Allen Johnson drove his Pro Stock machine to the top spot, and a new track record, during Friday evening’s qualifying sessions at the Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. If the speed holds through Saturday’s action, it will be his third-straight number one at his home track.

For Johnson’s family-owned team, landing in the number one spot in Thunder Valley is always extra special. Doing it on Father’s Day weekend adds even more meaning to the accomplishment. Johnson’s father, Roy, builds the engines which propel his son down the track.

“It is such a blessing to be back at Bristol,” Johnson said after his run. “The fans take care of me all year long. Here, they can come up and enjoy what we do all year everywhere else.

“This crew is hitting on all eight cylinders. I didn’t know it was three-in-a-row, but to do it at home is awesome. I didn’t know it was a track record; that is awesome. Anything we do at home is just awesome.

Five years ago, the elder Johnson suffered a massive heart attack. His son was worried about the outcome and wasn’t sure if he would be able to race with his dad again. Fortunately, Roy Johnson came back stronger than ever.  During the last two weeks, the Johnson and Johnson Racing team has blown five engines during racing and test sessions. Roy and team cranked out several replacements, including the one that took his son to the top, in that same time period.

“I watched him fall over and didn’t know if he was alive or dead,” Johnson admitted. “We got that fixed and now he is on all eight cylinders. He is back.

“I’m low key. I don’t get sentimental, but it is awesome to see him succeed. I knew he would (succeed) back in ‘96. To do it at home; he has friends here to watch him do his thing.”

For Johnson, doing well in front of the hometown fans adds motivation for his team.

“This track is unique,” he said. “Thunder Valley is unique in its own ways. Everyone wants to do well here. My dad loves to have his friends here that don’t get to go to a race all year. He puts his all in it. Our focus is another 15 or 20 percent here.”

Antron Brown also drove his Aaron’s Top Fuel machine to a new track record speed and elapsed time under the lights during the night qualifying session. Brown powered down the legendary track in 3.814 seconds at 323.12 mph.

The previous E.T. record was set by Brandon Bernstein last June at 3.828 seconds. Tony Schumacher had the speed record, a 322.34 mph pass, also set in June 2011.

The cooler evening temperatures allowed Brown’s team to tune the car to the record-breaking pass.

“This was definitely a great way to get started,” Brown said. “We saw people in front of us throwing down. Terry McMillen really opened our eyes.

“We just wanted to go down the track to be in the top half of the field. We wanted to make a solid run and stepped up to number one.

“We like to go into race day in number one so we can pick our lane. This is the toughest Top Fuel racing we’ve had.”

Bob Tasca drove his Ford-bodied Funny Car to the current top spot for the second year in a row.  

“I don’t know what it is about Bristol,” Tasca said, “but I love racing in Thunder Valley. We’ve been looking at the pole for several races. The guys are really working to get it fixed.

“Someone said to me, Bristol is your lucky track. We haven’t won here yet, we just haven’t had luck going our way. With this Ford Boss engine, we are making a lot of power. That is what you saw tonight. (In the past) We had a lot of tire shake…we wanted to make the car smooth. It is smooth; it is happy. The car is happy, so the driver is happy.”

Action continues in Bristol on Saturday with two more rounds of qualifying. The current number one qualifiers will seek to hold their status atop the boards through those final rounds. Bristol Dragway also will host the fan-favorite autograph session, Fan Fest, after the final qualifying round on Saturday evening.

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. 

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