"Inside Thunder Valley"
Whether you are a seasoned NHRA fan, or a newcomer to the sport and to Bristol Dragway, we want to make sure you are prepared to make Father's Day weekend extra special.
WHAT: 16th Annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals - it's become a Father's Day weekend tradition here in the hills of northeast Tennessee. The best in NHRA Drag Racing visit Bristol Dragway for three days of non-stop action.
WHEN: The 2016 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals take place over three days, beginning on Friday, June 17 and culminating on Sunday (Father's Day), June 19 with final eliminations and champions crowned.
WHERE: Bristol Dragway is located adjacent to Bristol Motor Speedway, just off Highway 394. If you're traveling from the north, simply take Exit 3 off I-81 and follow Hwy. 11E (Volunteer Parkway) to Hwy. 394 where you can follow signs to our free parking. From the Knoxville region and areas south, take Exit 69 off I-81 and follow Hwy. 394 to Bristol Dragway and free parking. If you're traveling from the east/southeast (Carolinas), take Exit 19 off I-26 onto Bristol Hwy. (11E) to 394 and follow signs to free parking. And if you're coming over the mountains through the Elizabethton area, follow Hwy. 19E to Hwy 11E to Hwy 394 and free parking.
Please visit this link for more on directions/location.
HOW: Well, ya gotta have tickets. A variety of ticket prices exist, depending on if you're just coming for one day or all three. A few key things to remember: There's nothing like seeing the Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters run under the lights on Friday night. Also we have special youth pricing available.
For tickets, or if you have any questions, please feel free to give us a toll-free call to 1.866.415.4158, or call us locally at 423.989.6900. You can also purchase tickets online here. And definitely make sure you become familiar with the daily schedule.
WHY: If you're a seasoned veteran you know the why. If you're on the fence about attending this event; if you are thinking about going to your first NHRA race; or if you're thinking about doing something special for dear ol' dad on Father's Day - DO IT! We often tell folks you may walk away a die-hard fan or you may walk away not liking drag racing at all… but if you even have one ounce of interest in motorsports, you owe it to yourself to visit Thunder Valley! It will touch every single sense in your being. Sight, sound, smell, feel… and yes, you'll even taste it.
There is simply nothing in the world quite like NHRA Drag Racing.
Again, visit us at bristoldragway.com or give us a call (1.866.415.4158) and we'll get you drag race ready!
Thunder Valley Nationals News
- Thunder Valley Nationals Ladder (PDF)
- Torrence, Capps, And Line Sprint To No. 1 Qualifiers
- Thunder Valley Nationals Event Coverage Page (NHRA.com)
- Capps, Torrence and Line Race To Qualifying Leads Friday
- Hight Keeps Plugging Along (Johnson City Press)
- Hagan Looks To Defend Thunder Valley Title (Johnson City Press)
- Allen Johnson Glad To Be Back At Bristol (TriCities.com)
#FeelTheThunder | #ThunderValleyNats | #NHRA
I thought I knew what to expect during my first Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals: loud engines, fast speeds, smoking tires - the typical racing trifecta guaranteed to make an appearance at any motorsports event, on any given night, at any venue across the country.
And while I would still consider those to be accurate descriptors, I would also consider them to be mundane in comparison with the actual event. My cursory evaluation left me ill-prepared for the weekend's unexpected - the unforeseen moment, while standing on the starting line and feeling the engines launch, that I quite nearly jumped out of my skin and simultaneously became a bona fide fan of drag racing.
It's entirely true what they say - TV doesn't do it justice. Drag racing requires personal experience. Drag racing demands to be felt.
Its power thrums, reverberating through your body. Just the initial firing of the engines triggers a welling of eager anticipation, something akin to the feeling elicited by the first strains of a guitar wafting through darkness and signaling the start of a concert featuring your favorite band. You know what's coming, and you know it's going to rock.
Records shattered under Thunder Valley's Friday night lights. Racers piloted nitro fueled machines at breakneck speeds, crossing the 1000-ft. mark in little more then three seconds after they launched off the starting line while thousands of spectators, myself included, held their collective breath and gripped the edge of their seat a little tighter with every back-end wiggle.
The event's Father's Day finale captivated as an emotional Rodger Brogdon notched his first national NHRA Pro Stock win, Steve Torrence celebrated his first Top Fuel victory in Bristol, and the legendary John Force eeked out a win over daughter Courtney en route to his first Funny Car Wally in more than a year.
Spectators thrilled, clamoring to the on-track Winner's Circle intent on celebrating their champions.
