Force, Schumacher and Enders Claim Top Starting Spots At NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
John Force will start in the No. 1 spot in Funny Car eliminations following a rain delayed day of racing Saturday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) also earned No. 1 qualifying positions and will lead their categories into tomorrow's noon eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at the historic dragstrip in northeast Tennessee.
Force ran a track record 3.978-second pass at 323.43 mph under the lights in his PEAK Antifreeze Chevy Camaro SS to claim the top spot. Force, the 16-time Funny Car world champ, earned his first No. 1 starting spot of the season and 153rd of his career. It is his first career top qualifying effort at Bristol.
"What's really good to see is the team grow," said Force, who will line up opposite Terry Haddock in the first round. "Jon Schaffer was groomed as crew chief under Mike Neff for the last four or five years. He didn't have a clue but earned this shot. We rallied a bunch of kids. This is what I dreamed of doing."
Two-time and defending world champ Matt Hagan qualified second in his Rocky Boots Dodge Charger R/T with a 3.996 at 322.04. Hagan, from nearby Southwestern Virginia, is looking for his first win in Tennessee and will face Jeff Diehl in the first round.
Jack Beckman, the 2012 world champ, qualified his Infinite Hero Foundation Dodge Charger R/T third with a 3.966 at 319.60, earning him a matchup with John Hale. Kalitta Motorsports teammates Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria will start as the No. 4 and 5 seeds respectively.
Schumacher upped his Top Fuel No. 1 run from Friday with a track record 3.745-second pass at 326.08 mph under the lights in his U.S. Army dragster to claim the top seed. Schumacher, the eight-time and defending world champ clinched his third No. 1 qualifier of the season, fourth at Bristol and 79th of his career. He will open eliminations against Troy Buff.
"That was a great run but it doesn't mean a whole lot," said Schumacher, who is going for his sixth win at Bristol Dragway. "We're going to be racing in 90-degree temperatures tomorrow. It's going to be up to the crew that gets down a difficult track and not just throwing horsepower at it like we just did."
Doug Kalitta qualified second with a 3.750 at 329.50. Kalitta, driver of the Mac Tools dragster, is searching for his fourth win at Bristol and will begin that quest against Terry McMillen.
Shawn Langdon, the 2013 Top Fuel world champ, qualified third with a 3.767 at 322.42 in his Knuckle Sandwich/Bass Pro Shops/Toyota dragster and will race veteran Pat Dakin on Sunday. Spencer Massey qualified fourth while three-time world champ Larry Dixon will start fifth. Dixon set the track speed record with a 331.04 mph run in his C&J Energy Services dragster.
In Pro Stock, defending world champ Enders ran a 6.632 at 207.59 in her Racing in Red/Elite Motorsports Chevy Camaro to earn her fourth No. 1 position of the season, first at Bristol Dragway and 16th of her career. Enders will meet John Gaydosh in the first round.
"It was definitely a long day," said Enders, the winner of this event last season. "We went out there and we knew that the air got better and that the racetrack was in the best condition it's been all weekend. We went after it but still was conservative. My crew chiefs did a great job."
Four-time world champ Greg Anderson qualified No. 2 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro with a 6.646 at 206.67. Anderson, a three-time race winner this season, is looking for his third career Bristol victory and will matchup against V Gaines in round one.
Chris McGaha qualified his Harlow Sammons Chevy Camaro third with a 6.647 at 206.67, earning him a run against Kenny Delco. Shane Gray and local favorite Allen Johnson qualified fourth and fifth.
Sunday's first-round pairings for eliminations for the 15th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the 11th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday. DNQs listed below pairings.
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 3.745 seconds, 326.08 mph vs. 16. Troy Buff, 3.961, 300.86; 2. Doug Kalitta, 3.750, 329.50 vs. 15. Terry McMillen, 3.897, 315.86; 3. Shawn Langdon, 3.767, 322.42 vs. 14. Pat Dakin, 3.885, 310.98; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.768, 326.63 vs. 13. Leah Pritchett, 3.861, 319.60; 5. Larry Dixon, 3.769, 331.04 vs. 12. Clay Millican, 3.812, 318.17; 6. Antron Brown, 3.770, 320.66 vs. 11. Richie Crampton, 3.805, 318.47; 7. Dave Connolly, 3.778, 323.81 vs. 10. Steve Torrence, 3.791, 324.75; 8. Brittany Force, 3.787, 316.82 vs. 9. J.R. Todd, 3.790, 318.62.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Chris Karamesines, 3.976, 300.53; 18. Cory McClenathan, 3.993, 302.35; 19. Jenna Haddock, 4.232, 219.36.
Funny Car -- 1. John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.978, 323.43 vs. 16. Terry Haddock, Toyota Solara, 5.156, 159.85; 2. Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.996, 322.04 vs. 15. Jeff Diehl, Solara, 4.521, 263.77; 3. Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.996, 319.60 vs. 14. John Hale, Charger, 4.227, 294.31; 4. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 4.006, 322.58 vs. 13. Chad Head, Camry, 4.121, 303.23; 5. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.025, 314.90 vs. 12. Tony Pedregon, Camry, 4.109, 307.72; 6. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.027, 318.32 vs. 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.070, 306.33; 7. Courtney Force, Camaro, 4.046, 316.82 vs. 10. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.052, 305.91; 8. Ron Capps, Charger, 4.048, 317.49 vs. 9. Robert Hight, Chevrolet Camaro, 4.049, 318.02.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Paul Lee, 6.321, 273.83.
Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.632, 207.59 vs. 16. John Gaydosh Jr, Chevrolet Camaro, 6.743, 203.86; 2. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.646, 206.83 vs. 15. V. Gaines, Dodge Dart, 6.739, 205.82; 3. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.647, 207.02 vs. 14. Kenny Delco, Camaro, 6.714, 204.60; 4. Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.651, 207.82 vs. 13. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.691, 205.85; 5. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.652, 206.89 vs. 12. Larry Morgan, Camaro, 6.686, 206.64; 6. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.653, 206.45 vs. 11. Richie Stevens, Dart, 6.685, 206.16; 7. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.654, 207.27 vs. 10. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.666, 205.85; 8. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.656, 207.30 vs. 9. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.659, 206.35.
Did Not Qualify: 17. Alan Prusiensky, 6.771, 203.19; 18. Dave River, 6.835, 202.48.