Ron Capps, Justin Ashley, Aaron Stanfield, Jerry Savoie Grab Victory At Thunder Valley Nationals

By Briar Starr, NHRA Staff Writer

It was another wild afternoon for the National Hot Rod Association that rolled into the Bristol Dragway for the annual running of the Thunder Valley Nationals. Additionally, NHRA started the second half of the 2022 season this weekend after taking a few weeks off. 

There were multiple drivers looking to start fresh for the second half such as Antron Brown, Greg Anderson, and Leah Pruett just to name a few. Anderson hasn’t had the best season thus far with only two semi-final appearances and has yet to make a final round all in the meanwhile, the winningest Pro Stock driver is still seeking his 100th career victory. As for Brown and Pruett, both drivers have struggled with Brown losing the last four races in the first round, and Pruett still looking to make a semi-final appearance as well. 

However, after a wild day of action at the Bristol Dragway, the winners went to Ron Capps in Funny Car, Justin Ashley in Top Fuel, Aaron Stanfield in Pro Stock, and Jerry Savoie rounding out the victors in Pro Stock Motorcycle. 

  1. Funny Car – After Epping, it appeared as though the Funny Car points championship was going to be a two-horse race with Matt Hagan and Robert Hight breaking away from the pack. Hagan entered Bristol with three wins of the season and was the most recent winner at Epping, while Robert Hight has been consistent enough to be second in the point standings with a distant Ron Capps in third. Many have seemed to have forgotten about Capps after switching over to Toyota Racing a couple of months ago. The NAPA driver has struggled somewhat with a second-round loss at Houston, semi-final loss at Charlotte, quarterfinal loss to Hight at Richmond, and another semi-final loss to Hight at Epping. Entering Bristol, Capps looked to shake up the points lead battle by first starting out with qualifying. Following the three rounds of qualifying, Capps qualified in the ninth position with a 4.087 and 311.70 mph to face Paul Lee in the first round. Capps was victorious in the first round with a similar time to his qualifying run with a 4.052 and 311.63 mph over Lee. Then in the second round, the NAPA driver faced second-place in points Robert Hight and was again the winner with a 4.031 to Hight’s 4.526. The time was good enough to face Alexis DeJoria in the semis, who also had a wild afternoon up to that point. In the first round, DeJoria had to hang on to her Funny Car machine as it edged toward the inside wall. Fortunately for her, she won over Bob Tasca III and grabbed another victory over championship points leader Matt Hagan in the quarterfinals with her 4.068 to Hagan’s 4.914. Hagan was up in the smoke in the left lane and his day ended early. Entering their semi-final matchups, Capps had an advantage over DeJoria by winning 20 races. He won with a 4.050 to DeJoria’s good enough to face his rival opponent and familiar foe Tim Wilkerson in the finals. As for the finals, it was a great race between the two veterans who have faced each other 69 times in their careers. Capps had the advantage again over Wilkerson but needed the holeshot to get his 70th career victory. The run was also Capps’s quickest of the entire weekend going 4.075 and 315.86 mph. It was a special moment for Capps as Bristol marked his first win with Toyota Racing and improves his final round record over Wilkerson with 7-3. 

     “I went up there and tried to drive the wheels off it (in round one), and Guido, man, what a run they put together but right as I stepped off the gas it went ‘kaboom’ and all I could think of is ‘man, there goes my new GR Supra body!’” remarked Capps of his E1 explosion. “We’ve got another one in the trailer, but it just goes to show you, all the safety measures they worked on in the off-season really paid off because there was minimal damage, and a big boomer like that, it could’ve been a lot worse.”

    “Getting the win today, and being in this position, it’s an amazing thing and I’m living the dream,” added Capps of his Father’s Day triumph. “Today felt different because we worked really hard at this one, and we knew that win for Toyota was out there. Everyone wanted to get that first one in the Supra and I’m blessed we got to do it. To run 3.98 in the final was unbelievable. This is a very demanding track every time we come here, and you can’t take your mind off it for a second. These wins, where you have to earn it, it really means quite a bit more, it seems like it.”

    Wilkerson gained victories over Jack Wyatt, Chad Green, and John Force to make it to the finals. 

  2. Top Fuel – Top Fuel has quite been the interesting class this year and living up to the hype. So far, four-time champion Steve Torrence has not won a race at all this year, despite being close at times. Tony Schumacher returned to the class this year after a two-year hiatus and still seeks a victory in eight races despite making a semi-final appearance at Las Vegas. However, the Top Fuel class has also been a two-driver breakaway with Team Scrappers Mike Salinas and John Force Racing’s Brittany Force splitting up the win column. Salinas entered Bristol with three wins and the most recent winner at Epping and Force also has three wins a piece. She won the race before Epping at Richmond. The two drivers entered Bristol with momentum on their side with other drivers trying to step up. It all started with qualifying as Salinas was once again on top and powering to his 10th No. 1 qualifier of his career with a time of 3.767 and 327.59 mph. The time was good enough to knock off Torrence after Torrence previously held the top spot following the two rounds of qualifying. Torrence qualified second with 3.791 and as for Force, she qualified fifth with a 3.807. The qualifying time of Salinas would see him face Cameron Ferre in the first round, while Torrence faced Lex Joon. If the first round was a sign of anything to come, then it was a wild one. Salinas easily scored the win over Ferre, but Torrence narrowly edged out Joon. The Texas native needed a holeshot victory to advance over Joon. All in the meanwhile, Justin Ashley was seeking his second win of the season and flying under the radar. He had a first-round opponent of Josh Hart. Ashley was victorious over Hart after Ashley went 3.824 and 322.50 mph. 

