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NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals At Bristol Dragway
bristol ashley
Taking the win over the weekend in Top Fuel, Justin Ashley shared the victory with his dad, Mike, creating a special Father’s Day moment. The NHRA was in Bristol, Tennessee for a hot weekend of racing at Thunder Valley. Photo By Mike Burghardt

Justin Ashley was looking for a special Father’s Day gift for his dad, Mike Ashley. He found it at Thunder Valley Dragway in Bristol, Tennessee, as he took home the “Wally” for winning Top Fuel and presented it to his dad. His dad had won the very first Pro Mod race held at this same track in 1990 and later, also won in Funny Car.

With hot temperatures throughout the weekend, hitting as high as 136-degrees on the track surface on Sunday, June 19, it was no easy task. Ashley, who qualified 14th, had to get past Josh Hart, Doug Foley and Steve Torrence to get into the final round match up with Shawn Langdon. Ashley, who is one of the best ‘leavers’ in the sport, got away first (0.071 to 0.076) and pulled away to a 3.813 at 325.30 mph to 3.841 at 320.51 mph win. The win, his second of the season, moves him up to third place in the Camping World Series Top Fuel points race, just 52 points behind the leader, Brittany Force. After qualifying fifth this weekend, Force lost to Antron Brown in the second round.

In Funny Car, Ron Capps put his Napa Toyota Supra into the winner’s circle, recording the only 3-second elapse time on eliminations day, as he took out Tim Wilkerson in the final round (3.984 at 324.36 mph to 4.075 at 315.86 mph). The race day temperatures (especially the on-track temperatures) were a tuner’s nightmare. But, his stable experienced team, consisting of crew chiefs John Medlen and Dean Antonelli, were up to the challenge. Their knowledge and skills propelled Capps to the quickest elapse times each round. He got past top qualifier Paul Lee, Robert Hight and Alexis DeJoria to advance into the final round. His opponent, Tim Wilkerson, advanced past Jack Wyatt, Chad Green and John Force. Matt Hagan, who went out in the second round, still sits atop the Funny Car Camping World Series Funny Car points battle followed by Robert Hight (-42), Ron Capps (-106), John Force (-266) and Cruz Pedregon (-342). Tim Wilkerson sits in ninth (-443).

In Pro Stock, it came down to teammates, Erica Enders and Aaron Stanfield, in the finale. Enders came in with four event wins; the last three were consecutive. Both drivers left together, with Enders gaining a slight (0.049 to 0.050 second) starting line advantage. Stansfield’s car shook hard in low gear, so he got out of the throttle. It looked like Enders would get her fourth consecutive win, until her engine let go, filling the air with smoke. With his crewman telling him over the radio, “go for it”, Stanfield stuck it back in gear and stomped the gas. He was able to get around her for an 8.033 at 184.98 mph to 8.801 103.98 mph victory. Enders still has the season points lead over Stanfield by 83, followed by Kyle Koretsky, Dallas Glenn and Greg Anderson.

Angelle Sampey, who won Pro Stock Motorcycle at this track last season, qualified first and looked to be the favorite to win again. But, somebody forgot to tell Jerry Savoie. Sampey advanced past Chris Bostick, Ryan Oehler, and Marc Ingwerson to get to the final round. Savoie, who raises alligators on an alligator farm in Louisiana to ear his nickname ‘alligator man’, marched past Eddie Krawiec, Jerry Gladstone and Angie Smith to get into the final round. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, starting line reaction times are often the key to victory and Sampey got away first. But, she got away first too early, leaving with a -0.052 red-light to Savoie’s -0.010 –red-light. As the rules go, first or worst. First red-light foul loses unless one driver/rider crosses the centerline divider between the two lanes. Neither rider crossed the centerline, but Sampey fouled first, handing the win to Savoie. Steve Johnson still leads the points race over Karen Stoffer (-79), Matt Smith (-127), Angie Smith (-133) and Angelle Sampey (-139). Jerry Savoie now sits eighth (-182).

Bristol capps
With an experienced crew and a solid day behind the wheel, Ron Capps was the winner in the Funny Car category on June 19 at Thunder Valley in Bristol, Tennessee in NHRA competition. Photo By Mike Burghardt