Del Worsham (FC), Brittany Force (TF), Shane Gray (PS) top NHRA qualifiers at Bristol on Friday

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Rain shortened Friday’s first two rounds of qualifying for the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway.

Del Worsham was able to earn the top spot in Funny Car before NHRA officials cancelled the remainder of the day’s second session midway through Funny Car’s second qualifying round.

Brittany Force was the top qualifier in Top Fuel, while Shane Gray earned top qualifying honors in Pro Stock.

The third and fourth qualifying rounds will be held Saturday, weather permitting. Final eliminations are scheduled for Sunday.

Worsham, the 2011 Top Fuel world champion, set both ends of the track record in his DHL Toyota Camry with a performance of 3.992 seconds at 319.45 mph. Worsham, who was the No. 1 qualifier at Bristol last season, seeks a third career win at Bristol.

“To come back here at Bristol and do it again is pretty exciting,” Worsham said in a NHRA media release. “The run was smooth and clean. Everybody on the team went after it. This is definitely a great track at Bristol with great fans.”

Worsham has shown championship form this season with two semifinal finishes and one runner-up finish. The veteran California driver, who currently sits in fourth in the points standings, is in position to repeat his winnings ways at Bristol.

“We’ve been making some great runs this season,” Worsham said. “It’s bittersweet that a few guys did not get a run because of the rain, but we hope we can continues where we left off tomorrow.”

Tim Wilkerson’s Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang holds the second position with a 4.013 at 317.72. Three-time Bristol winner Ron Capps sits in third with a performance of 4.024 at 316.38 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger.

Force, the 2013 Auto Club Road to the Future Award winner, set the pace in Top Fuel in her Castrol Edge dragster with a performance of 3.828 at 317.94.

“When they told me I was No. 1, I was shocked,” Force said. “It’s unfortunate with the rain, but I’m excited to be on the top of the field.”

The sophomore driver is seeking her second No. 1 qualifying position of the season.

J.R. Todd is second with a performance of 3.835 at 315.12 in his Optima Batteries/Bounty Hunter dragster followed by 2012 world champion Antron Brown with a 3.873 at 313.07.

Gray topped the Pro Stock field with a performance of 6.644 seconds at 207.88 mph at the controls of his Gray Manufacturing Chevy Camaro. Gray is seeking his first career No. 1 qualifying position.

“I’m thrilled for the program put together by my dad,” Gray said. “It’s a good team bringing the scheme we had last year. If it holds tomorrow, it’s hard to say because you have a tough field out there. It’s a work in progress and anybody’s race.”

Allen Johnson was second with a run of 6.657 seconds at 206.73 mph in his Mopar/Magnetti Marelli Dodge Dart, while his teammate, reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, was third in his JEGS.com/Mopar Dodge Dart with a pass of 6.657 at 206.64.

Pro Stock series leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464 seconds, 215.55 mph) in Englishtown, is sixth overall after two rounds of qualifying.

 

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Here’s Friday’s qualifying results for the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway:

Top Fuel — 1. Brittany Force, 3.828 seconds, 317.94 mph; 2. J.R. Todd, 3.835, 315.12; 3. Antron Brown, 3.873, 313.07; 4. Spencer Massey, 3.876, 312.93; 5. Shawn Langdon, 3.893, 316.75; 6. Leah Pritchett, 3.898, 309.13; 7. Khalid alBalooshi, 3.900, 315.42; 8. Clay Millican, 3.909, 261.42; 9. Bob Vandergriff, 3.913, 321.12; 10. Richie Crampton, 3.939, 250.97; 11. Doug Kalitta, 3.969, 292.84; 12. Chris Karamesines, 4.485, 190.08.  Not Qualified: 13. Pat Dakin, 4.644, 163.89; 14. Billy Torrence, 4.771, 162.63; 15. Terry McMillen, 5.150, 137.39; 16. Tony Schumacher, 28.000, no speed.

Funny Car — 1. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.992, 319.45; 2. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.013, 317.72; 3. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.024, 316.38; 4. Robert Hight, Mustang, 4.074, 315.27; 5. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.074, 306.60; 6. Courtney Force, Mustang, 4.077, 313.07; 7. John Force, Mustang, 4.099, 306.81; 8. Matt Hagan, Charger, 4.111, 308.99; 9. Chad Head, Camry, 4.118, 313.22; 10. Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 4.121, 305.29; 11. Jack Beckman, Charger, 4.123, 308.99; 12. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.127, 299.86.  Not Qualified: 13. Bob Tasca III, 4.143, 306.81; 14. Tony Pedregon, 9.230, 72.90; 15. Justin Schriefer, 9.475, 73.52; 16. Jeff Arend, 11.442, 64.41.

