Greeneville’s Allen Johnson will start Sunday’s Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals from the top spot, after holding off all Pro Stock challengers in an action-packed second day of qualifying at Bristol Dragway. He hopes the home field advantage finally will help him earn a win in Thunder Valley.

While Johnson’s track record 6.623 elapsed time at 207.75 mph from Friday evening’s qualifying session became the pass of note, he still blasted down the track at 6.63 on Saturday afternoon, solidifying himself as the favorite for Sunday’s action. The number one qualifier is his third-straight at Bristol.

“This car has been so solid,” Johnson said after the run. “We had four great runs… hats off to my crew and my dad. I’ve got family, friends and employees here. The employees let me do what I do all year, so it is good to let them come out and enjoy it like I enjoy it.

“There is a little more pressure because you are at home. We are an experienced team. We like to keep our focus with no added pressure. We all try to be focused and double and triple-check each other. We have each other’s backs and then we go out there and get the job done.”

Saturday’s action took place under bright blue skies, with more of the same expected for Sunday’s final eliminations. Johnson feels his current set-up will give him an advantage over his competitors once racing beings.

“The last run today is very similar to what we’ll probably run tomorrow,” he said. “We’ve got a good car here. Hopefully, that will continue tomorrow and we can have a couple hundredths on the field. Wouldn’t that be great?”

Bob Tasca claimed the number one spot in Funny Car during an all-important race for his team.

“(Thunder Valley is) Definitely a driver’s race track when it heats up,” he said. “ It’s an all-Ford kid driving an all-Ford hot rod in the all-Ford race. Maybe we can win this thing for Ford.”

Tasca was able to put together an impressive run to launch himself atop the speed chart.

“We were a little bit too aggressive on both runs,” Tasca said. “Cleary in the first round (in Sunday’s eliminations), you are going to have to go put a big number on the board, then starting dialing it back a little when it starts getting hotter.

“We live on the edge of a razor blade every run. It’s crazy when you think about playing with 8,000 horsepower. That’s the difference between going down the race track and not going down the track. It’s the track.”

Antron Brown’s Top Fuel track record speed and E.T. from Friday’s night qualifying session, a 3.814 E.T. jaunt at 323.12 mph, held up during the final rounds of qualifying on Saturday afternoon. Brown and teammate Tony Schumacher qualified first and second. Surprisingly, both Brandon Bernstein and Morgan Lucas failed to qualify for the event. It is Bernstein’s first DNQ in five years.

“The last session the way the temp is,” he explained, “that is what we will see tomorrow. The first run, the boys were collaborating and we got after it; we eased up and it made it from A to B. We got back and collaborated and I was very pleased with the run. The car responded well; it hiked the front up. It is good to know the conditions are the same. Hopefully, that will be tomorrow’s final round (Schumacher and Brown). I know we have a lot of tough competition to get there to do that.”

Brown said the DNQ’s by the Morgan Lucas Racing teammates illustrate the competitiveness of the Top Fuel field.

“We have been there; where we qualified on the bottom,” he explained. “This field is tough. The toughest it has been. Brandon and Morgan run hard. Thunder Valley is tricky, you have to be aggressive, but not overly aggressive. The heat comes out and you have to make power to get the car to do what it does and all the variables to get the car down the track. We have to keep our heads down and keep after it.

Sunday’s action kicks off when gates open at 8:30 a.m. and Final Eliminations begin at 12:00 noon. 

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