Tommy Johnson Jr. (FC), Shawn Langdon (TF), Erica Enders-Stevens (PS) are winners at Bristol

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Tommy Johnson Jr. was patient while waiting on the sideline for several years for a new ride that would contend.

Returning to the NHRA Funny Car class earlier this season, Johnson’s patience paid off in Sunday’s final round of the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Johnson won his first NHRA national event since 2007 and his 10th career win overall, with a final round time of 4.156 seconds at 302.14 mph, defeating Tim Wilkerson.

“I’m thrilled that we were able to get it done and all that work paid off,” Johnson Jr. said. “The guys did a great job today. We’ve qualified great, we just couldn’t get it to go our way on race day.

“We’ve been competitive and we just couldn’t close the deal. It’s tough out here. I wanted to prove that we’re not in a slump and we needed to step it up a little bit and we did.”

In Top Fuel, 2013 NHRA champ Shawn Langdon finally broke through for his first win of the 2014 season.

Langdon also earned his first career win at Bristol and his ninth overall victory with a final round run of 3.819 seconds at 320.51 mph, defeating Doug Kalitta.

“With the stiff competition in Top Fuel, one thing you have to learn is patience and not to take anything for granted,” Langdon said. “We knew it was going to be tough. We’re still learning. Fortunately, we got this win and most importantly, we hope to continue earning those Mello Yello points.”

In Pro Stock, points leader Erica Enders-Stevens earned her series-high third win of the season and first-ever triumph at Bristol with a final round run of 6.698 seconds at 207.15 mph, defeating rookie Jonathan Gray.

“We had to dig deeper this weekend,” Enders-Stevens said. “Everybody out here is hungry. As a driver, I knew I had to step up to the plate and get up on the wheel.

“Momentum is huge in this sport and we just need to continue to carry it. To get it done today meant the world to me and my team gave me a car to drive to the winner’s circle.”

The circuit moves to the northeast part of the country this coming weekend (June 19-22) with the second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway in Epping, N.H.

Results information and quotes provided by NHRA media release.

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Here’s the final finishing order order (1-16) in Sunday’s final eliminations of the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway:

TOP FUEL: 1.  Shawn Langdon; 2.  Doug Kalitta; 3.  Antron Brown; 4.  Bob Vandergriff; 5.  Chris Karamesines; 6.  Tony Schumacher; 7.  Terry McMillen; 8.  Spencer Massey; 9.  Steve Torrence; 10.  Billy Torrence; 11.  Richie Crampton; 12.  Leah Pritchett; 13.  J.R. Todd; 14.  Khalid alBalooshi; 15.  Brittany Force; 16.  Clay Millican.

FUNNY CAR: 1.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 2.  Tim Wilkerson; 3.  Matt Hagan; 4.  Tony Pedregon; 5.  Del Worsham; 6.  Courtney Force; 7.  Robert Hight; 8.  Alexis DeJoria; 9.  John Force; 10.  Cruz Pedregon; 11.  Jack Beckman; 12.  Bob Tasca III; 13.  Justin Schriefer; 14.  Ron Capps; 15.  Chad Head; 16.  Jeff Arend.

PRO STOCK: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens; 2.  Jonathan Gray; 3.  Jeg Coughlin; 4.  Jason Line; 5.  Vincent Nobile; 6.  Shane Gray; 7.  Greg Anderson; 8.  Dave Connolly; 9.  Rodger Brogdon; 10.  Chris McGaha; 11.  V. Gaines; 12.  Larry Morgan; 13.  Kenny Delco; 14.  Curt Steinbach; 15.  Shane Tucker; 16.  Allen Johnson.

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Here’s Sunday’s final results in the top three professional series:

Top Fuel — Shawn Langdon, 3.902 seconds, 316.08 mph  def. Doug Kalitta, 4.128 seconds, 260.97 mph.

Funny Car — Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 4.156, 302.14  def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.423, 227.34.

Pro Stock — Erica Enders-Stevens, Chevy Camaro, 6.698, 207.15  def. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 13.480, 64.40.

Pro Modified — Pete Farber, Dodge Daytona, 6.087, 240.51  def. Steve Matusek, Chevy Camaro, 6.971, 152.61.

Top Fuel Harley — Tommy Grimes, Harley, 6.413, 221.45  def. Damian Cownden, Harley, 6.454, 214.04.

