The red Summit Camaro driven by Greg Anderson ran 6.758/204.60 but could not catch Tanner Gray’s 6.736/204.82.


Father and son then met in the second round with Tanner ruining this Father’s Day with a 6.748/204.94 to dad’s 6.783/205.11.

The resurging Elite Motorsports’ Camaros of Erica Enders and Jeg Coughlin Jr. are definitely getting back their momentum, although Coughlin had a bye in the first round and went into tire shake in his second-round match with Laughlin. Enders first got past Alan Prusiensky (6.742/205.38 to 6.807/203.61) and a tire-shaking Vincent Nobile, but then ran 6.745/205.01 to Butner’s winning 6.732/205.44 in the semifinal.


POINT STANDINGS after 11 of 24 events


Top Fuel: 1. Steve Torrence, 954; 2. Leah Pritchett, 943; 3. Antron Brown, 934; 4. Tony Schumacher, 801; 5. Doug Kalitta, 678; 6. Brittany Force, 649; 7. Clay Millican, 639; 8. Troy Coughlin Jr., 443; 9. Scott Palmer, 432; 10. Terry McMillen, 424.


Funny Car: 1. Ron Capps, 1,044; 2. Matt Hagan, 881; 3. Jack Beckman, 748; 4. Robert Hight, 707; 5. Courtney Force, 704; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 663; 7. John Force, 641; 8. Tim Wilkerson, 490; 9. J.R. Todd, 476; 10. Cruz Pedregon, 397.


Pro Stock: 1. Bo Butner, 945; 2. Greg Anderson, 835; 3. Tanner Gray, 830; 4. Jeg Coughlin, 766; 5. Jason Line, 702; 6. Erica Enders, 657; 7. Vincent Nobile, 617; 8. Drew Skillman, 536; 9. Shane Gray, 434; 10. Chris McGaha, 421.

Bob Bode blew up his engine at about 60 feet in his first-round match with Wilkerson. Here a little fire on the track in back of his right tire.

To say that John Force did not have a good day would be an understatement. In the first round, after crossing the finish line, his Camaro veered left into Del Worsham’s lane. The cars did not touch, but Worsham complained later that Force’s parachute had dangerously obscured his vision and a few words were exchanged. Force got the win, but in the next round the Camaro again went left, this time crossing the centerline before the finish, and giving the win to Matt Hagan.




Alex Laughlin hoisted the Wally in the winner’s circle for fans and photographers to join in his celebration, and then quietly presented it to his father offstage.

“What a Father’s Day gift this is,” Kenny Laughlin tearfully said after watching his son claim his second NHRA Pro Stock national victory by defeating No. 2 qualifier and class points leader Bo Butner in the final at Bristol Dragway.

Laughlin, of Granbury, Texas, record a .000 reaction time in his pass of 6.718 seconds – his quickest of the meet – to win by a car length. He previously won at St. Louis in 2016, also defeating Butner in the deciding race.


After a bye run because of a short 13-car field, in the semifinals Butner defeated two-time Pro Stock champion Erica Enders in the Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS for the third time in four meetings this season. Enders, the No. 3 qualifier, ousted Butner in the final at Epping, NH, two weeks ago for her first national event victory since 2015.


Laughlin ousted No. 11 qualifier Tanner Gray in the other semifinal as Gray, a two-time winner in his rookie season, tripped the red light by .001 of a second. Gray wore a cap and gown to driver introductions as he and his family marked his high school graduation.

Shane and Tanner Gray were both driving with Shane taking the win over Jason Line with a 6.743/204.54 to 6.748/204.94.

Scott Palmer shocked everyone with his first-round win over Tony Schumacher, clocking a 3.969/307.16 to Schumacher’s tire-spinning 4.076/275.96. Palmer could have won his match with Pritchett, who was up in smoke early and clicked off -- if he hadn’t turned on the red light by a big-time -0.241.



Capps got past DSR teammate Matt Hagan in the semifinal.


Ron Capps drove his Mopar HEMI®-powered Dodge Charger R/T from Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) to his fifth win of 2017 and his 54th Funny Car win overall during the Thunder Valley Nationals. He defeated his teammate Jack Beckman in an all-Mopar final round.


