How Mike Salinas and Alexis DeJoria Just Made NHRA Points Races Even More Interesting at Bristol

·9 min read
Photo credit: NHRA/National Draster
Photo credit: NHRA/National Draster

Mike Salinas scored back-to-back NHRA Top Fuel Thunder Valley Nationals triumphs Sunday at Tennessee’s Bristol Dragway, putting a dent in Steve Torrence’s class-leading point margin over No. 2 Brittany Force.

As the Camping World Drag Racing Series heads west, to Las Vegas and then Pomona, Calif., for the final two races of the campaign, Torrence has extended his lead over Force from 52 to 73.

And lurking in third and fourth places, respectively, determined to stay in the Countdown to the Championship conversation are Dallas winner Justin Ashley and Salinas. Ashley was 121 points behind Torrence entering the event and despite a semifinal finish (and loss to Torrence) saw his deficit grow to 147 points. Salinas is a longer shot at 150 points off the pace.

Meanwhile, the Funny Car chase is heating up.

Photo credit: Auto Imagery
Photo credit: Auto Imagery

Ron Capps New Funny Car Leader

Thanks to No. 5-ranked and No. 12-qualified JR Todd knocking out Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan in the opening round in an upset that surprised even Todd, Ron Capps assumed command by six points.

He hopped out of his NAPA Dodge Charger and declared, “I feel possessed!” Maybe he was, for he and his car had problems in the next round.

In that semifinal, not only did Capps lose to Todd, but he also drove slightly across the center line. That disqualifying infraction cost him five of those six points he enjoyed over Hagan. So Capps will enter the Oct. 29-31 Dodge//SRT Nationals at Las Vegas—the penultimate race of the season—with a one-point advantage over Hagan.

And, Capps said, “This is an all-out battle. There are so many other cars who can step up and run great. We’ve seen that today with J.R. Todd and that DHL team and Alexis DeJoria. JR beat Matt [Hagan] first round and knocked us out in the semis. By no means, especially with Pomona [the finals in California] being points-and-a-half, is this thing over.”

Todd plowed through the ladder like a bulldozer, eliminating three of the four drivers ahead of him (Hagan, Capps, and John Force) to improve to third place in the standings. Todd is 83 points behind Capps.

John Force and Cruz Pedregon are tied for fourth place, trailing by 101 points.

Photo credit: Auto Imagery
Photo credit: Auto Imagery

Tony Stewart’s Dream Team Stumbles

Both Leah Pruett in Top Fuel and Matt Hagan in Funny Car saw their uplifting week fall flat in a roller-coaster swing through the Southeast. Earlier in the week at North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway, they announced their 2022 switch from Don Schumacher Racing to Tony Stewart Racing’s trailblazing NHRA team that’s energizing the entire Camping World Drag Racing Series community.

But Pruett was off the gas early, losing traction at the hit of the throttle in her Sparkling Ice Spiked Dragster and losing to Spencer Massey. That dimmed already faint hopes she could surge toward the top of the standings.

“Drag racing does not disappoint on the roller coaster of emotions,” she said. “That first-round loss pretty much takes us out of any championship contention.” She promised her competitors, though, that she’d try to “hurt some feelings along the way.”

Hagan was a victim of JR Todd, who entered the weekend 134 points off Hagan’s pace in fifth place. By the end of the quarterfinals, Ron Capps had replaced Hagan atop the leaderboard, and Todd had scrambled the top-five picture.

“JR and those guys did their homework. They outran us, and he left on me. It’s just drag racing,” Hagan said. “As much as I hate losin’ and I’m trying to put a smile on right now, it burns you up inside. We’ve just got to go to these next two races and make ’em count.”

Girls Rule . . . Again

Photo credit: Richard H Shute
Photo credit: Richard H Shute

Triumphs by Alexis De Joria (Funny Car) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) marked the first time this season two women have won at the same event. However, De Joria is the sixth different woman to win, and her accomplishment Sunday represented the 10thvictory by a woman in 2021.

Women have won at nine (half) of the season’s 18 completed races. Sampey also won at Charlotte. Others winning this year are Pro Stock’s Erica Enders (at Las Vegas; Norwalk, Ohio; Indianapolis; and Madison, Ill.), Top Fuel’s Leah Pruett (Pomona) and Brittany Force (Topeka), and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Karen Stoffer (Sonoma).

NHRA Thunder Nationals

Finals Results

Sunday's final results from the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. The race is the 18th of 20 in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel -- Mike Salinas, 3.854 seconds, 245.05 mph def. Steve Torrence, 10.316 seconds, 81.57 mph.

Funny Car -- Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 3.921, 327.66 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.939, 326.32.

Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.773, 196.85 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.760, 197.83.

Super Stock -- Greg Stanfield, Chevy Camaro, 9.872, 131.91 def. Jeff Dona, Pontiac Firebird, 9.684, 139.33.

Stock Eliminator -- Brett Candies, Ford Mustang, 9.147, 142.85 def. Mark Lewis, Chevy Camaro, 10.777, 115.89.

Super Comp -- Jack Sepanek, Dragster, 8.930, 178.87 def. Adam Gerber, Dragster, 8.973, 152.73.

Super Gas -- Jacob Elrod, Chevy Corvette, 10.039, 150.87 def. Tim Powell, Corvette, 11.361, 93.34.

Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers -- Chad Taylor, Dragster, 7.088, 186.90 def. Steve Furr, Dragster, Broke.

