By every standard, the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway was a blast.
The grandstands were jammed for the Saturday afternoon qualifying sessions and Sunday’s eliminations attracted nearly 900,000 viewers on the Fox Network.
On the track, the winners included two young guns in Justin Ashley (Top Fuel) and Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) along with two veterans in Ron Capps (Funny Car) and 63-year-old Pro Stock Motorcycle wizard Jerry Savoie.
For good reason, Bristol Motor Speedway has iconic status in the motorsports world but the allure of Bristol Dragway is just as strong among drag racing fans and competitors.
Those racers can gauge the crowd at Thunder Valley by simply walking out of the haulers and seeing the crowd outside their pits.
“The line for signing autographs was endless,” said three-time Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey. “I haven’t had the amount of support I’ve had at this place in a long time. That’s a really good feeling, and it makes it so much fun to do this.”
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Three-time Funny Car world champ Robert Hight from the John Force Racing empire also praised the unique environment at Bristol.
“It was awesome coming underneath the tower and seeing a packed house,” Hight said. “I think the fans are spoiled if this is the only track they have been to. It doesn’t get any better.”
With its expansive tower, seating and other amenities, Bristol Dragway has been as one of the jewels of the sport since its opening in 1965. All the top stars have used the Valley as a proving ground and launching pad for their careers.
It would be nice if Bristol Motor Speedway and area businesses would capitalize on this three-day spectacle that attracts well over 30,000 fans by launching a tie-in concert, festival or other promotions.
No question, the 2022 Thunder Valley Nationals proved that Bristol Dragway ranks with any dragstrip in the United States.
“Bristol is a most beautiful facility where people come and see what NHRA drag racing is all about,” Hight said. “The fans are why we’re here.”
PIT STOPS: Abingdon’s Kres VanDyke continues to rule the Late Model class at Kingsport Speedway, as he earned his fourth win of the season in Friday’s 60-lap event. Jonathan Worley (Asheville) and former NASCAR veteran Brad Teague (Johnson City) rounded out the top three. Bucky Smith and Billy Byington split the Pure 4 races, while Draper’s Kyle Barnes (Sportsman), Abingdon’s Kevin Canter (Mod 4) and Castlewood’s Rob Austin (Street Stock) also earned victories. …Through six events, Marion’s Morgan Widener tops the Pro Modified standings at Wythe Raceway. Other leaders include Sugar Grove’s Keith Griffitts (Super Street), Rural Retreat’s Justin Tate (UCAR) and Wytheville’s Tanner Cook in Pro Mini. This Saturday’s program features one of the most spectacular fireworks shows in the region. …. Saturday’s five-division schedule at Lonesome Pine Raceway will be headlined by a 50-lap Late Model race.
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