tomorrow gets here," said Gray. "I have never been a number one qualifier nor have I had a track record anywhere so, man, it feels great. I wouldn't be sitting here without my crew guys. … They definitely gave us the tools and equipment to come out here and do what we just did."
Gray is excited to start tomorrow's eliminations in the top spot and is going to enjoy it for. He said he wants his first win to back up his first top-qualifier performance, but he is looking at it strategically - sort of.
"You know I have talked to some of the veteran guys who have been out here a long time and they tell you to keep yourself out of a slump and keep yourself from struggling, don't worry about it, just have fun and let it take care of itself. That is what I am going to try to do tomorrow."
Spectator gates open tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. with the fan track walk at 10:45 and pre-race ceremonies at 11. Final eliminations begin at Noon and tickets start at just $25 for adults and $5 for kids 15 and under. For more information or to get tickets call 423-Bristol or visit ThunderValleyTix.com.