Bristol, TN

NHRA Thunder Reins in Bristol Tennessee This Weekend

John M. Dabbs

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Nitro Nights 2/19/2020Bristol Dragway/Facebook

Iconic Thunder Valley is once again amid the busiest drag strips in the country. At the close of racing this Sunday, it will mark the 70th operational day of 2021 for Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tennessee. The fans continue to provide valuable input for the Bristol Speedway and Dragway staff. The year has been busy despite the pandemic. Thunder Valley continues to provide a venue chocked full of events to meet the thirst of hot-rod enthusiasts.

“Whether you are a fan of big-dollar bracket races, enjoy watching street cars go fast or love the wild rumble of Top Fuel Harleys, Thunder Valley has something special in store for you in 2021,” said Jerry Caldwell, executive vice president and general manager of Bristol Motor Speedway and Dragway (February 2021 press release)

Big boys in town

The "Big Boys" are back in town this weekend, as the track celebrates its 20th anniversary working with the NHRA. The NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway will become a critical playoff race in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Countdown t the Championship.

Fans can meet and interact with their favorite drivers, and see them in the pits as they work on their cars. Take photos and get autographs by getting your tickets, as each one is a pit pass. The NHRA will have your favorites on hand:

  • Top Fuel Dragsters
  • Fuel Funny Cars
  • Pro Stock Motorcycle
  • Pro Mod
  • Super Stock
  • Stock Eliminator
  • Super Comp
  • Super Gas
  • Top Dragster

When these bad boys crank up and burn out in front of the tower, you can feel it all the way to your bones. Maybe you too will show up and take in the 300 MPH action.

In August the drag strip first saw the powerful American V-Twin Motorcycles of the American Motorcycle Racing Association. These came with assorted classes:

  • Top Fuel
  • Nitro Funny Bike
  • Pro Fuel
  • Pro Gas
  • Pro Mod
  • Modified
  • Outlaw Street

Next Gen

The future of the sport was showcased with the NHRA Jr. Drag Racing Eastern Conference Finals. Bristol Dragway continues to host the event since they arrived in 2004 (excluding 2020 due to COVID and scheduling conflicts). More than 500 drag racers, ranging in age from 6-17, came together in Bristol in July for a week of racing.

The next generation made a good showing. The sport is in good hands, based upon their performance this year.

Street fights

You won't have to shell out big money to see what you can do in your own car. The drag strip is a favorite location for the Thunder Valley Street fights. The track was able to add five dates to this year's calendar for people to race their street-legal vehicles on the historic Bristol Dragway. They remain a favorite and drew great crowds again this year.

Business is booming

Business is booming at the Bristol Dragway. Not only does the track continue to attract traditional hotrods and pros for racing, autocross, and street racers. They provide the customer service and facility that have people coming back for more of the hospitality known throughout the region.

The drag strip continues to be a reckoning force in the regional entertainment world, not only with sports, but with this year the venue brought Alabama's 50th Anniversary Tour to the Thunder Valley Amphitheater. The historic dragway is easily transformed into a perfect concert and performance venue. This year the complex has not only hosted concerts, but also the Cabin Fever Laser Light Show.

We anticipate the transformation of the BMS complex for the Speedway In Lights show for the Speedway Children's Charities fundraiser next month. We also wonder what else the speedway and Thunder Valley have in store for us next year. Whatever it may be, I'm sure it will be good.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Johnson City, TN
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