As the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series heads to tradition-rich Bristol Dragway for the 12th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers, June 15-17, veteran Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein is as confident as he has ever been.
“We think this weekend just might be our weekend,” Bernstein said. “The MAVTV team is just running great right now. We’re coming off two semifinal finishes and a runner-up, so we feel good very good. Plus we’ve had a lot of success at Bristol and we hope that can be a break out weekend for us and get that Wally.”
The 2011 winners of the race that will be televised on ESPN and ESPN2 are Larry Dixon (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).
For the first time in his career, Bernstein is driving for someone other than his legendary father, the ‘King of Speed,’ Kenny Bernstein. Bernstein joined Morgan Lucas Racing as the driver of the MAVTV/Lucas Oil dragster during the off-season.
“It’s unbelievable over here, it’s really awesome,” Bernstein said. “I love being over here with the Lucas family and Morgan. It’s so much fun. We’ve really bonded and I feel so comfortable. Morgan’s had a lot of success and we’ve had a lot of success, so I’m just very fortunate to be over here. It’s different, but it’s a good different.”
Bernstein has had a lot of success in his 10-year driving career, including 18 Top Fuel victories, but he has been winless over the past two seasons. His last win dates back to October 2009, but the veteran driver feels confident that the drought is going to end sometime this season, and he can’t think of a better place to end it than Bristol Dragway, a track where he’s earned two victories and holds the Top Fuel E.T. record.
“Bristol has been great to us, we’ve had a lot of success there and I love going there,” Bernstein said. “We have a great history at that track and that gives us a little more confidence heading in. So hopefully that success breeds more success and it’s going to be our weekend.”
Not only will Bernstein be competing for the NHRA Top Fuel Wally trophy, he’ll also be participating in a special family-themed Father’s Day track walk with Johnny and Shane Gray, Morgan Lucas, Jack Beckman and Erica Enders.
“We’ve done a lot of track walks, but it’s Father’s Day so it’s going to be an extra special track walk,” Bernstein said. “In the past we’ve had the fortune of having my dad and my family here, but unfortunately it’ll just be me this year but the next best thing I can do is call them at the end of the day and hopefully tell them I got a Wally.”
Bernstein will have some stiff competition from the rest of the Top Fuel field that also want to win on Father’s Day, including from his teammate and two-time winner this season, Morgan Lucas, points leader Spencer Massey and four-time Bristol Dragway winner, Tony Schumacher. Steve Torrence is looking to continue his winning ways and Doug Kalitta, Shawn Langdon and Bob Vandergriff also are looking to grab their first wins of the season.
The competition in Funny Car is just as tight as it is in Top Fuel, as Ron Capps heads to Bristol riding a five-race final-round streak, making him one of five drivers in NHRA history to accomplish that feat. Robert Hight, who won four races in a row early in the season in his Auto Club Ford Mustang, leads the point standings and his JFR teammates Mike Neff, Courtney Force and John Force are all currently in the top 10. Johnny Gray moved up to fourth in the point standings thanks to a win in Englishtown and his DSR teammate Jack Beckman sits fifth. Cruz Pedregon, Bob Tasca III and Jeff Arend are also in the top 10 in points, but with Tim Wilkerson, Bob Bode, Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria and Tony Pedregon sitting outside the top 10, it is guaranteed to be a battle with just eight races to go in the regular season.
The Summit Racing duo of Greg Anderson and Jason Line continue to dominate Pro Stock as Anderson earned win No. 100 for the KB Racing team at the same event the team unveiled their Summit Racing Chevy Camaro. Mopar drivers Allen Johnson and Vincent Nobile are close behind, followed by Mike Edwards, Erica Enders and Ronnie Humphrey. The top 10 is rounded out by Rodger Brogdon, Shane Gray and Ron Krisher, leaving Kurt Johnson, four-time NHRA Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Larry Morgan and Greg Stanfield outside of the top 10 as the Countdown quickly approaches.
SCHEDULE: Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 5 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, June 15, and noon and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 16. Final eliminations will begin at noon on Sunday, June 17.
TICKETS: Tickets are available for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. For tickets, please call Bristol Dragway at (423) 989-6900 or visit www.bristoldragway.com
ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise two hours of qualifying coverage at 5:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday, June 16. ESPN and ESPNHD will televise two hours of eliminations coverage at 5 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, June 17.