Pro Modified -- JR Gray, Chevy Camaro, 5.699, 250.64 def. Jose Gonzalez, Camaro, Foul - Red Light.

Round-By-Round Results

Final round-by-round results from the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the 18th of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series:


ROUND ONE -- Clay Millican, 3.840, 327.90 def. Josh Hart, 13.886, 24.26; Spencer Massey, 3.745, 328.46 def. Leah Pruett, 7.565, 81.47; Brittany Force, No Time Recorded def. Lex Joon, 20.583, 660.14; Mike Salinas, 3.672, 334.32 def. Antron Brown, 4.381, 189.47; Billy Torrence, 4.120, 201.34 def. Doug Kalitta, 5.236, 133.63; Steve Torrence, 3.729, 328.38 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.438, 176.81; Justin Ashley, 3.690, 334.48 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.739, 327.43;

QUARTERFINALS -- Force, 3.671, 332.10 def. Massey, 3.777, 320.13; S. Torrence, 3.680, 333.00 was unopposed; Ashley, 3.708, 333.33 def. B. Torrence, 3.705, 327.27; Salinas, 3.707, 326.63 def. Millican, 3.740, 329.26;

SEMIFINALS -- Salinas, 3.698, 330.55 def. Force, 8.209, 79.25; S. Torrence, 3.677, 331.69 def. Ashley, 3.691, 334.15;

FINAL -- Salinas, 3.854, 245.05 def. S. Torrence, 10.316, 81.57.


ROUND ONE -- Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.016, 288.77 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 6.522, 103.46; Alexis DeJoria, Toyota Camry, 4.030, 269.83 def. Paul Lee, Dodge Charger, 8.033, 87.70; John Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.997, 272.12 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 8.069, 77.10; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.945, 328.38 def. Blake Alexander, Mustang, 7.575, 78.95; J.R. Todd, Camry, 3.924, 324.90 def. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.958, 326.16; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.940, 328.46 def. Cory Lee, Mustang, 7.391, 96.08;

Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.964, 294.11 def. Dave Richards, Mustang, 4.023, 311.63;

QUARTERFINALS -- DeJoria, 3.931, 321.04 was unopposed; Capps, 3.919, 329.83 def. Pedregon, 3.920, 326.63; Hight, 3.920, 329.34 def. Tasca III, 4.338, 220.55; Todd, 3.916, 328.78 def. Force, 4.118, 324.59;

SEMIFINALS -- DeJoria, 3.904, 327.74 def. Hight, 3.934, 329.10; Todd, 3.921, 327.82 def. Capps, Foul - Centerline;

FINAL -- DeJoria, 3.921, 327.66 def. Todd, 3.939, 326.32.


ROUND ONE -- Chris Bostick, Suzuki, 6.994, 188.46 def. Charles Poskey, Suzuki, 7.117, no speed; Eddie Krawiec, Buell, 6.895, 196.93 def. Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.998, 189.98; Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 7.006, 186.36 def. Ryan Oehler, 8.503, 113.31; Ron Tornow, 6.984, 187.83 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 13.777, 58.06; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.821, 195.62 def. Andrew Hines, Buell, 6.887, 195.70; Scotty Pollacheck, 6.894, 197.71 was unopposed; Matt Smith, 6.853, 199.08 def. Angie Smith, Broke - No Show;

Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.160, 152.97 def. Lance Bonham, Buell, 7.778, 175.62;

QUARTERFINALS -- Stoffer, 6.834, 195.14 def. Tornow, 7.054, 187.29; Krawiec, 6.844, 199.29 def. Pollacheck, 6.895, 198.23; M. Smith, 6.843, 198.20 def. Clontz, 6.965, 190.78; Sampey, 7.075, 154.33 def. Bostick, Foul - Red Light;

SEMIFINALS -- Sampey, 6.814, 194.18 def. Krawiec, 7.964, 119.21; Stoffer, 6.785, 196.87 def. M. Smith, 6.895, 196.99;

FINAL -- Sampey, 6.773, 196.85 def. Stoffer, 6.760, 197.83.

Updated Points Standings

Point standings (top 10) following the 20th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the 18th of 20 events in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series -

Top Fuel

1, Steve Torrence, 2,575; 2. Brittany Force, 2,502; 3. Justin Ashley, 2,428; 4. Mike Salinas, 2,425; 5. Billy Torrence, 2,357; 6. Leah Pruett, 2,291; 7. Clay Millican, 2,265; 8. Antron Brown, 2,252; 9. Shawn Langdon, 2,228; 10. Doug Kalitta, 2,180.

Funny Car

1. Ron Capps, 2,490; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,489; 3. J.R. Todd, 2,407; 4. (tie) John Force, 2,389; Cruz Pedregon, 2,389; 6. Bob Tasca III, 2,343; 7. Robert Hight, 2,337; 8. Alexis DeJoria, 2,319; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 2,249; 10. Blake Alexander, 2,184.

Pro Stock Motorcycle

1. Matt Smith, 2,451; 2. Angelle Sampey, 2,426; 3. Steve Johnson, 2,395; 4. Eddie Krawiec, 2,340; 5. Scotty Pollacheck, 2,291; 6. Karen Stoffer, 2,250; 7. Joey Gladstone, 2,235; 8. Angie Smith, 2,225; 9. Andrew Hines, 2,177; 10. Ryan Oehler, 2,150.

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