For Blake Alexander, this weekend’s Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is much more than just a homecoming. The 23-year-old will drive a nitro-powered Funny Car in his Bristol professional debut, the crescendo of a childhood dream.

While it marks the first time he has raced through Thunder Valley with 8,000 horsepower under his right foot, it will not be his first trip down the legendary drag strip. Many years ago, the Smith Mountain Lake, Va. native began his racing career in Bristol behind the wheel of a Junior Dragster.

The desire to be a race car driver began early in life for Alexander. As a toddler, he would pretend he was sponsored by companies like Valvoline, ironically, one of his current sponsors. He played with the Hot Wheels cars of John Force, Chuck Etchells and Al Hoffman, dreaming of reaching the same level as his heroes.

Beginning at age four, Alexander saved birthday and Christmas gift money, along with what he earned from doing household chores, in hopes of purchasing a Jr. Dragster when he was older. When he turned 11, a shiny, new Jr. Dragster was parked in the garage.

At age 12, Alexander won his first event during the Mike Bos Nationals at Bristol Dragway, an event which typically draws several hundred competitors. The Bos family would become instrumental in Alexander’s progression after building his next car.

“I was lucky to be one of the kids who got the opportunity to learn the basics of drag racing before getting into a big car,” Alexander said of the Jr. Dragsters. “You learn by making mistakes in a racecar, just like anything in life. I learned how to stage, cut a light, drive the top end, and how to conduct myself in a sportsmanlike manner on and off the track. I still consider myself very lucky to have the opportunity that I worked for, along with the support of my family.”

This weekend marks the culmination of Alexander’s childhood dream of blasting through Thunder Valley in a nitro-breathing Funny Car. With the weekend finally here, the young driver still cannot believe the moment has arrived.

“From the time I started racing at age 11, until I was probably around 22, I didn’t think that I would be doing this at 23,” he said. “I’m really enjoying living out the dream, but at the same time, I’m probably not going to recognize what’s happening until I look back at it at the end of the season.”

He may be a little bit older now, but when Alexander launches his full-size Funny Car down the track in Thunder Valley this weekend, behind the wheel still will be the same kid with Hot Wheels Funny Cars and a burning passion to follow his dreams. 

Alexander will be the special guest in the Bristol Dragway Kids’ Zone at 10 a.m. on Saturday morning. He will meet with kids and share his story about dedication and the desire to live a dream. The Kids’ Zone will be located near the main ticket booth. Admission to the Kids’ Zone is free.

Special adult ticket pricing also is available on Father’s Day Sunday, with several sections of grandstand seating beginning at just $20 in honor of the day.

Gates open at 9 a.m. on Friday, June 15 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 16 with Pro Qualifying set for noon and 2:30 p.m. Sunday’s action kicks off when gates open at 8:30 a.m. and 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 / Free Junior (Purchase by June 14; $5 after), Sections C - D $45 Adult / Free Junior (Purchase by June 14; $5 after), Section E – P $55 Adult/ Free Junior (Purchase by June 14; $5 after), Section Q – U $20 Adult/ Free (Purchase by June 14; $5 after) Junior, Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / Free (Purchase by June 14; $5 after) Junior. Weekend combos are: Sections A - B $79 Adult / $25 (Advance) $30 (After June 14) Junior, Section C – D $95 Adult/ $25 (Advance) $30 (After June 14) Junior, Sections E - P $120 Adult / $35 (Advance) $40 (After June 14) Junior, Sections Q – U $95 Adult/$25 (Advance) $30 (After June 14) Junior and Thunder Terrace $120 Adult / $35 (Advance) ($40 After June 14) 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.

For more information about Bristol Dragway, visit www.thundervalleytix.com or call 1-866-415-4158