Home Capps, Ashley, Stanfield, Savoy score Wallys at Thunder Valley Nationals

Capps, Ashley, Stanfield, Savoy score Wallys at Thunder Valley Nationals

Rod Mullins

By Rod Mullins | Augusta Free Press

Picture1BRISTOL, Tenn. – Ron Capps’ chance at winning at Thunder Valley almost went up into smoke and flames before his team rebounded and the California native continued his Funny Car dominance at Bristol Dragway, winning the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals for a record sixth time on Sunday.

The NAPA Auto Parts Toyota overcame an engine explosion in his first-round win against Paul Lee, and later rebounded back to take out No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in a big second-round matchup, edging out defending Bristol winner Alexis DeJoria in the semifinals.

“Today shows how tough Funny Car is,” Capps said. “I’m the biggest Tim Wilkerson fan and to see him come alive like he did today was cool. (Matt) Hagan and (Robert) Hight have been dominating so far and I’ve heard talk of a two-car race for the championship, but we’re still here. It’s a fun time of the year.”

The new team owner powered his NAPA Auto Parts Toyota Supra to the quickest run of each round and then ultimately took the victory over veteran racer Tim Wilkerson’s LRS Ford Mustang in the final round. In the final, Capps covered the distance with a winning performance of 3.984 seconds at 324.36 mph to cross the finish line in front of Wilkerson, who trailed with a 4.075 at 315.86.

It was Capps’ 70th career victory, but this year has been an emotional journey for Capps.

“This year has been an emotional year being a team owner and having people to worry about,” Capps said. “The win in Vegas, I was still in shock. It was great. It’s an amazing thing. I’m living the dream and to be able to do it in the sport I grew up with is unbelievable.”

Capps added that “today felt different, we worked really hard at this one. Everybody wanted to get that first Supra win, it was out there. I wanted that one bad and I’m so proud that we got it.”

Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Aaron Stanfield (Pro Stock) and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) joined Capps as winners of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series event in Northeast Tennessee.

p2Ashley picked up his first Bristol Dragway Top Fuel victory by holding off Shawn Langdon, in a close side-by-side race to the finish. Ashley’s dragster posted a 3.813 at 325.30 to finish in front of Langdon, who finished with a 3.841 at 320.51.

The second-generation racer was thrilled to win at Bristol Dragway and give his former Bristol-winning father Mike Ashley the trophy as a Father’s Day gift.

“Bristol has so much history, you look up there (on the grandstands) and you see all of those names of the greats that have raced won here, and it’s just a special place and prestigious with it being on Father’s Day weekend,” Ashley said. “To be able to give my dad this trophy today as a gift is so cool.”

“Beating Steve (Torrence)  in the semifinals is great, but I have a lot of respect for his team and we were just racing our lane and were fortunate to get the win,” Ashley said. “We’ve had a couple of first and second round exits this season, but to come back with back-to-back finals now in a class as tough as this and we feel good about the position we are in. Our team is stepping up and I am really proud of them.”

Picture3The Pro Stock final was one of the wackiest and wildest in NHRA history. In a battle between Chevy Camaros, Stanfield’s car encountered tire shake at the hit of the throttle but his opponent Erica Enders’ car immediately started billowing white smoke due to an expired engine. Enders kept her foot on the gas and was rolling toward the finish line in a huge billowing cloud of white smoke before Stanfield streaked by and took the win-light at the last instant.

“That didn’t go according to plan,” Stanfield said. “Sometimes it goes like that. I was running fast all weekend long and it’s been a little tricky. I had tire shake and then saw a bunch of white smoke in the other lane and my crew chief got on the radio and told me to go, go, go! I got back in it and got the job done. That was just a wacky final round.”

Stanfield added that he was “proud to be able to give his Wally to his former Pro Stock racing father, Greg Stanfield,” as a Father’s Day gift.

“This is the best gift I could give him. This is a great race track with some great fans. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there.”

