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Prock, Millican, Enders & M. Smith Get Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge Victories; Prock, Millican, Anderson & M. Smith Take No. 1 Spots at Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals

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In a matchup of last weekend’s Funny Car final round, points leader Austin Prock knocked off John Force in the finals of the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge bonus race, also qualifying No. 1 on Saturday in front of a near-capacity crowd at Bristol Dragway at the 23rd annual Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won the specialty race, while Millican (Top Fuel), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and Smith qualified No. 1 at the eighth of 20 races during the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series season.

In the finals of the specialty event, Prock went 4.049-seconds at 312.57 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro, knocking off Force’s 4.033 at 315.27 on a holeshot. Last weekend, it was Force that slipped past Prock in the championship round at Epping in a battle of two teammates and the top two drivers in the points standings. Prock extracted some revenge on Saturday and also earned his sixth No. 1 qualifier in eight races thanks to Friday’s 3.958 at 317.34. He’ll open eliminations against John Smith, looking to sweep the weekend for the first time.

“That’s exactly how you dream it up to race again in the final and see if I can get it back,” Prock said. “We achieved that today and it was another outstanding day for this team. Everyone is doing a great job and this car is so much fun to drive. It’s a good day all-around and I’m looking forward to tomorrow. I love those earlier starts.

“Me and John have so much fun racing each other and that’s what we want to do every weekend. John has done a lot for me in my career and I definitely want to show him I’m capable of winning. If you can beat that guy, you know you’re getting the job done. He’s one of the toughest competitors out there and I love racing him.”

Alexis DeJoria was second a 3.973 at 319.90 and Ron Capps, who has won back-to-back races in Bristol, is third with a 3.976 at 320.74.

In Top Fuel, Clay Millican enjoyed another magical day at Bristol Dragway, winning the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge for the first time in his 11,000-horserpower Parts Plus/Rick Ware Racing dragster, going 3.839 at 302.41 to knock off Shawn Langdon in the specialty race. He defeated Tony Schumacher earlier in the day and then got past Langdon to claim the victory in the bonus race.

His run of 3.786 at 325.06 from Friday also easily held up, as Millican claimed the No. 1 spot in qualifying for the first time this season and 26th time in his career. Millican is now focused on going four rounds on Sunday, starting eliminations with a first-round matchup with Cam Ferre.

“This is absolutely awesome,” Millican said. “We are definitely chasing points. Last year we made a mistake and bumped ourselves out of the top 10, so we are looking for every single point we can get. I’m so excited because we’ve chased this. I really wanted to win this. It’s such a great deal that Mission Foods is not only sponsoring the series, but also putting up money for us to have this race. It changes qualifying as a driver.

“You can’t take it easy on Saturday, and that makes it difficult sometimes. But the old man got up on the wheel. I was racing one of the best there is out there in Shawn Langdon. I’m going to brag even if it’s just that I got him that one time.”

Points leader Justin Ashley qualified second with Friday’s 3.795 at 322.42 and Antron Brown was third, thanks to Friday’s 3.809 at 321.27.

Pro Stock’s Enders continued to roll in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, winning for the third time this season, this time with a 6.644 at 207.30 in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance/Scag Power Equipment car. That’s a significant amount of championship bonus points for the defending world champion, who knocked off Dallas Glenn in the final round of the specialty race. It continued her strong momentum for the weekend, too, giving Enders a great shot at her 50th national event victory on Sunday.

“We want to get a handle on our hot raceday setup,” Enders said. “Greg threw some huge numbers on the board for the weather conditions but we’re just going to put our heads down and do our own thing. Those points mean an awful lot at the end of the year and my first championship in 2014, had I lost the final round, I would have lost the championship by one point – and we won by 19. It’s always down to the wire, so those points are very important and huge thank you to Mission for putting on the race.”

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Greg Anderson delivered a standout run to open Pro Stock qualifying on Saturday, so much so that his pass of 6.615 at 205.38 in his HendrickCars.com Chevrolet Camaro sent him to the No. 1 qualifier position. It’s Anderson’s second No. 1 qualifier this season and the 126th in the veteran’s remarkable career. He’ll open eliminations against Larry Morgan and was thrilled with what the team was able to put together on Saturday.

He nearly eclipsed his own track record, no small feat during the warmer temperatures in the final two qualifying rounds. Now, Anderson will look to win for the third time this season at a track where he picked up his first career Pro Stock victory in 2001. Anderson is also looking for his first Bristol win in 20 years.

“You really never get out of the car at the finish line – at least I don’t – and say you know what I think we got it all. I got out first run this morning and I think we got more than it all,” Anderson said. “I know I’ve never said that before, so it’s fantastic when you do something like that and can back it up on the next run the same day.

“The competition out here is so mean and so tough, you have a different hero every week and you never know who can beat who. To come out here today and outrun the competition by a couple of hundredths, that’s a mile in Pro Stock. It doesn’t guarantee you a win, but to get an advantage like that, it’s priceless. I’m super happy today and hopefully we can carry it into tomorrow. I love racing here. This is where I won my very first ever NHRA national event back in 2001. If it wasn’t for this place and the jump start I got here to start the great career I’ve had, I wouldn’t be where I’m at today. It’s been a hell of a ride and I love racing up here at Thunder Valley.”

Enders finished second in qualifying with her 6.631 at 206.92 and Jeg Coughlin Jr.’s 6.639 at 206.45 put him third.

Matt Smith enjoyed an incredible day in Pro Stock Motorcycle, taking the No. 1 qualifier and his first Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge win of the season with a pair of standout runs. He picked up the bonus victory over his wife, Angie, going 6.802 at 199.05 on his Denso Auto Parts Buell, knocking off points leader Gaige Herrera earlier in the day.

Smith lowered the boom in Thunder Valley on that run against Herrera, improving on his No. 1 position by going 6.759 at 200.05. Both are track records and it was also the first 200-mph run at Bristol Dragway in Pro Stock Motorcycle history. He’ll get the opportunity to sweep the weekend, taking on Ryan Oehler to open eliminations.

“I didn’t think .75 was possible,” M. Smith said. “Last night’s pass when I went to the centerline, I knew we could have gone .77, I thought we could go .76, but this morning we just got all of it. We went 1.04 60-foot and the scoreboard popped up. That was pretty much a perfect pass for us. Then we come back for Q4 and we’re low of the round again. All in all, I think we have a good deal for tomorrow. 

“Hats off to my whole team. I’m the privileged one that gets to ride the thing and all these guys working on it are the ones making it really good. We’ve got a really good program.”

Richard Gadson’s 6.825 at 197.74 gave him the second spot in qualifying, while Chase Van Sant qualified third with a 6.827 at 10636. Gaige Herrera is currently qualified fourth. He is undefeated in 2024 and a win on Sunday would tie the defending world champion with Bob Glidden for the most consecutive wins (9) and round wins (35) in NHRA history.

Eliminations for the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin at 10 a.m. on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.

This story was originally published on June 8, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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