Home First round match-ups and ladders set for a tricky weekend finale in Thunder Valley

First round match-ups and ladders set for a tricky weekend finale in Thunder Valley

Rod Mullins

It’s been a tricky weekend in the eyes of NHRA driver Steve Torrence at Thunder Valley and its far from over.

nhraTorrence claimed the No. 1 qualifying position in Top Fuel Saturday evening at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway but wasted little time putting the facts out there for all to hear about Sunday.

“I think it will be a driver’s race,” said Torrence following his big run Saturday afternoon.
“I feel like we’re going to have to go out and earn the round wins and if you make it to the final you’re going to have to work hard. These 11,000 horsepower beasts don’t want to go down hot tracks and it takes a lot of finesse from crew chiefs and drivers have to be on their job.”

Triple digit temperatures and oppressive humidity were the norm again on Saturday afternoon at Bristol Dragway before rain moved into Thunder Valley and delayed the final round of qualifying for about two hours.

Torrence’s pass of 3.772-seconds at 319.29 mph in his Top Fuel dragster during the fourth qualifying session secured his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 15th of his career.

Torrence will square up against Chris Karamesines in the first round of eliminations Sunday afternoon. Doug Kalitta is second after a pass of 3.781 at 326.71 mph in his dragster and Leah Pritchett is third  with a run of 3.795 at 288.03 mph..

Other top qualifiers included Tim Wilkerson  in Funny Car and Jeg Coughlin Jr. in Pro Stock as both drivers piloted their respective rides to No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective categories.

Wilkerson sits atop the Funny Car class with his pass of 3.895 at 328.22 mph from Friday night in his Ford Shelby Mustang. This is his first No. 1 qualifier of the season and 19th of his career. “This place is really trying.”, stressed Wilkerson. “It’ll be an interesting day tomorrow.  Don’t think you’ve heard one crew chief say, ‘Wow. This is the easiest thing in the world.’  but I’m very optimistic of how we can run tomorrow. I told my guys I hope I’ve got them worn out by the time four o’clock rolls around tomorrow.”

Wilkerson will face Bob Bode at the starting line in the first round. Robert Hight qualified second in his Chevy Camaro SS with a pass of 3.918 at 324.28 mph. Christiansburg’s Matt Hagan ran a time of 3.925 at 326.00 mph in his Dodge Charger R/T to qualify third.

In Pro Stock, Jeg Coughlin’s pass of 6.694 at 204.85 mph in his Chevy Camaro from Friday stood the test of the Thunder Valley through Saturday to capture his third No. 1 qualifier of the season and 23rd of his career.

“It feels great to stay on the pole after Friday night’s run, I couldn’t be more proud of the entire JEGS.com team; they’ve been really thrashing,” replied Coughlin.  He added, “We’d love nothing more than to turn this green hat into a yellow hat with our first race win this season.”

Bo Butner is seeded second with a pass of 6.697 at 205.72 mph in his Chevy Camaro while two-time world champion Erica Enders ran a 6.704 at 205.66 mph to qualify third in her Chevy Camaro.

First round of eliminations are slated to begin at noon on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.

By Rod Mullins/Augusta Free Press

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.