Picture4In Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran racer Jerry Savoie wore his lucky gator socks and ended a two-year winless drought by beating his Louisiana neighbor Angelle Sampey when she turned on the red-light at the start of the race.

Savoie claimed his first Bristol win and the 15th win of his career on his White Alligator Racing Suzuki.

“It’s been a while, two years, we’ve been struggling and doing a lot of testing on our program, it was a lot of emotion,” Savoie said. “In the third round we lost an engine and made a swap. The most important thing is Father’s Day, my dad (Blue Savoie) passed away four years ago. He had a need for speed, and I’m so thankful that on this day I can dedicate this trophy to him.”

Savoie, who wasn’t able to race at Bristol last October due to a hurricane hitting his hometown, says he was really glad he finally got to experience Thunder Valley in all its glory.

“It’s a beautiful place and it has a magic about it,” Savoie said. “I’m having fun.”

Photos in order: Ron Capps, Justin Ashley, Aaron Stanfield and Jerry Savoie. All photos by Rod Mullins

Sunday’s final results from the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway

Top Fuel Justin Ashley, 3.813 seconds, 325.30 mph  def. Shawn Langdon, 3.841 seconds, 320.51 mph.

Funny Car Ron Capps, Toyota Supra, 3.984, 324.36  def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.075, 315.86.

Pro Stock Aaron Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 8.033, 184.98  def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 8.801, 103.98.

Pro Stock Motorcycle Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.929, 194.30  def. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, Foul – Red Light.

Final finish order (1-16) at the 21st annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway


  1. Justin Ashley; 2. Shawn Langdon; 3.  Steve Torrence; 4.  Antron Brown; 5.  Mike Salinas; 6. Doug Foley; 7.  Leah Pruett; 8.  Brittany Force; 9.  Josh Hart; 10.  Lex Joon; 11.  Doug Kalitta; 12. Austin Prock; 13. Tony Schumacher; 14.  Spencer Massey; 15.  Clay Millican; 16.  Cameron Ferre.


  1. Ron Capps; 2. Tim Wilkerson; 3.  Alexis DeJoria; 4.  John Force; 5.  Cruz Pedregon; 6.  Robert Hight; 7. Matt Hagan; 8.  Chad Green; 9.  J.R. Todd; 10.  Jim Campbell; 11.  Bob Tasca III; 12.  Paul Lee; 13. Terry Haddock; 14.  Phil Burkart; 15.  Jack Wyatt.


  1. Aaron Stanfield; 2. Erica Enders; 3.  Dallas Glenn; 4.  Kyle Koretsky; 5.  Greg Anderson; 6. Matt Hartford; 7.  Camrie Caruso; 8.  Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 9.  Deric Kramer; 10.  Mason McGaha; 11. Cristian Cuadra; 12.  Bo Butner; 13.  Kenny Delco; 14.  Chris McGaha; 15.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 16. Wally Stroupe.


  1. Jerry Savoie; 2. Angelle Sampey; 3.  Angie Smith; 4.  Marc Ingwersen; 5.  Steve Johnson; 6. Joey Gladstone; 7.  Matt Smith; 8.  Ryan Oehler; 9.  Eddie Krawiec; 10.  LE Tonglet; 11.  Jim Underdahl; 12.  Karen Stoffer; 13.  Malcolm Phillips Jr.; 14.  Ron Tornow; 15.  Jianna Evaristo; 16.Chris Bostick.

Rod Mullins

Rod Mullins

Rod Mullins covers NASCAR for AFP, and co-hosts the mid-week “Street Knowledge” focusing on NASCAR with AFP editor Chris Graham. A graduate of UVA-Wise, Rod began his career in journalism as a reporter for The Cumberland Times, later became the program director/news director/on-air morning show host for WNVA in Norton, Va., and in the early 1990s served as the sports information director at UVA-Wise and was the radio “Voice of the Highland Cavaliers” for football and basketball for seven seasons. In 1995, Rod transitioned to public education, where he has worked as a high school English, literature, and creative writing teacher and now serves as a school program coordinator in addition to serving as a mentor for the robotics team.