BRISTOL, Tenn. – Legendary Bristol Dragway holds a lifetime of memories for defending Pro Stock world champion Allen Johnson.
For the first time in his standout career, Johnson hopes to add a Pro Stock victory at Thunder Valley to that list in 2013.
After losing the 2012 finals to Mike Edwards in the closest side-by-side final round in NHRA history, Johnson will get another chance to break through to the winner’s circle at this year’s Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, June 14-16 at Bristol Dragway. Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Edwards (Pro Stock) are the defending winners of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event, which will be televised nationally on ESPN2HD.
Johnson and his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger remains the local fan favorite and this could be the year he nabs a prestigious first win at Bristol in front of family and friends after coming oh so close one year ago.
Having an opportunity to share a potential win with his father during Father’s Day weekend at his home track adds even more incentive to the event.
“Father’s Day has always been special day for our family. It usually brings some great food and much needed visit time with all the family,” Johnson said. “To be able to have my father at Bristol and try to win that race is a special incentive. It would mean getting an annoying monkey off our back. We almost got it done for the family, friends, employees last year and there is no doubt it would be special for everyone including the hometown fans.”
The razor-thin loss to Edwards at Bristol a year ago with a margin of victory technically recorded at a nearly-impossible .0000 of a second, spurred Johnson on to a remarkable series finish, one that included five of his seven wins en route to his 2012 world championship in Pro Stock.
“I was not horribly disappointed losing last year in the closest side-by-side final round in NHRA history,” Johnson said. “It was certainly a little disappointing, but it was an exciting finish for the fans and teams alike and you can’t be disappointed about that. We were just on the wrong side of the bullet there. It was a great race and we knew it would be.”
The Greeneville, Tenn. native has picked right back up in 2013 as well, winning back-to-back races in Gainesville, Fla. and Las Vegas, while also posting two runner-up finishes in the last two events.
The win in Gainesville represented Johnson’s first win at that historic track, and he is hoping for a similar result at another historic track in Bristol.
“Bristol Motor Speedway and the area media always make it special for our team, and yes, it will probably be a little more special this year coming in as the reigning Pro Stock Champion and being named Tennessee’s Team of the Year by the Tennessee Sports Hall Of Fame,” Johnson said. “We’re very proud of the recognition we have received and it certainly means a lot to the team.”
Of course, there is added pressure for Johnson and his 200-mph Team Mopar Dodge Avenger racing in front of a huge contingent of family and friends at his home track.
But Johnson and his team, which also includes standout Pro Stock teammates Jeg Coughlin and Vincent Nobile, have always been rigorous about their testing schedule in Bristol.
“We test at Bristol before the event and that will be important for our preparation,” Johnson said. “It is also an altitude track and the Mopar team definitely likes altitude tracks. The elevation and humidity play right into our hands usually. It’s important to roll the Mopar Express Lane Dodge off the truck on the right track and build on it throughout the weekend.”
Johnson also plans to channel the extra support from family and friends into a positive result.
“It’s a bit difficult to keep your energy level focused, but you really can’t try too hard,” Johnson said. “I just don’t think that’s possible. I just try to stay focused and use the extra ‘attention’ to further our determination.”
All of the stars of the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series will be competing for a victory on Father’s Day weekend at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, including seven-time Top Fuel world champ Schumacher, who has won five times at Bristol Dragway and broke a 32-race winless drought with his win at the storied track last year. But there will be plenty of challenges from a number of championship contenders, including points leader Shawn Langdon, who became the first driver in the class to pick up three wins this season. Other Top Fuel standouts include defending world champ Antron Brown, Spencer Massey, Bob Vandergriff, Morgan Lucas and veteran driver Doug Kalitta.
In Funny Car, the most recent event winner and current points leader Matt Hagan, a cattle rancher from nearby Christiansburg, Va., is surging and will be looking for his third event win in 2013 and his first-ever victory in Bristol. Challenging Hagan will be a host of top competitors, including Johnny Gray, who has three wins in what has already been a highly-successful 2013 retirement tour, two-time 2013 event Cruz Pedregon, defending event winner Capps, Robert Hight, Del Worsham and defending world champ Jack Beckman, among others.
In addition to hometown favorite Johnson in Pro Stock, red-hot points leader Edwards, a four-time defending event winner in Bristol, will look to make it five at this year’s event. Edwards enters the race on one of the best starts to his career with three event victories and eight No. 1 qualifying positions at the controls of his Interstate Batteries/I Am Second Chevy Camaro. Along with Coughlin, who is currently second in points after picking up a recent victory, others to watch in Pro Stock include Erica Enders-Stevens, Shane Gray, Greg Anderson, Jason Line and Nobile.
As always, every ticket purchased for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals is an exclusive pit pass, allowing spectators to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their sophisticated hot rods between rounds. Fans can also meet many of the drivers in the pits and get autographs.