Capps' win was the 10th for Mopar in the Funny Car category out of 11 events contested thus far in 2017. It also extended to a dozen the number of consecutive races won by a HEMI Nitro car, dating back to the end of last season. All four Mopar-powered DSR Funny Cars advanced to the semifinals at Bristol.


In the Funny Car final, Capps defeated Beckman on a holeshot from the left lane. Capps turned in a lap of 4.054 seconds at 317.05 mph to reach the finish line before his opponent, despite Beckman making a 4.040-second pass at 319.29 mph. Capps' reaction time was .026 compared to Beckman's .044.


The win broke an all-time tie between the two drivers, with Capps now leading Beckman 5-4 in final rounds. The final was a re-match of last week in Englishtown, where Beckman got his first win of the season.


Crew chief Rahn Tobler's bold decision after two disappointing qualifying runs Friday night to switch to a chassis that previously had not been raced in competition paid off.


"There's not very many teams out here that are that prepared to pull a car out and have it really ready to run quicker,” Capps said. “It was completely ready to go. That's off-season preparation, that's Rahn Tobler and NAPA Know How."


Capps first powered past Alexis DeJoria in round one to set up a showdown with the stout Robert Hight. Capps got by Hight in a side-by-side race and then squared off with Mopar and DSR teammate Matt Hagan. Hagan hazed the tires early and Capps, the 2016 Funny Car champion, advanced to his seventh final round of the season and won for the fifth time. It was also his fourth Bristol win, tying John Force.


With the win, Capps extended his already large points lead even further, despite the team deciding to change cars before the Saturday qualifying sessions.

Jack Beckman defeated fellow DSR teammate Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semifinal.


On Sunday, the Infinite Hero team, led by crew chiefs Dean Antonelli, John Medlen and Neal Strausbaugh, entered race day as the No. 5 qualified car with a time of 3.959 seconds at 322.96 mph.


Jack Beckman lined up against former Funny Car champion Cruz Pedregon for the opening session of competition. The car dropped a cylinder but Beckman got the win with a 4.172 (303.43) as Pedregon went into tire smoke.


The Infinite Hero team then matched up against Courtney Force of John Force Racing for the second round. Beckman went into smoke but got the win with a 4.321 (276.75) as Force also smoked to a 4.343.


In the semifinals, Beckman lined up with his Don Schumacher Racing teammate, Tommy Johnson Jr., also sponsored by Terry Chandler. The two ran a close race and Beckman got the win light. He cruised to a 4.009 (318.99) over Johnson's 4.043.


Finally, Beckman met another DSR teammate in the final round. That teammate was the reigning Funny Car champion, Capps. Last weekend, Beckman got the win over Capps but this weekend Capps got the win.


"We didn't get trounced, we lost a fantastic drag race," Beckman said. "We both had good lights. Ron rolled in a little farther than me but if you look, those cars were welded together the whole way down the drag strip.


"They out performed us by five-thousandths of a second. That's the way drag races should look and if we keep going the direction we are, those races will start going our way. I'm disappointed we lost, I can wait to get to Norwalk."


The Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Shelby Mustang Funny Car team was elevated after a strong qualifying performance at the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals that entitled them to their first low qualifier award of the season. Tim Wilkerson and his steadfast crew had nothing to hang their heads over on raceday at Bristol Dragway as they powered to a round-win and continued to fine-tune their program at the third race of four in a row to start the summer.


Throughout qualifying and on raceday, Wilkerson was the only Funny Car to run in the 3.8-second zone. His 3.895-second pass at 328.22 mph on Friday evening held as low elapsed time and top speed of the entire meet.


After nabbing the 19th pole of his career, Wilkerson lined up on Sunday for a first-round meeting with Bob Bode. The air was thick with moisture and the racetrack was hot and unforgiving by the early afternoon kick-off. The nitro beasts were either slow or plagued by tire-smoke in the tricky conditions, and Wilkerson lumbered down to victory on a 4.367, 233.12, leaving behind a traction-troubled Bode.


