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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SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”