Pro Stock — 1. Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.644, 207.88; 2. Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.657, 207.37; 3. Jeg Coughlin, Dart, 6.657, 206.64; 4. Jonathan Gray, Camaro, 6.668, 206.89; 5. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.673, 207.02; 6. Erica Enders-Stevens, Camaro, 6.673, 206.86; 7. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.677, 207.21; 8. Rodger Brogdon, Camaro, 6.680, 206.51; 9. Dave Connolly, Camaro, 6.681, 206.07; 10. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.689, 206.92; 11. V. Gaines, Dart, 6.691, 206.54; 12. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.693, 207.18.  Not Qualified: 13. Shane Tucker, 6.723, 206.04; 14. Larry Morgan, 6.736, 203.98; 15. John Gaydosh Jr, 6.951, 198.93; 16. Kenny Delco, 7.076, 197.68; 17. Curt Steinbach, 7.562, 158.46.

Road to the 2023 Daytona 500 is unpaved for Travis Pastrana, who’ll try DIRTcar Nationals

Pastrana DIRTcar Nationals
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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Travis Pastrana will attempt to make his first NASCAR Cup series race on February 19 with the grandaddy of them all, the Daytona 500, but his road to get there will not be paved and his car will have only two fenders as he tackles Florida Speedweeks and the DIRTcar Nationals.

In mid-January, it was announced Pastrana will attempt to qualify a third car from 23XI Racing that fields fulltime entries for Bubba Wallace and Tyler Reddick. Sponsorship will come from Black Rifle Coffee, who approached him during the offseason to ask what kind of “really cool stuff” he would like to do. Pastrana replied, “the Daytona 500” with a characteristic laugh in his voice.

“It’s good,” Pastrana said in a release. “We’re going to go down, we’re going to go hangout with [NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion] Matt Crafton, one of [Black Rifle’s] drivers, we’ll go to Modified races and watch all the Late Models. We’ll watch the racing, and we’ll bring [United States military] veterans down and hangout with [Steve] Arpin.”

But there is a saying among dirt track fans that goes, ‘asphalt is for getting to the track; dirt is for racing’ – and Pastrana is taking that to heart.

After racing on the snow in Nitro Rallycross February 4-5 in Calgary, Alberta, the original plan was to head to Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida to watch the modified and late model races. Until Crafton called him out for not racing.

Pastrana relayed the conversation: “I told Crafton [I was coming to watch] and he goes, ‘Ah, too much of a sissy to drive?’ I called Arpin, and said, ‘So, Longhorn, I heard you guys have vehicles that can kick the crap out of Crafton’s vehicle.’ [Arpin] said, ‘Yeah, if you don’t suck, you can beat him.’ I said, ‘Alright, I’m in.’”

The DIRTcar Nationals run from February 6-18. The first week features six UMP Modified Mains each night they run, on Monday (Feb. 6), Friday (Feb. 10), and then the prestigious Gator Championship race on Saturday (Feb. 11). Pastrana hopes to run every night in one of Arpin’s cars, also with sponsorship from Black Riffle Coffee.

And this is not just for bragging rights; there is money on the line. Pastrana and Crafton have a $1 bet on who has the best finish.

While Pastrana is accustomed pitching his car sideways on a combination of left and right turns in a rally car – he won the Nitro Rallycross race at ERX Motorsports Park in Minneapolis, Minnesota last October and became the first two-time winner in the 2022/23 season at Wild Horse Pass in Phoenix, Arizona in November – the DIRTcar Nationals will be an entirely different proposition.

It took a day for Pastrana to get comfortable in the modified. And it took a little coaching from Arpin, who has experience in both dirt modifieds and rally cars to make him fast.

“[Arpin] showed up the second day after hearing how bad the first day was,” Pastrana said, which is confirmed in the Instagram post embedded above. “But he just told me, until you commit, it’s not going to work. Once I committed, it started making a lot of sense. But coming in, if you’re lifting off the gas while trying to turn, it just doesn’t turn and all your natural instincts say, ‘Don’t get on the gas.’ So, yeah, I feel like it should suit my driving style because I’m more of an aggressive sideways type of driver, but it was very difficult. Turning and sliding, I’m fine. Getting it there is not the easiest.”

Pastrana has one previous start in a dirt late model that came in the 2010 Prelude to the Dream. He finished 23rd in the 27-car field and was three laps off the pace. He wasn’t the only driver having difficulty getting a feel for the car that night; Jeff Gordon finished on the same lap, only one position ahead of him.

Travis Pastrana will race one of Steve Arpin’s dirt modifieds during Florida Speedweeks as he prepares for the 2023 Daytona 500. – Jacy Norgaard, World Racing Group

The price of the weekend could well exceed the dollar he may lose to Crafton.

“It’s going to be an expensive weekend,” Pastrana said. “Not everything is covered. If I crash anything, it is going to be all on me. This is one of those things where I want to come down and have fun. I want to hang out with the crowd, I want to sign autographs and give high fives. Especially for the Modified crew, that’s the grassroots racing that I love and some of my friends are involved with. We’ll be camping down there with Arpin and all the Longhorn guys, just hanging out. I feel like that’s a great opportunity for us to bring a lot of [US] veterans and bring people that are into racing and aren’t into racing, friends and family, and just have an awesome time.”

And it’s not out of the question that Pastrana could add another top-10 to his record book in the DIRTcar Nationals. After the rocky first day, Pastrana gained speed. Enough so that Arpin’s confidence was raised.

“We’re pretty confident Crafton is going to have to run hard to keep his dollar,” Arpin said.