That was, for me, another unexpected. In marked contrast to the on-track pageantry and drama, off-track the drivers are surprisingly accessible. Every grandstand ticket is a pit pass, providing unprecedented access to the teams as they thrash between rounds; and after parking for the night, the sport's biggest stars mill about the campground grilling with fans and challenging them to games of cornhole. They're engaged, they're personable, and they're appreciative.
The Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is an entirely unexpected adventure, a unique combination of electrifying racing and down-home hospitality. To understand it requires first-hand experience, and my expectation is that you'll be front row for the 2014 event.
When we invite you to"feel the thunder," it's not just a clever marketing ploy, it's a reality, and it's one that comes highly recommended by one of drag racing's newest devotees - me.
Tickets for the 2014 event are on sale now and, until October 15, you can receive a 10% discount on the purchase of any adult ticket. To take advantage of these savings and reserve your seats, call (423)-BRISTOL or visit ThunderValleyTix.com today!
Thunder Valley. What an awesome name for a drag-strip positioned right in the middle of two mountains. So many things come to mind that make this place so special and unique: its history, beautiful landscape, its character, great customer service that makes it a fan and racer favorite. I could go on and on.
In this blog I want to highlight one of the most important assets that has made and kept Bristol what it is today; our Bristol Dragway staff. Our teams is comprised of the ticket staff, tech crew, staging lane crew, starters, E.T. booth, water box, front and back computer (timing system), announcers, security, emergency staff, and fuel station combine to make up more than 200 years of experience. This core staff has seen Thunder Valley go through many changes and renovations but it consistently has been the foundation of Bristol Dragway.
As many of you know, a normal drag racing day is unlike any other sporting event. You open early and usually start racing before any spectators arrive just so you can complete the day before a city-mandated curfew. Then you do this over and over again for about 75 event days. We rotate our staff around to give them breaks because in drag racing there aren’t any breaks. Most are working outside dealing with the weather conditions, questions from competitors and spectators, and trying to run the race. With all that said, our crew loves what it does and is good at it. Dealing with many challenges, they provide the highest level of professionalism and offer the industry’s best customer service along with years of experience.
It’s hard to put in words how much our staff means to us and how much it has done for Bristol Dragway. So, I have asked a few others to help share their thoughts on our weekend warriors.
"As a whole, the Bristol Staff has that unique combination of efficiency, professionalism and friendliness that is hard to come by. They are the #1 reason we were able to get 5000+ runs down the track at our 2012 Spring Fling event. Not only do they get it done, they get it done with a smile on their faces. I can’t thank them enough.” – Peter Biondo, Spring Fling 20’s Bracket Race Owner/Promoter
"The World Footbrake Challenge has been held at Bristol Dragway all of its six-year history. There is no doubt in my mind the success of the event is tied directly to the Bristol Dragway staff. From top to bottom, it is obvious their # 1 goal is to make the customer happy. As an event promoter, it is very refreshing to have assurance that the Bristol Dragway staff will treat your customer as well or better than you can treat them yourself. On top of the great customer service they offer, the employees at Bristol Dragway do their job at the highest level possible. Every member of the team understands their role very well and they perform at maximum efficiency. With service and support like we have gotten from the Bristol Dragway staff, there will never be another venue option for the WFC." – Jared Pennington, World Footbrake Challenge Owner/Promoter
100% True. THANK YOU Bristol Dragway staff.
Without further delay, here is a list of the workers that are the heartbeat of Thunder Valley.
- Jean Silcox
- Christy Greer
- Tammy Moore
- Curt Smith
- Sally Smith
- Derek Smith
- Richard Keesling
- Aaron Williams
- Mike Belcher
- Kenny Morrell
- Mathew Brewer
- Ronnie Brewer
- Amy Watson
- Bob Burton
- Mike Hicks
- Johnny Hutchinson
- Pat Quinn
- Mike Lester
- David McGee
- Reece Wheeler
- Craig Stapleton
- Jeffery Stillwell
- Alan Howard
- David Carrier
- Freddie Wilkenson
- And many other members from the Tri-Cities area Emergency Services
- Keith Elton
- Bruce Bullis
- Andy Seabolt
- And the rest of Sullivan County Sheriff’s Department
Looks a little different around here, doesn’t it? We decided we’d spruce the place up a bit for you. We wanted to make it easier for you to find all the information you need for all of our events here in Thunder Valley.
A new website…what a great way to wrap up an amazing season! But I’ll get to that in a minute.
First off, we hope you like the new Bristol Dragway site. As always, our contact information is listed here and we encourage you to provide your feedback on what you find. This page has been constructed for you, and we want it to give you everything you need to keep you up-to-date with what is going on in Bristol.
