Winter is coming. For those racing on Sunday at Bristol Dragway, however, winter appeared to have already arrived. The final day of eliminations at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals kicked off early with Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competitors at the ready to warm the racing surface and season it with some good mojo.
Jimmy Hidalgo Jr. reached the quarterfinals in both Stock and Super Stock to keep his hopes of doubling up alive, but on Sunday morning, those dreams were quickly dashed. The driver known affectionately as “Country Puppy” to some and Cooter to most was .004 red in Stock, and Dan Fletcher went ahead and slapped a .010-second package on him in Super Stock. Hidalgo ran right on his 9.75 dial with a 9.753-second pass, but Fletch was .006 with a 9.814 on a 9.81.
Fletcher, who won Super Stock at Bristol in 2001 and Stock in 2011 and 2015, will take his FGT/G 1969 Camaro to the semifinals for a race with Gordonville, Missouri, based Jeff Dona and his SS/HA 1998 Firebird.
On the other side of the ladder, four-time Super Stock LODRS champ Greg Stanfield had a bye run in the quarterfinals, and to keep himself sharp in his well-decorated GT/JA 1987 Camaro, he was top of the pops at the hit with a .000 start. He’ll have a heads-up race with Logan Belanger in the semis, who had a better reaction time and survived a double-breakout with Brett Candies in the quarters.
But wait, one more thing about Stanfield: he has a little bit of history in Bristol. He was the runner-up there in both 2008 (Pro Stock) and 2017 (Super Stock). This year at the national event level, he has been runner-up twice: in Stock at the spring race in Las Vegas to Conner Statler and in Super Stock at the Houston make-up in Dallas, that time bowing out to Harvey “Speedy” Emmons III. He’s won two division races this year in Super Stock – Houston and Dallas.
Candies has been to five finals at the national event level in his career, so he’s been close – but no win yet. The Louisiana resident and his FS/A 2010 Mustang was .002 with a 9.146 on his 9.12 in his defeat of Jim Marshall to grab a ticket to the semifinals to potentially line up another shot at a trophy. He’ll square off with Vita C Shot-backed Steve Foley and his C/SA 1998 Camaro in the semis, and this guy is no slouch. The decorated bracket racer is outfitted with Warren Racing Engines equipment and married into a legacy – wife and fellow drag racer Brooke Warren Foley is the granddaughter to legend Bobby Warren, who won Stock Eliminator at Bristol in 2004.
The other semifinals pair in Stock Eliminator will be Indy winner Matt Lisa and his D/SA 1968 Camaro against Inman, South Carolina’s Mark Lewis, who was the benefactor of the Country Puppy’s red light in the quarters. Lewis will go to the mattresses with his C/SA 1994 Camaro, which could potentially set up a heads-up final if he and Foley both defeat their respective challengers.
Brownsburg, Indiana-based Nick Isenhower was .001 at the tree and was the lessor offender in a double-breakout with Ross Laris to advance to the semifinals. He’ll race Adam Gerber, of Massillion, Ohio, who utilized a .004 and an 8.921 on the 8.90 index to get the win light over John Labbous Jr.’s .027 and 8.944.
Jack Sepanek, of Moosic, Pennsylvania, scored a bye into the final when quarterfinals opponent Derek Denney fouled by three-thou’.
Every quarterfinals Super Gas match in the cool conditions at Thunder Valley resulted in a breakout. The semifinals will pair Hamilton, Ohio’s Rob Kropfeld and his 1967 Camaro against fellow Ohioan Jacob Elrod and his 2019 Corvette. Elrod was runner up in Super Comp at this event in 2018.
Opposite the ladder is Tim Powell, of Ty Ty, Georgia, who will take his 2019 Corvette to the starting line for a meeting with Silver Springs, Maryland, resident Craig Porter and his 2004 Mustang.
Blake Peavler must so far be quite pleased that he came to Bristol from Olney, Illinois. He was a perfect .000 in reaction time to a troubled Jeff Strickland and will advance to the semifinals. SPORTSNationals 2021 winner Peavler will take on Steve Furr, who won Bristol in Super Gas in 2018 and Top Dragster in both 2012 and 2016.
Simpsonville, South Carolina, racer Chad Taylor, who smashed the tree with a .005-second reaction time next to Alexis Whitaker’s glaring .011 red light in the quarterfinals, will get the bye into the final.
Round-by-round results can be found at DragRaceCentral.com.