"I could feel it had cylinders out, and they told me [over the headset] that it was smoking the tires, so I shut it off," explained Wilkerson. "The second round, I drove it to about 850 feet and I could see half of Tommy's car out in front of me. I knew there wasn't any use beating it up any more than that – it probably would have went a 4.16 or something like that, but it wasn't going to be an .08."


Wilkerson was dropping cylinders soon after leaving the starting line as his LRS Mustang battled the racetrack. Ultimately, he was defeated by Tommy Johnson Jr., 4.083, 314.53 to 4.220, 262.18. The day was shorter than Wilkerson and his team had hoped for, but they know the future is bright.


"Well, our car is a turtle, but it's a little bit faster turtle now," said Wilkerson with a grin.

race reports

NHRA Pros at Bristol, Tenn.

Millican Gets the Win


Results compiled by Kay Burk

Photos by Chris Haverly

Clay Millican got past Steve Torrence in the semifinal.


Clay Millican piloted his Parts Plus/Great Clips dragster to his first career NHRA Top Fuel victory Sunday, June 18, at the 17th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Alex Laughlin (Pro Stock) were also winners at the 11th event of 24 on the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.


A trend that began when mid-summer temperatures rose the previous weekend in Englishtown, N.J., continued at Bristol, with track temps reaching 140 degrees. The only records set Sunday during championship eliminations were for tire smoke and dropped engine cylinders.


The crew chiefs were challenged by mid-80 temperatures and high humidity on a hot and tricky Bristol track. A rain shower before the Top Fuel semifinals and again before the Pro Stock semis cooled the track, giving the teams even more of a challenge to get the right set up.




Clay Millican finally won his first NHRA race at the 2017 Thunder Valley Nationals in the University of Northwestern Ohio/Parts Plus/Great Clips Top Fuel Dragster. It was an emotional win for the Tennessee native who has been runner-up eight times, before winning during his ninth final round appearance.


“Nineteen years, 228 races and what better place to win than in Bristol, Tennesse. I am a Tennessee boy through and through; it’s my home,” exclaimed Millican. “I am really, really happy for David Grubnic and all the boys who work on this car. I mean that 100 percent. They bust their butts.”

Millican came into race day in the No. 4 qualifying spot with an elapsed time of 3.810 at 321.12 mph. In Round One, Millican came up against Kyle Wurtzel. Millican took off and smoked the tires, but Wurtzel broke right off the starting line. Clay took the win going 5.313/139.40. In Round Two, Millican raced Brittany Force. It was a close race with Millican having the starting line advantage, and he kept the advantage to take the win with a 4.011/294.18 to 4.060/267.85.


In the semifinals Millican came up against Steve Torrence. In an ironic twist, the dragster Millican is piloting used to belong to Torrence’s father, Billy. Once again it was a close race, with both drivers having nearly identical reaction times, but Millican defeated Torrence 3.812/319.90 to 3.949/303.57.

Pritchett was off the line first, but dropped a cylinder. Millican, a former IHRA champ, took the lead by the eighth-mile mark and got his first NHRA Wally.


In the finals, Millican faced Leah Pritchett, who has won three times already this season but Millican got to the finish line first with a 3.825/316.38 to 3.881/307.09.


Winning his first race on Father’s Day made Millican’s win even more emotional. Millican and his wife Donna lost their son Dalton two years ago.

Alan Reinhart interviews an emotional Clay Millican after his win. Millican’s 22-year-old son, Dalton, was killed in a motorcycle accident in August 2015.


“I wondered if I would ever win one of these. I thought maybe it’s not meant to be. My Momma told me if the time was right, it would happen. There is no such thing as a coincidence,” Millican said. “There were so many signs/things today I know was Dalton. Father’s Day is a tough day for anyone who lost a child. Dalton was riding with me today. He got me four win lights. There is no such thing as a coincidence. When the time was right it was going to happen. Today the time was right.”


Leah Pritchett and the Papa John's team rebounded from its only first-round loss of the season a week before to compete in their fourth final round of the year. Their time of 3.881 at 307.09 mph was edged by Millican's 3.825 at 316.38.


"I want to say congratulations to Clay. That was a hard fought win," Pritchett said. "He's been racing for many years and the first one is always sweet. So, congrats to that entire team. It was a very deserving win.”




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