Aaron Stanfield beat Erica Enders in one of the craziest finals in Pro Stock class history while Justin Ashley, Ron Capps and Jerry Savoie also picked up victories at the Thunder Valley Nationals at the historic Bristol Dragway.
Stanfield and Enders had arguably the two best cars in the Pro Stock class, but the final round was anything but a show of power. After an even start, Stanfield rocked the tires, appearing to send Enders to his fourth straight victory.
Then fate intervened.
The engine of Enders’ Melling/Elite Camaro revved, pouring volumes of smoke from the exhaust. Enders stayed in the throttle as Stanfield quickly got his J3 Energy Camaro back into gear to begin a chase. It wasn’t pretty, but Stanfield eventually won with an elapsed time of 8.033 to Enders’ 8.801. The victory stopped Enders’ winning streak at 14 rounds, dating back to the Gatornationals in March.
“As a team we did a good job today,” Stanfield said. “I cut it, and it shook at the top of the lower gear, so I pulled over. Then I could see smoke coming out of his car and Big Al [Lindsey, crewman] was on the radio telling me to go, go, go. I turned it back on and tried to get there. It certainly didn’t go as planned. Sometimes it happens like that.
“We haven’t had the best chance of the No. 1 spot,” Stanfield said. “We thought about flying under the radar and not going to the polls because it has brought us bad luck in the past. It’s the best gift I can give my dad [Greg] on Father’s Day. My dad and I love being here in Bristol.
Stanfield qualified in first place with a 6.638 and made consistent runs on race day topping Wally Stroupe, Fernando Cuadra Jr. and Kyle Koretsky. The run against Koretsky was perhaps the most competitive round of the day with Stanfield taking a 6.63-6.69 win.
Despite the loss, Enders is now 19-3 in the playoff rounds and she is still the uncontrollable leader in the points battle with a near triple-digit lead over Stanfield, who remains solidly in second place.
Ashley opened the season with a victory in Pomona and also made it to the finals in Houston and Epping. The former Rookie of the Year picked up the fourth career win by beating Shawn Langdon in the final round. Closing out the event with a thrilling side-by-side race, Ashley took the lead for a 3.813-3.841 victory.
“Happy Father’s Day to all the dads who make this possible,” Ashley said. “[Crew chiefs] Tommy DeLago and Mike Green did a great job all day. We are very privileged and blessed to be here.
“This Bristol track has so much history,” Ashley said. “When you look up and see all the famous names [in the Legends of Thunder Valley]. It’s impressive. Beat Steve [Torrence] half was great. I have a lot of respect for Steve and a lot of respect for this team. I was lucky to get the win.
Ashley certainly struggled in qualifying. In fact, his No. 14 starting spot was one of the worst of his career, but the Phillips Connect team made the necessary adjustments on Sunday to get into the winner’s circle.
After a frustrating last-round loss to Mike Salinas in the Epping Final, Ashley survived a tough first-round battle when he edged Josh Hart, 3.824 to 3.827. He then edged out Doug Foley and defending champion Steve Torrence to reach the final round. Against Torrence, Ashley was particularly impressive with a 3.816 which was one of the best runs of the day.
For Langdon, the news was not so bad as he won the Super Comp title in Bristol. The second was also a huge improvement for the DHL team who had only been to the semi-finals once in the previous eight events this season.
Driving Capps to his 70th victory seemed unlikely in the first round after suffering a body-destroying explosion in his win over Paul Lee. The NAPA team, led by Dean “Guido” Antonelli and John Medlen, quickly regrouped, made the necessary adjustments, and Capps rallied with a stellar performance that culminated in a 3.984-4.075 win over Tim Wilkerson. finally.
Going into his first year as a team owner, Capps probably didn’t imagine he would visit the winner’s circle twice in the first nine races of the year. The reigning world champion also continued to pressure Matt Hagan and Robert Hight, who were threatening to turn the points battle into a two-horse race. Capps has other ideas.
“We qualified No. 9, which wasn’t our best by far,” Capps said. “It was on a good run in Q3 and the crashes came out. It was a stroke of luck. It could have happened on the first lap and we would have been dust. Then on the first lap, I tried to get the wheels out of it. Just as I turned off the gas, it went boom. All of Toyota’s safety work paid off as we had minimal damage. It could have been much worse. »
“Running 3.98 in the final was amazing,” Capps said. “It’s a very demanding track every time we come here. I think it’s like NASCAR and their [Southern 500] in Darlington. It is hot, humid and demanding. You can’t distract yourself from it for a second. »
After switching bodies, Capps knocked out Robert Hight with a 4.031, then improved to 4.016 in his semifinal win over Alexis DeJoria. Capps’ 3.984 in the final was the only three-second run of the day in Funny Car, largely due to the hot temperatures and elevation of the Bristol Dragway track.
Jerry Savoie nearly didn’t qualify for the Pro Stock Motorcycle Finals after injuring an engine in the semis, but Team White Alligator fought hard. They opted to replace their four-valve engine with their old two-valve combination and Savoie was rewarded with the 14th victory of his career after his opponent Angelle Sampey’s red light. The final numbers included a 6.909 for Sampey and a 6.929 for Savoie.
“We blew the engine on lap three and thanks to the NHRA and Vance & Hines for waiting for us,” said Savoie, who was forced to miss the most recent event in Richmond after breaking a toe. “Usually I don’t let things get to me and I trust my crew, who did an engine swap in 32 minutes.”
Savoy are known for being emotional after wins (and losses) and this race was no exception as it landed on Father’s Day.
“It was for my dad, Blue, who we lost years ago,” Savoie said. “His blood runs through my veins and gives me the need for speed. I’m 63 and racing here with all these young and beautiful girls is amazing. I just wanted to win a race and now I have 14 and a championship that I have been blessed with. It was an awesome weekend and I don’t think I can ask for anything else. I said I wouldn’t cry but I’d be damned if I didn’t go down there and cry.
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to action next weekend, June 23-26, with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA National Championships in Norwalk, Ohio.