Fans also won’t want to miss the popular interactive NHRA Nitro Alley and the NHRA Manufacturers Midway. On Saturday evening following qualifying, a special Fan Fest will be held in Nitro Alley, where more than 25 of the top NHRA Mello Yello Series stars will be available to meet fans in one of the largest autograph sessions on the circuit.
Mello Yello Series qualifying begins on Friday, June 14 with the first session at 5:30 p.m., followed by another session under the lights at 7:30 p.m. When 8,000-horsepower nitro machines blast off from the starting line with their header pipes full of flames during night qualifying, the scene provides one of the most sensory-filled experiences for any race motorsports fan. A spectacular fireworks show is planned to finish off Friday’s night racing.
The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 15 at 12:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at noon on Sunday, June 16.
The NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series and the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will be showcased during the event, featuring exciting side-by-side racing action at more than 250 mph.
To purchase tickets for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals this Father’s Day weekend, please call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679 or visit www.thundervalleytix.com. For more information about NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.
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FORD NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS PRESENTED BY TRI-CITIES AREA FORD DEALERS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 13th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, the 10th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – earn points leading to 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Bristol Dragway, Bristol, Tenn. From Interstate 81 North, take Hwy. 11E. Take the Virginia Exit 3 and Hwy. 11E will take you directly to the dragway. From the I-81 South, take Tennessee exit 69 and go south on Hwy 394 directly to the dragway.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, June 14-16
FRIDAY, June 14 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 5 and 7 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
SATURDAY, June 15 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
PRO MOD DRAG RACING SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m.; First round of eliminations at 4 p.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m.
SUNDAY, June 16 - Pre-race ceremonies, 11 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at noon.
Saturday, June 15, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours and 30 minutes of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of coverage starting at 1 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, June 16, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of coverage starting at 11 p.m. (ET).
SATELLITE (Digital HD feed):
Friday, June 14, 10 - 10:30 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Saturday, June 15, 6:30 - 7 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
Sunday, June 16, 7:30 - 8 p.m. (ET), SES 2 / Transponder 03C
(3760 MHz, horizontal; Data Rate: 40.46147055 Mbp; Symbol Rate: 29.27 Ms; FEC: ¾; Bandwidth: 36 Mhz)
Video news release contains race action highlights each day and winners’ interviews on Sunday.
2012 EVENT WINNERS: Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Ron Capps, Funny Car; Mike Edwards, Pro Stock.
MOST VICTORIES: Tony Schumacher, 5, TF; Mike Edwards, 4, PS; John Force, 3, FC; Doug Kalitta, 3, TF; Ron Capps, 3, FC.
Top Fuel - 3.796 seconds by Shawn Langdon, June ’12; 324.98 mph by Spencer Massey, June ’12.
Funny Car - 4.047 seconds by Robert Hight, June ’11; 316.45 mph by Hight, June ’11.
Pro Stock - 6.633 seconds by Mike Edwards, May ’09; 207.94 mph by Greg Anderson, May ’09.
Top Fuel - 3.701 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 332.18 mph by Spencer Massey, April ’12, Charlotte, N.C.
Funny Car - 3.986 sec. by Jack Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 320.58 mph by Beckman, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
Pro Stock - 6.471 sec. by Mike Edwards, April ’13, Charlotte, N.C.; 214.35 mph by Jason Line, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.
TICKETS: For tickets call Bristol Dragway at (866) 901-2679. Tickets also available at www.thundervalleytix.com.
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NHRA MELLO YELLO DRAG RACING SERIES WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS STANDINGS
GLENDORA, Calif. -- Point standings (top 10) following the ninth of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series -
Top Fuel: 1. Shawn Langdon, 746; 2. Tony Schumacher, 742; 3. Antron Brown, 626; 4. Spencer Massey, 615; 5. Khalid alBalooshi, 544; 6. Doug Kalitta, 510; 7. Brandon Bernstein, 445; 8. Morgan Lucas, 441; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 415; 10. Clay Millican, 396.
Funny Car: 1. Matt Hagan, 689; 2. Johnny Gray, 645; 3. Cruz Pedregon, 639; 4. Ron Capps, 544; 5. Jack Beckman, 543; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 534; 7. Courtney Force, 522; 8. Robert Hight, 483; 9. Del Worsham, 476; 10. John Force, 437.
Pro Stock: 1. Mike Edwards, 853; 2. Jeg Coughlin, 701; 3. Allen Johnson, 698; 4. Erica Enders-Stevens, 586; 5. Jason Line, 582; 6. Vincent Nobile, 538; 7. Shane Gray, 517; 8. Greg Anderson, 455; 9. V. Gaines, 435; 10. Rodger Brogdon, 388.
Pro Stock Motorcycle: 1. Hector Arana Jr, 417; 2. Scotty Pollacheck, 266; 3. Hector Arana, 265; 4. Michael Ray, 260; 5. John Hall, 243; 6. Eddie Krawiec, 226; 7. Matt Smith, 212; 8. Steve Johnson, 200; 9. Jim Underdahl, 194; 10. Shawn Gann, 187.