    In the second round, Salinas lost to Team Kalitta’s Shawn Langdon. The Team Scrappers driver suffered his first second-round loss since Houston where he lost to Steve Torrence. The day was seemingly shaping up to be another Torrence and Ashley battle, as Ashley won over Doug Foley and Torrence gained a victory over Pruett to face each other in the semis. In the semis, Ashley won against Torrence with a 3.816 to Torrence’s 3.873 to face Shawn Langdon in the finals after Langdon eliminated Antron Brown in the semis. 

    Entering the finals, Langdon was 5-4 against Ashley and looked for his first win since Indianapolis of 2020. In the finals, it was a close drag race as Ashley had the quicker reaction time of .071 to Langdon’s .076. The two drivers stayed side-by-side with each other in their first-ever final-round match. However, it was Ashley who ended up getting the fourth victory of his career with a time of 3.813 and 325.30 mph. 

    “This win is very emotional for me and for our entire team,” said Ashley, in the Bristol Dragway media center. “Every win is special in their own way. There is something about Bristol. It is so prestigious and it’s Father’s Day weekend. My father won in 2005 and now you fast forward to me in the winner’s circle in Top Fuel. This is a collective team effort with Phillips Connect and Vita C Energy.”

    “This track has so much history. You look at the famous names that are Legends of Thunder Valley. It is a privilege to race here. It was a lot of fun to win on Father’s Day with my dad here. I was teasing him about how he is impossible to shop for on holidays like Father’s Day. I was like you’re welcome here is something I can give you. I am really happy to win this race on Father’s Day for my dad and for all our teams’ fathers,” added Ashley.

    Langdon saw the 19th runner-up of his career and the first of the season. 

    “It’s so hard to not be mad about today and I’m not mad. I’m bummed,” said Langdon. “I wanted that double up so bad. Haven’t doubled up at a national event before and to have the opportunity and just lucky to have the opportunity, but when you have the opportunity there, you don’t want to give it away. All in all, great weekend to have the CMR group on board. We’ve had the last two races where the car has been running good so no complaints there. It’s only looking up from here.”

  3. Pro Stock – Speaking of wild, the Pro Stock class also didn’t disappoint. At least 20 cars entered to play for the Bristol Wally this weekend, but only 16 could make the field meaning four would go home. Of those four going home after the end of qualifying were Alan Prusiensky, Fernando Cuadra, Shane Tucker, and Larry Morgan. Pro Stock has also seen their fair share of different drivers peaking at different times as well. We’ve seen the battles of upcoming rookie Camrie Caruso vs Erica Enders, while the Cuadra family are making a name for themselves specifically Fernando Cuadra Jr, and Pro Stock legend Greg Anderson is still searching for the 100th win of his career, but most importantly, the first of the season. For Enders though, she has put a whopping on the class this year with four wins and held a lengthy point led. However, one driver looking to put a stop to Enders’s dominance was Aaron Stanfield and his Chevy Camaro. Stanfield has one win of the season and two runner-up finishes including a loss to Erica three times this year. The first in a final matchup at Pomona, then at Las Vegas I, and most recently at Epping. Stanfield and the team qualified No. 1 for the fourth time of his career and the third of the season with a time of 6.638 and 206.57 mph, while Enders was third with a pass of 6.658 and 205.63 mph. Camrie Caruso was second qualifying at 6.644 and 204.23 mph. With all of that said, Stanfield faced No. 16 qualifier Wally Stroupe in the first round, Caruso squared up against Chris McGaha, and Enders battled Cristian Cuadra. All three drivers were successful in the initial round with Stanfield eliminating Stroupe, Caruso winning over Chris McGaha, and Enders beating Cuadra. However, the tides began to turn a little in the quarterfinals, as Dallas Glenn eliminated Caruso with Glenn having the better car. With his victory, he would end up facing Enders in the semis. As for Stanfield, he won against another Cuadra, but this time it was Fernando Cuadra Jr. 

    Stanfield was victorious once more in the semis winning against Kyle Koretsky with a pass of 6.637 to Koretsky’s 6.691. As for Enders, she won her respective round and claimed the win over Glenn with a 6.657 to Glenn’s 6.678, which meant we would once again see Stanfield face Enders in the finals. 

    Once the Christmas tree light went off, it was a good race side-by-side until Enders car went up in smoke. As the car was full of smoke, Stanfield was slow on the gas trying to avoid a potential wreck had Enders car moved over to his lane. Once Stanfield realized that wasn’t going to happen, he easily won over Enders with a time of 8.033 and 184.98 mph as Enders car came to a screeching stop. 