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Here’s the final round-by-round results from Sunday’s final eliminations:

TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Doug Kalitta, 3.838, 321.58 def. Leah Pritchett, 4.862, 161.42; Shawn Langdon, 3.895, 310.20 def. Khalid alBalooshi, 5.041, 147.96; Tony Schumacher, 3.857, 323.89 def. Billy Torrence, 4.008, 305.84; Chris Karamesines, 5.215, 118.87 def. Brittany Force, 5.558, 122.66; Terry McMillen, 4.038, 304.39 def. J.R. Todd, 4.902, 183.47; Antron Brown, 3.829, 318.39 def. Richie Crampton, 4.398, 196.79; Spencer Massey, 3.892, 317.05 def. Clay Millican, broke; Bob Vandergriff, 4.456, 212.83 def. Steve Torrence, foul;

QUARTERFINALS — Langdon, 5.338, 289.14 def. McMillen, 5.603, 210.70; Vandergriff, 4.453, 289.88 def. Schumacher, 5.027, 171.45; Kalitta, 4.171, 296.76 def. Karamesines, 4.977, 145.00; Brown, 3.883, 315.19 def. Massey, 10.460, 76.70;

SEMIFINALS — Langdon, 5.110, 149.85 def. Vandergriff, foul; Kalitta, 3.905, 312.64 def. Brown, 3.952, 304.74;

FINAL — Langdon, 3.902, 316.08 def. Kalitta, 4.128, 260.97.

 

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.148, 303.78 def. Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 4.890, 169.55; Tony Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 4.355, 256.21 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 5.330, 142.06; Del Worsham, Camry, 4.191, 299.13 def. Jeff Arend, Charger, 12.726, 59.78; Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.746, 223.91 def. Justin Schriefer, Chevy Camaro, 5.082, 155.33; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.147, 309.20 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.613, 188.49; Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.199, 302.35 def. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.787, 181.64; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.216, 292.14 def. John Force, Mustang, 4.437, 229.78; Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.166, 300.00 def. Chad Head, Camry, 5.498, 143.90;

QUARTERFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.220, 294.95 def. DeJoria, 6.019, 112.71; Johnson Jr., 4.175, 305.84 def. Hight, 6.009, 114.01; Hagan, 4.216, 287.66 def. Worsham, 4.209, 299.53; T. Pedregon, 4.380, 252.14 def. C. Force, 4.770, 211.69;

SEMIFINALS — Wilkerson, 4.240, 293.60 def. T. Pedregon, 4.533, 218.19; Johnson Jr., 4.201, 299.46 def. Hagan, 4.207, 293.54;

FINAL — Johnson Jr., 4.156, 302.14 def. Wilkerson, 4.423, 227.34.

 

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Jonathan Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.706, 207.18 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.709, 207.37; Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.686, 207.15 def. Shane Tucker, Chevy Cobalt, 7.471, 141.02; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.712, 206.13 def. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.702, 206.67; Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.690, 205.41 def. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, DQ; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.673, 207.53 def. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.709, 206.99; Shane Gray, Camaro, 6.663, 207.40 def. Curt Steinbach, Camaro, 6.871, 201.52; Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.651, 207.78 def. Kenny Delco, Cobalt, 6.869, 202.15; Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.665, 207.46 def. Larry Morgan, Ford Mustang, 6.770, 205.04;

QUARTERFINALS — Line, 6.707, 206.95 def. Connolly, 17.884, 43.65; Enders-Stevens, 6.697, 207.15 def. Anderson, foul; J. Gray, 6.703, 206.80 def. S. Gray, 6.703, 207.40; Coughlin, 6.671, 207.05 def. Nobile, 6.702, 207.05;

SEMIFINALS — J. Gray, 6.730, 206.23 def. Line, 6.726, 206.39; Enders-Stevens, 6.703, 207.11 def. Coughlin, foul;

FINAL — Enders-Stevens, 6.698, 207.15 def. J. Gray, 13.480, 64.40.

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Here’s the updated points standings after Sunday’s race at Bristol:

Top Fuel: 1.  Doug Kalitta, 902; 2.  Antron Brown, 782; 3.  Shawn Langdon, 751; 4.  Spencer Massey, 652; 5.  Steve Torrence, 617; 6.  Tony Schumacher, 557; 7.  Khalid alBalooshi, 535; 8.  Brittany Force, 502; 9.  Richie Crampton, 464; 10.  J.R. Todd, 429.

Funny Car: 1.  Robert Hight, 905; 2.  John Force, 640; 3.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 627; 4.  Alexis DeJoria, 619; 5.  Del Worsham, 593; 6.  Courtney Force, 581; 7.  Ron Capps, 571; 8.  Cruz Pedregon, 538; 9.  Tim Wilkerson, 533; 10.  Matt Hagan, 527.

Pro Stock: 1.  Erica Enders-Stevens, 908; 2.  Jeg Coughlin, 753; 3.  Allen Johnson, 704; 4.  Jason Line, 698; 5.  Shane Gray, 651; 6.  Vincent Nobile, 617; 7.  Dave Connolly, 587; 8.  V. Gaines, 487; 9.  Chris McGaha, 459; 10.  Rodger Brogdon, 390.

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Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.