The stellar lineup of NHRA professional classes scheduled to compete in the 2023 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals promises to provide an abundance of thrilling moments for high-performance enthusiasts when the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series powers into legendary Bristol Dragway June 9-11.
NHRA has christened its new date at the revered dragstrip in Northeast Tennessee by bringing back some of the fan-favorite attractions that has made the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals one of the hottest tickets on the circuit for the last two decades.
During the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals the fourth professional qualifying session will return for the first time since 2019, along with nighttime pro qualifying on Friday that culminates with a brilliant fireworks show. The high-revving FuelTech NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series also will make its return to Bristol for the first time since 2021. And for the first time ever, the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will host a round of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge and a points-paying race in the brand-new NHRA Legends Nitro Funny Cars series.
Below is a quick snapshot of each of the highlights that fans need to be aware of at the 2023 NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals:
- RETURN OF FOUR PRO SESSIONS: NHRA Camping World Series teams will return to getting four attempts in qualifying at Bristol Dragway as NHRA officials added back the Friday night session.
- RETURN OF FRIDAY NIGHT NITRO: The fans are the real winners here, as the 11,000-horsepower Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars will get to “light the candles” under the cover of darkness once again at Bristol Dragway. A longtime tradition at this event, the 8 p.m. Friday qualifying session always provides an amazing light show on the track with fire erupting out of the header pipes as the nitro-powered vehicles cover the race distance at more than 320 mph.
- RETURN OF PRO MODIFIEDS: These wildly unpredictable high-horsepower sedans that have some of the coolest looking doorslammer body styles in both late model and vintage form will once again put the fans on the edge of their seats as they power down the Bristol quarter-mile in runs nearing 250 mph. Three different combinations – nitrous, turbo and supercharged – ignite these hard to handle beasts.
- LEGENDS NITRO FUNNY CARS BRISTOL DEBUT – These popular nitro-burning throwback machines that are relatively new on the modern drag racing scene feature body styles from the 1960s, 1970s and early ’80s and produce speeds in the 250-mph range with engines in front of the driver’s cockpit on a short wheelbase chassis. Top Fuel legend Cory McClenathan won recently in Pomona, Calif. in his sleek “Mac Attack” Pontiac Firebird and will lead a field that also includes Bill Windham’s “Shakedown,” Billy Morris’ “Problem Child” and Brad Thompson’s “Jailbreak,” among others.
- MISSION #2FAST2TASTY CHALLENGE – This new bonus program for competitors in all four NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series categories will be showcased during Saturday qualifying at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. The semifinalists from the last race will meet head-to-head in the first round of qualifying. The winners of the first qualifying session match-up will advance to meet in the day’s second qualifying session. The Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge winner will receive bonus points toward the NHRA Countdown to the Championship Playoffs.
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will continue to offer action in all four of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series classes: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.
In Top Fuel, Steve Torrence, Justin Ashley, Leah Pruett, Antron Brown and defending series champ Brittany Force are among those to watch. Defending Funny Car champ Ron Capps leads the way in Funny Car, along with 16-time champ John Force, Robert Hight, Cruz Pedregon, red-hot Matt Hagan and Alexis DeJoria. In Pro Stock, points-leader Dallas Glen, Matt Hartford and Troy Coughlin Jr. are off to hot starts while class veterans Greg Anderson and Erica Enders are looking to get their seasons up to speed. In the two-wheel category, Gaige Herrera leads the way and is being pursued by multi-time champ Matt Smith, Eddie Krawiec, veteran Steve Johnson and Joey Gladstone, among others.
Five classes in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series will compete during the weekend, including Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas and Top Dragster.
A round of the FlexJet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown will be held, where Aaron Stanfield, Mark Pawuk and David Barton, among others will compete in the new series.
The second exhibition round of the brand-new Factory X presented by Holley will also be contested at Thunder Valley. NHRA Factory X presented by Holley is reserved exclusively for the Chevrolet COPO Camaro, Dodge Challenger Drag Park and Ford Mustang Cobra Jet. Cars in NHRA Factory X presented by Holley will have a minimum weight limit of 2,650 pounds, which is nearly 1,000 pounds lighter than a Factory Stock Showdown car, and a manual transmission is mandatory. With the potential to showcase big-performance numbers and standout runs in the six-second range immediately, the lightweight, modified class is sure to be a hit with fans.
As always, fans are allowed a backstage pass and unrivaled access to visit with the NHRA stars and race teams through the NHRA’s famed open pits policy. Fans can meet and greet drivers and team members and watch as the teams service their race vehicles. On Saturday night the Camping World Series drivers and NHRA legends will participate in the annual fan autograph session and fan fest in the Guest Welcome Tent in the Fan Midway (7 p.m.). On Sunday, fans will want to be at the track early to participate in the annual Sealmaster Track Walk, where an NHRA driver and other personalities leads the way for fans to walk down the famed dragstrip where so much NHRA history has been made.
Finally, during pre-race ceremonies, fans are allowed to gather around the big stage on the staring line as the Camping World Series drivers are introduced and several special announcements are made, including the naming of the 2023 Legend of Thunder Valley honoree.
NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals tickets are available by visiting the Bristol Motor Speedway website or by calling the Bristol Motor Speedway ticket office at 866-415-4158.
Bristol Motor Speedway PR