Angelle Sampey will always be the first rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle history to win the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway, something she accomplished last fall in the category’s first-ever appearance at Thunder Valley.
The three-time world champion would also love to continue to be the only Pro Stock Motorcycle competitor to win in Bristol, something she’ll try to achieve weekend on her Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. In a thrilling final round a year ago, Sampey knocked off Karen Stoffer in an all-female final round on a memorable holeshot.
It kept Sampey in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series championship mix a year ago and she’s after her first win of the 2022 season heading into Father’s Day Weekend.
“The facility is phenomenal, and I loved being there,” Sampey said. “It’s so beautiful and the fans are fantastic. You really have to be focused when you’re racing there, but I’m really looking forward to being there this year and defending my title and keeping my fingers crossed that we can do it again.”
Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all picked up last year’s wins in Bristol, while this year’s race will be broadcast on the FOX broadcast network and Fox Sports 1 (FS1). The Father’s Day weekend race is the fifth race of the 2022 Pro Stock Motorcycle season and Sampey hopes the return to Bristol gets her year on track.
Sampey, who has 45 career victories, has shown glimpses this season, picking up a No. 1 qualifier in Charlotte and two No. 2 qualifiers. But things haven’t quite clicked on raceday, as Sampey hasn’t been out of the second round. She’s placed the brunt of the blame on herself, but it’s impossible to argue with her career track record.
Sampey knows a win is coming if the bike continues to perform like it has, though in Bristol she’ll also have to contend with the likes of points leader Steve Johnson, who has two wins this year, defending world champ Matt Smith, Stoffer, who won in Gainesville, Angie Smith, Eddie Krawiec, Joey Gladstone, and Jimmy Underdahl.
“It’s definitely a confidence boost going into a race that you’ve previously won,” Sampey said. “I haven’t done that well this year thus far, so I need to take my mind off racing and just focus on getting the bike down the track. That’s exactly what needs to happen. My motorcycle is super-fast and super strong, and where I need it to win. People are figuring out how to make these four-valve Suzuki bikes work, and I just need to get my head in the right place.”
In Pro Stock, Erica Enders is off to the best start in her remarkable career, as the four-time world champ has four wins in the first six events in the class in her Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro. That includes three straight victories – something she’s done only one other time in her career – with the last coming a couple of weeks ago in Epping.
To get four consecutive wins for the first time ever in her Pro Stock career, Enders will have to come through in Bristol, which would be fitting since she considers it one of her favorite tracks on the NHRA tour. But it certainly won’t be easy, as Enders has had to be perfect this year against a talented field that includes the likes of teammate Aaron Stanfield, Gainesville winner Dallas Glenn, defending world champion Greg Anderson, who is a win away from 100 career victories, Kyle Koretsky, and rookie Camrie Caruso.
“We’ve definitely started this 2022 season out on the right foot,” Enders said. “If you ask me an any interview, Bristol is always at the top of my favorite track list, and we’ve had a lot of success there. It’s near and dear to my heart, and it’s a beautiful facility. It can definitely be challenging at times, but we’re definitely up for it. The level of competition in Pro Stock is definitely immense right now. It keeps me hungry, and it keeps me wanting to win more races. We’re definitely excited to head back to Bristol and we’re hopeful for another successful weekend.”
Salinas will look for his third straight win at Bristol Dragway and the Top Fuel standout heads to Thunder Valley with plenty of momentum, picking up his third win of 2022 at the most recent race in Epping. He’s chasing points leader Brittany Force, who also has three wins this year, four-time defending world champ Steve Torrence, Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown, Justin Ashley, and Leah Pruett.
In Funny Car, DeJoria will look for a repeat victory to grab her first win of the season, but it won’t be easy in a loaded field. Matt Hagan has led the way in 2022 with three wins and he currently has the points lead, but others to watch include Robert Hight, who also has three wins, defending world champ Ron Capps, 16-time world champ John Force, JR Todd, Bob Tasca III and Cruz Pedregon.
The event will also feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which features some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown category. After nitro qualifying on Friday, fans will also be treated to a spectacular fireworks show. On Saturday, a special autograph session featuring NHRA stars will take place at 6 pm ET at the Guest Welcome Village, while fans can also attend Nitro School on Saturday prior to the second round of qualifying to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds.
Bristol Dragway will host the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the SealMaster Track Walk at 11 am The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle Celebration on Sunday after racing conclusions, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.
As always, fans also get an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet in Bristol. This unique opportunity gives fans a unique chance to 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. The new Pep Boys midway display will include tire change challenges, oil change challenges, a slot car track and much more, adding even more excitement to the midway.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 7 pm ET on Friday, June 17 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, June 18 at 1:30 and 4:30 pm Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 pm ET on Sunday, June 19. Television coverage includes live qualifying action on FS1 at 8 pm ET on Friday, 11 pm on Saturday, and then live eliminations action at 3 pm ET on FOX on Sunday.
(Courtesy of NHRA Communications)