BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 09, 2023) – Robert Hight and the Cornwell Tools / AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS team are the provisional No. 1 qualifiers Friday night at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Robert Hight, who is running the Thunder Valley Nationals in the Cornwell Tools Chevy Camaro and the completion of the New England Nationals from Epping, N.H. in the AAA Chevy Camaro, kicked off the busy race weekend by running a clean 4.039-second pass at 318.17 mph to be the second quickest of the first session.
In the second qualifying session and also the first round of the New England Nationals, Hight handled the AAA Chevy to a 3.938-second pass at 321.35 mph defeating Alexis DeJoria’s 3.999 at 322.88 mph. The round win also put the Cornwell Tools Chevy into the provisional No. 1 qualifying spot.
“This is all new for all of us, running an entire race within another race. We’ve done a couple of rounds before but never an entire race. It’s a different mindset going up there in qualifying. You have to cut a light, be ready, still try to shallow stage and put up the best elapsed time,” Hight said. “This is exciting for the fans and also exciting to race at night. There’s not a better setting in all of motorsports than Thunder Valley here in the evening as the sun is going down. It’s beautiful. Fans got their money's worth.
“Good job to the Cornwell Tools / AAA team. Bit of a different situation for us. We felt that AAA didn’t get much coverage last weekend in Epping, N.H. So, we worked with Cornwell Tools. I really want to thank them for letting us run the AAA car during qualifying and giving AAA what they deserve from missing out on all of Sunday racing in Epping,” Hight continued. “We’ll be back in the Cornwell car on Sunday. It’s a little different, feels like I’m changing sponsors almost every weekend, we started the year with four races with Flav-R-Pac. I’ve got to look down, check my hat, see what uniform I’m wearing but we got plenty of bodies. It’s all just different but I'm having fun working with these great companies.”
Leah Pruett raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead on Friday at Bristol Dragway, taking the provisional No. 1 spot at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, and Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also earned provisional low qualifier awards at the eighth of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. The first round of eliminations in Top Fuel and Funny Car from the postponed NHRA New England Nationals also took place on Friday in Bristol.
Pruett put together a run of 3.745-seconds at 322.42 mph in her 11,000-horsepower Rush Truck Centers dragster, as the standout for Tony Stewart Racing looks to pick up her first No. 1 qualifier this season and 14th in her career. Pruett’s run also gave her a first-round win in the postponed NHRA New England Nationals, which are being completed this weekend in Bristol. With a chance for a big weekend during the doubleheader event, Pruett was thrilled with her start on Friday.
“We had a lot of chaos, but staying calm in those moments was huge,” said Pruett. “I love running at night and that was an incredible feeling. The fans are so loud here in Bristol and I just love it. This is absolutely going to be a Bristol to remember this weekend. We got to enjoy that moment and now we’ll go back into raceday mode for tomorrow. I like how we’re racing right now and I want to just continue to build on that.”
Erica Enders bounced back in a big way on Friday and made a strong statement in the process, going to the No. 1 spot in her Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage/Melling Performance Chevrolet with a run of 6.627 at 205.88. It puts Enders, the reigning and five-time world champion, on track to earn her first No. 1 spot of the season and the 30th in her incredible career. Enders and her team have worked hard to get things back on track, and the car showed signs in Chicago made another huge jump with Friday’s strong run.
“We feel like we figured out what our problem was Chicago E1, we made the run and were low for the session, tested, and it translated here,” said Enders. “I'm just super excited to be back on the pole. That's not something that really means a whole lot to me because I don't love it, but it's just, it's exciting.
“I know it's only race seven, but it feels like seven years. It's been excruciating. Today we made big strides in the right direction for our whole organization, and what we found is going to translate to all of our cars. I think you can look for really great things from our Elite Motorsports camp.”
Gaige Herrera continued to put on an impressive show, going 6.820 at 196.63 in the second session on his Mission Foods/Vance & Hines Suzuki to grab the provisional No. 1 position. It’s the fourth straight track where Herrera is making his NHRA debut this year and he’s won at the first three thus far. He’s also on track to earn his fourth straight No. 1 qualifier as Herrera bounced back with a stellar run after a subpar one to open the day.
“It’s very cool to be racing here at Bristol,” Herrera said. “Based on what Andrew [Hines] and Eddie [Krawiec] and a few riders told me, it definitely played out how they said it would. This track is different and you have to be more aware.
“After the first round, I was just mad at myself for what I did. It just made me more determined to ride better and do better. I went out there like it was raceday, I pushed the tree, and I rode as best I could. It lit a fire under me, and I went out there and rode the bike how I know I can.”
The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway continues Saturday with qualifying at 2 p.m. that will include the quarterfinals of the NHRA New England Nationals. The New England Nationals semifinals will take place at 4:15 p.m. and the final qualifying session as well as the New England Nationals final round will be at 5:30 p.m. Eliminations for the Thunder Valley Nationals are set to begin at noon on Sunday.
Television coverage on FOX Sports 1 (FS1) continues Saturday with the remaining NHRA New England Nationals coverage at 10:30 p.m. ET. Sunday at 12:30 p.m. ET will be a second Thunder Valley Nationals qualifying show and at 7:00 p.m. ET will air the Thunder Valley Nationals eliminations.
Content: JFR PR | NHRA
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