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NHRA’s Steve Johnson Aims to Become First Pro Stock Motorcycle Rider to Repeat at Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Steve Johnson looks to become the first repeat rider at Bristol Dragway at this weekend’s 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals and turn around his 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season in the process.

The Pro Stock Motorcycle class is back in action at this weekend’s race in Thunder Valley and Johnson is the reigning Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals winner. After struggling at the first three races of the season, Johnson is seeking his first NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series win of the season on his Suzuki.

But he has plenty of strong Bristol vibes as one of only three PSM winners at the legendary facility. The only two other winners at Bristol are Angelle Sampey and Jerry Savoie since the class came to Thunder Valley in 2021.

“It’s a very challenging race track for us,” Johnson said. “Where my team has been this last year and where I think we should be, it’s been exciting. The data doesn’t lie. There’s a bunch of calculations between there and you come up with gear ratios, you come up with jetting, you come up with timing, and hopefully you bring a rider, and you go throw down on the track then you come back and modify that.

“Ultimately, it is a challenge because we had very little data from that track, and it’s been really hot and it’s been super cold. It’s going to be really challenging to get down that track and especially to try to out run everybody there.”

Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Enders (Pro Stock) and Johnson (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home titles last year in picturesque Thunder Valley and this year’s race will again be broadcast on FS1, including eliminations beginning at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday. It is the eighth of 20 races during the 2024 season and the fan-favorite Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge also takes place on Saturday, featuring semifinalists from last weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals.

Last year, Johnson handed Gaige Herrera his first runner-up finish of the season when Herrera went red in the final round. That made Johnson one of only four Pro Stock Motorcycle winners in 2023: Johnson, Hector Arana Jr., multiple-time champ Matt Smith and Herrera. With a quarterfinal finish to his credit this season, Johnson is excited to get to Bristol.

“I love what I do,” Johnson said. “I hope everyone has that fire because it takes that kind of passion to do what you do.” 

Johnson and the rest of the class will have to contend with Herrera, who is undefeated thus far in 2024. He’s also won eight consecutive races – tied for the most in PSM history – and 31 straight rounds. A win in Bristol would tie Herrera, the 2023 world champ, with Bob Glidden for the most wins in a row (9) and the most consecutive round wins (35).

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In the Pro Stock ranks, reigning champion Erica Enders has been hanging on in the thick of the points battle. She collected a race win in Gainesville and was runner-up last weekend in Epping. With three No. 1 qualifiers so far and two Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge wins, she is second in points and hopes the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals will to be her race to reclaim the points lead from Dallas Glenn.

Ashley has back-to-back wins from Bristol Dragway. He currently leads the Top Fuel points and will be seeking his third race win of the season. If he wants to get three wins from Bristol, he’ll be up against reigning champ Doug Kalitta, who won last weekend in Epping, two-time 2024 winner Shawn Langdon and multi-time champs Steve Torrence and Antron Brown.

Capps won his second straight Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals last season when he defeated Alexis DeJoria in the finals. He’s looking for his first win of 2024 in a loaded group that includes points leader Austin Prock, John Force, who won Sunday in Epping, Gainesville winner J.R. Todd, reigning champ Matt Hagan and Bob Tasca III.

The Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, featuring some of the top racers in the country, as well as the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+, Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock. The weekend includes an appearance from the Legends Nostalgia Nitro Funny Cars as well. After final qualifying on Saturday, fans will also be treated to a special autograph session and fanfest at the Bristol Dragway Welcome Tent in the midway.

Fans will also be invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which features Nitro School, meet and greets, music and much more. Race fans at Bristol Dragway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that celebrates each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Bristol event winners.

As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Bristol. They can see teams in action and service their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. Fans can also visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food, and fun for the entire family.

NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:45 and 7 p.m. ET on Friday, June 7, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 8 at 12:30 and 3:15 p.m. Eliminations will begin at 12 p.m. ET on Sunday, June 9. Television coverage includes qualifying action at 7 p.m. ET on Friday and 12:30 p.m. on Sunday on FS1, leading into eliminations coverage at 7 p.m. ET on Sunday.

To purchase tickets to the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, fans can visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. For more information on NHRA, please visit www.NHRA.com.

This story was originally published on June 6, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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Since 2005, DI has informed, inspired and educated drag racers from every walk of the racing life - weekend warrior and street/strip enthusiasts to pro-level doorslammer and Top Fuel racers. From award-winning writing and photography to binge-worthy videos to electric live events, DI meets hundreds of thousands of racers where they live, creating the moments that create conversations.