    Waiting for a few minutes, Enders exited the car under her own power despite inhaling a cloud of smoke. The victory for Stanfield on the other hand was his second of the year and the sixth of his career. The Wally was his third at-track victory. 

    “As a team, we did a really good job today,” said Stanfield, who also won at Phoenix. “It was not a good show in the final round; we had some tire shake. I tried to shift through it, I saw some smoke (pouring from Ender’s Melling Performance Camaro SS) and I just stuck it back in gear and tried to get there. I want to say Happy Father’s Day to my dad. It’s the best gift I could give him. I’m glad we could get it done.”

  4. Pro Stock Motorcycle – 2021 event winner and 3x Pro Stock Motorcycle champion Angelle Sampey returned to the track looking to defend her victory. In fact, Sampey’s last career win came here at the Bristol Dragway, and attempted to turn her 2022 season around as it has not been an easy year for the Lousiana native. Entering Bristol, the Vance and Hines rider only had three quarterfinal appearances with no semis and no runner-ups. In addition, Sampey only had one No. 1 qualifier of the year that came at the 4-wide Nationals in Charlotte where she lost to Joey Gladstone and Eddie Krawiec. Sampey knew that entering Bristol as the defending event winner, that the win would give her some momentum boost. Surely, winning the race last year gave her confidence as she ended up collecting the No. 1 qualifier for the second time this season with a time of 6.874 and 196.04 mph, which put her in a first-round match with L.E. Tonglet. In the first round, Sampey won over Tonglet with a pass of 6.866 to 6.931, advancing her to the quarterfinals to face veteran Ryan Oehler. She won there with a time of 6.900 to Oehler’s 10.003 seconds. Meanwhile, No. 7 qualifier Jerry Savoie was a sleeper throughout the day eliminating the likes of Eddie Krawiec and Joey Gladstone in his respective matches. Sampey would go to the finals with a win over Marc Ingwersen, as Savoie won against Angie Smith. Heading into the finals, Savoie was 7-5 head-to-head over Sampey. Unfortunately for both riders, Sampey and Savoie would foul, but it would be Sampey who fouled first leaving the emotional victory to Savoie for the 14th time of his Pro Stock Motorcycle career. 

    “We blew up the engine in the third round and thanks to NHRA and Vance & Hines for waiting on us,” said Savoie, who picked up his first win since 2020. “I usually don’t let things get to me and I put my faith in my crew, who did a motor swap in 32 minutes. I’m 63 (years old) and to be out here running with all these youngsters is amazing. I just wanted to win one race and now I’ve got 14 and a championship. I’ve been blessed. This was an awesome weekend, and I don’t think I could ask for anything more.”

Official 2022 Thunder Valley Nationals Results following Bristol 

Top Fuel 

  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

Funny Car 

  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 Burkhart
  15. Jack Wyatt 

Pro Stock 

  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 

Pro Stock Motorcycle 

  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. L.E. Tonglet 
  11. Jim Underdahl 
  12. Karen Stoffer 
  13. Malcolm Phillips Jr 
  14. Ron Tornow 
  15. Jianna Evaristo
  16. Chris Bostick 

Official Camping World Championship Standings 

Top Fuel 

  1. Brittany Force, 724 points 
  2. Mike Salinas, -25
  3. Justin Ashley, -52
  4. Steve Torrence, -71
  5. Austin Prock, -265
  6. Shawn Langdon, -289
  7. Clay Millican, -294
  8. Josh Hart, -310
  9. Doug Kalitta, -310
  10. Antron Brown, -354 

Funny Car 

  1. Matt Hagan, 854 points 
  2. Robert Hight, -12 
  3. Ron Capps, -76
  4. John Force, -236
  5. Cruz Pedregon, -317
  6. J.R. Todd, -389
  7. Alexis DeJoria, -390 
  8. Bob Tasca III, -404
  9. Tim Wilkerson, -413
  10. Chad Green, -451

Pro Stock 

  1. Erica Enders, 690 points 
  2. Aaron Stanfield, -83
  3. Kyle Koretsky, -208
  4. Dallas Glenn, -251
  5. Greg Anderson, -289
  6. Mason McGaha, -307
  7. Camrie Caruso, -321
  8. Bo Butner, -384
  9. Deric Kramer, -388
  10. Fernando Cuadra Jr, -390 

Pro Stock Motorcycle 

  1. Steve Johnson, 453 points
  2. Karen Stoffer, -79 
  3. Matt Smith, -127
  4. Angie Smith, -133
  5. Angelle Sampey, -139 
  6. Eddie Krawiec, -140
  7. Joey Gladstone, -163
  8. Jerry Savoie, -182
  9. Marc Ingwersen, -192 
  10. Jim Underdahl, -226 

Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Series will head to Norwalk, Ohio for the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals slated for June 23-26 live on FOX and NHRA TV. 

Previous NHRA Content can be found in the Kickin’ the Tires NHRA Section.

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