DeJoria, Salinas, Sampey collect wins at Bristol Thunder Valley Nationals

On a cool, but sunny afternoon at Bristol Motor Dragway, the Thunder Valley Nationals were held and we saw veterans return to the winner circle.

Alexis DeJoria in Funny Car, Mike Salinas in Top Fuel and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle all won in their respective categories.

Funny Car

It’s been four years since Alexis DeJoria has been in victory lane and she was looking to change that this weekend at Bristol. She began on Saturday afternoon by locking in the No. 1 spot for the first time since 2016. Thanks to her No. 1 spot and a short field of 14 drivers, DeJoria lined up in a Round 1 matchup against No. 14 qualifier, Paul Lee.

DeJoria was victorious in her first-round victory after going 4.030 seconds and 269.83 mph as Lee’s Funny Car’s cylinders went out early following the launch. By winning the first round, DeJoria had an easy quarterfinal victory as she had a solo run. Her Funny Car powered to a time of 3.931 seconds and a 321.04 mph pass.

In the semi-finals, she met John Force Racing’s Robert Hight after Hight had victories over Cory Lee in Round 1 and Bob Tasca III in Round 2. However, Hight lost to DeJoria as DeJoria went 3.904 seconds and 327.74 mph over Hight’s 3.934 seconds and 329.10 mph. As a result, DeJoria would make her second final round appearance of 2021 and she was set to face J.R. Todd.

J.R. Todd in his DHL Toyota Camry had an interesting day. He had a first-round match with then Funny Car points leader, Matt Hagan. Todd eliminated Hagan early with a time of 3.924 seconds at 324.90 mph compared to Hagan’s 3.958 seconds and 326.16 mph run. Hagan lost the championship points lead due to his first-round loss.

Afterward, Todd faced John Force, the all-time leader on the wins list, in the quarterfinals. He won again with a time of 3.916 seconds at 328.78 mph. Then, in the semis, Todd squared up against Ron Capps (current Funny Car Points leader). Todd won over Capps when Capps’ win was disallowed after Capps’ machine hit the cylinder block and was disqualified.

For the finals, the temperature was 62 degrees and Todd had a slight advantage over DeJoria being 5-2. However, DeJoria had a picture-perfect final-round win and was clearly ahead of Todd all the way to the finish line. She scored her first career victory since 2017 at Brainerd and had a reaction time of .002.

“I was hungry and I know that feeling,” DeJoria said. “I was just happy to be there and I believed I was going to win. It’s one of the biggest wins of my career. Coming back after two years off, getting to work with my mentor and friend (Del Worsham), being able to do this, it’s huge. It’s just been a roller-coaster and it takes a toll on you.

“It’s very humbling, but I was just ready to win. I was calm and just excited, and when I’m in that headspace I do my best. This is definitely one of my favorite tracks and it’s just beautiful here. I just love it.”

Todd’s second-place finish was the fourth runner-up finish of the season and the 21st of his career.

“There is nothing I would have done differently in that final,” said Todd. “You are not going to beat a .002 light and a 3.92 on the race track. That is unbelievable. All in all, a great day for the Yella Fellas. It just shows what kind of team I have behind me with everything that has gone on the last three races. It was a good points day, but I just wanted that one bad. The kind of day we had today is the day you dream about as a driver, and I just want to finish it off. There is nothing we could have done differently in the final.”

Funny Car Results

  1. Alexis DeJoria
  2. J.R. Todd
  3. Robert Hight
  4. Ron Capps
  5. Cruz Pedregon
  6. John Force
  7. Bob Tasca III
  8. Matt Hagan
  9. Dave Richards
  10. Tim Wilkerson
  11. Cory Lee
  12. Blake Alexander
  13. Paul Lee
  14. Jim Campbell

Funny Car Championship Points Standings

  1. Ron Capps, 2,490 points
  2. Matt Hagan, -1
  3. J.R. Todd, -83
  4. Cruz Pedregon, -101
  5. John Force, -101
  6. Bob Tasca III, -147
  7. Robert Hight, -153
  8. Alexis DeJoria, -171
  9. Tim Wilkerson, -241
  10. Blake Alexander, -306

Top Fuel

With the exception of 2020 when the race was canceled due to COVID, Mike Salinas claimed back-to-back victories at the Thunder Valley Nationals. The victory, though, wasn’t easy as he faced last week’s runner-up, Steve Torrence.

Salinas qualified in the second position and faced Antron Brown in the first round. The Scrappers Racing machine had the advantage over Brown, as Salinas went 3.672 seconds and 334.32 mph for the first-round victory. During their race, Brown’s cylinder went out and Salinas got the win.

In the quarterfinals, Salinas was set to face No. 8 qualifier Clay Millican after Millican won over Josh Hart. Millican was eliminated by Salinas who had a time of 3.707 seconds at 326.63 mph, to set up a semi-final matchup with Brittany Force.

Force managed her way into the semis with victories over Lex Joon in Round 1 and Spencer Massey in the quarterfinal. Woefully, Force’s day ended early as Salinas won with an ET of 3.698 seconds and 330.55 mph to advance to the finals as Force’s car went up in smoke in the right lane.

Torrence, on the other hand, was looking to bounce back from a runner-up finish at Dallas.