In this blog, you will see interesting contributions from many of the people who help make all the action in Thunder Valley possible. Through the bulk of the season, I’ll use this space to give you a preview of the exciting racing ahead and a recap of everything that has happened. But, I don’t want you to get tired of hearing me rattle on ALL the time! We’ll also have some of our other team members take you behind the scenes from time to time to give you a feel for what it takes to pull off the greatest drag racing on the planet.
Now, like I said up there in the first paragraph, this has been an awesome season in Thunder Valley. We couldn’t do it without the great racers, fans, officials and staff who come together each weekend at Bristol Dragway to create all the magic.
The season began on the last day of March with one of our largest Street Fights events ever. Thanks to Taco Bell (our new SF sponsor), anyone who paid with a Taco Bell receipt (yes…you read that right), could race for FREE in the season opener. How cool is that? What’s even better is that Taco Bell repeated the promotion again later in the season. Taco Bell is a great partner that really understands the importance of Street Fights (which I plan to further explain in a future blog). There is one more event scheduled for October 6 and we want to see you at the track. Minivans ARE welcome.
At Street Fights this season, we dropped money off the tower for fans to catch. We put jewelry in a swimming pool filled with sand and let a few of our female fans dig for it. We had burnout competitions and introduced our MPH Clubs. Heck, one night Taco Bell packed a Ford Fiesta with bags of Doritos and then gave away Doritos Locos Tacos free all evening long.
The Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals on Father’s Day weekend was as exciting as usual…especially a great final round between Mike Edwards and Allen Johnson in Pro Stock. At the end of the track, they finished in a virtual tie, with Edwards given a .0000 winning margin over Johnson, our hometown competitor. I don’t think it gets any closer than that. Tony Schumacher won Top Fuel to return to the Winner’s Circle for the first time in 32 events and Ron Capps earned an emotional Funny Car win in his sixth-straight final round of 2012.
There was a lot of fun off the track, too. We held our annual Fan Fest autograph session on Saturday night and had more than 25 drivers take part. We were told by several people that it was the largest NHRA autograph session they could remember. Then, to honor Father’s Day, tickets for Sunday’s final eliminations began at just $20. You just can’t beat that deal. Oh wait, yeah we did. To help families celebrate the special day, we gave two free junior tickets for each adult ticket purchased by Thursday before race weekend. That is unbelievable and I’m sure we added a few fans to the Nitro Generation. Want to know the best part? We’re doing it again for 2013.
In late July, we had our annual Monster Truck Madness with the one-and-only Bigfoot in attendance. The “Original Monster Truck” caused plenty of carnage before the event was over. We had a huge crowd and continue to be impressed with the love you fans show the monster trucks.
We just completed Super Chevy Show and Thunder Valley Mayhem a couple of weeks ago. Once again, it was one of the biggest Super Chevy Shows on the tour. If you are a fan of the Bowtie, you can’t miss the event in Bristol. We have one of the largest car shows and swap meets you’re going to see anywhere. We even had a huge car corral with a ton of cars for sale. I bet someone reading this picked up their own classic to enter in next year’s car show!
Thunder Valley Mayhem definitely did not disappoint with Pro Mods, jet dragsters, Larry “Spiderman” McBride and Megasaurus. I got some great photos from the event and may include those in a future blog with some of my favorites from the season.
The year definitely didn’t end there though. In June, we had the Fun Ford Weekend return to Thunder Valley in a great event for fans of the Blue Oval. On Labor Day weekend, the die-hard supporters of Mopar products came to Bristol for our annual Mopar Thunder. In July, we had a week of Junior Dragster competition as we hosted the Jr. Drag Racing League Eastern Conference Finals. It is great to see the future of drag racing is alive and well. One of our own racers, Carson Brown, won the 11-year-old division. We’re proud of you bud!
Congratulations also are in order for our DER Bracket Series champs for 2012. Tim Griffith and Dylan Kiser wrapped up back-to-back season championships in the DER Bracket Racing Series. Griffith earned the Pro category championship for the second year in-a-row, with Kiser claiming the Junior Dragster Division II title once more. Trevor Denton (Super Pro), John Isom (Sportsman), Jerry Turner (Motorcycle), Bill Roberts (Trophy) and Garrett Freeman (Jr. Dragster Div. I) also earned 2012 championships in Thunder Valley.
Well, I’ve hit the 1000 word mark. I tend to ramble as you’ll see in the coming months. Thanks for hanging in there this long. We had a lot happen this season and it was all worth repeating. Once again, we hope you enjoy the new website and ask that you will give us your feedback.
I’ll also be looking for ideas for upcoming blogs, so if you have one, shoot me an email and let me know what you would like to see.