The Kilgore, Texas native in his CAPCO machine was the No. 1 qualifier heading into Sunday for a first-round race with Cameron Ferre. Torrence won with a time of 3.729 seconds at 328.38 mph over Ferre. The first-round victory was an important one for Torrence as the victory set him up for a solo run in the second round.

With an easy victory in the second round, Torrence had a Dallas final rematch in the semis against Justin Ashley. This time around, Torrence returned the favor and won over Ashley with a run of 3.677 seconds and 331.69 mph to face Salinas in the finals.

While it looked as though Torrence might claim the victory over Salinas, the Texas native smoked the tires and saw Salinas take the win for the third time in his career to snap a two-year winless streak.

“It’s a great facility and I’m glad they welcome us here,” Salinas said. “This track loves me. I met so many nice people over the years here. We’ve got a great team, and all the parts and pieces, and I think I threw away 3-4 races at the beginning of the year trying to get my routine down. It’s hard when you’re running with all these guys, but I got a lot of help and I’ve made some big improvements. These guys in this class, they’re awesome. They cut good lights I found something that works perfectly for me and I think we’re getting there. I just try to race my lane and that’s it.”

Torrence’s runner-up finish was his third of the season and the 25th of his career.

“Mike has really stepped up his game this year,” Torrence said about the man who ruined his otherwise perfect weekend. “I’m proud of him. I’m happy for him and for Alexis (DeJoria, whose Sunday Funny Car win was her first since 2017). They’re both great people and those are both independent teams.

“Fortunately, we won rounds again today,” he said. “Richard Hogan and Bobby
Lagana, they worked their magic and got us to another final round, so we’ll just move on to Vegas and get ready for another street fight. This thing’s going right to the end (at the season-ending Auto Club Finals at Pomona, Calif.).”

Top Fuel Results

  1. Mike Salinas
  2. Steve Torrence
  3. Justin Ashley
  4. Brittany Force
  5. Billy Torrence
  6. Clay Millican
  7. Spencer Massey
  8. Shawn Langdon
  9. Antron Brown
  10. Cameron Ferre
  11. Doug Kalitta
  12. Leah Pruett
  13. Josh Hart
  14. Lex Joon

Top Fuel Championship Standings

  1. Steve Torrence, 2,575 points
  2. Brittany Force, -73
  3. Justin Ashley, -147
  4. Mike Salinas, -150
  5. Billy Torrence, -218
  6. Leah Pruett, -284
  7. Clay Millican, -310
  8. Antron Brown, -323
  9. Shawn Langdon, -347
  10. Doug Kalitta, -395

Pro Stock Motorcycle

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class featured Angelle Sampey facing Karen Stoffer in the final round.

Sampey qualified 13th following Saturday’s session and faced No. 4 qualifier Andrew Hines in Round 1. The Louisiana native was successful and claimed the victory when Sampey went 6.821 seconds and 195.62 mph and set the low ET of the round. She would then meet Chris Bostick in the second round and won due to Bostick’s red-light foul, and would go to the semi-finals for the third time this season.

In the semis, Sampey met Eddie Krawiec and was 10-7 facing Krawiec. When the lights went down, Krawiec was ahead slightly over Sampey, but his bike started to move toward the wall and he began to ease off the throttle. As a result, Sampey would pull away with the victory going 6.814 seconds and 194.18 mph to face Stoffer in the final round.

Stoffer had wins over Lance Bonham, Ron Tornow, and last week’s winner, Matt Smith, in the semis.

Stoffer and Sampey have met before, facing each other 21 times in their careers. But Sampey had the upper hand with nine more victories over Stoffer entering into the final round.

During the final, Sampey easily got out ahead first in front of Stoffer. Stoffer tried making up ground toward Sampey but she went on to win for the second time this season on a holeshot with a .010 reaction time compared to Stoffer’s .029.

“I’ve been out here for so long, I’ve really learned to appreciate everything I get now,” Sampey said. “When I win a race, the emotions are 100 percent genuine because it’s a task to get it done. To get four round wins is really tough and it means so much to me. I love this sport so much and this team just works so hard. This mission was to catch back up in the points race and we made it happen. It was a fantastic day and it would be great to get the No. 1 back on the motorcycle.”

Stoffer earned her first runner-up of the year and the 15th of his career.

Pro Stock Motorcycle Results

  1. Angelle Sampey
  2. Karen Stoffer
  3. Matt Smith
  4. Eddie Krawiec
  5. Scotty Pollacheck
  6. Kelly Clontz
  7. Ron Tornow
  8. Chris Bostick
  9. Andrew Hines
  10. Joey Gladstone
  11. Charles Poskey
  12. Lance Bonham
  13. Ryan Oehler
  14. Steve Johnson
  15. Angie Smith

Pro Stock Motorcycle Championship Standings

  1. Matt Smith, 2,451 points
  2. Angelle Sampey, -25
  3. Steve Johnson, -56
  4. Eddie Krawiec, -111
  5. Scotty Pollacheck, -160
  6. Karen Stoffer, -201
  7. Joey Gladstone, -216
  8. Angie Smith, -226
  9. Andrew Hines, -274
  10. Ryan Oehler, -301

Up Next: The NHRA Camping World Drag Series will take a week off before returning on October 29th-31st for the Las Vegas Nationals.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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