Rod Short
March 1, 2009
Photos By: Keith Keplinger
What would a drag race event be without the popular nighttime jet car exhibition run? Young or old, people race to the stands when they hear that jet turbine start up.

Fun Ford's annual stopover in Bristol, Tennessee, has always been one of the best stops on the tour. Bristol Dragway ranks among the top 10 tracks in the country while the location also offers an easy drive for racers and fans coming from many directions. It also represents the spiritual home for many door-slammer fanatics as this was the same area where bootleggers gained fame as they ran from the law in their souped-up hot rods.

However, there was a lot more than just hot rods at this 17th annual FFW Thunder Valley Nationals. A great swap meet, manufacturer's midway, car corral, live musical entertainment, two-day car show and, oh yes, a race all took place at once. Best yet, this event represented an annual get-together for a lot of racers and fans that don't see each other during any other time of the year. Several new faces were competing this year as Seth Johnson and Mike Bellew made their debuts. Todd Amandus made another appearance in his camouflage-colored Mustang with Dennis Lugo making the tuning calls.

In the opening round of eliminations, Johnson took out Amandus 7.165 to 7.623 to pick up his first career win in eliminations while Schorr battered Bellew 6.581 to 8.680. Brinsfield singled with a 6.450. Round two saw Johnson slow to an 8.162 against Brinsfield's 6.492 while Schorr got the bye to set up another final round between the pair. Schorr, who's been in every final this season, launched hard against Brinsfield, but had to shut off when the car went sideways as Brinsfield sped to a 6.450 at 219.65 mph to grab his second win of the year.

Performance 2-Way Communications saw Frank Mewshaw grab his first career pole and his first final round in this eighth-mile Battle of the Brands, but a victory was just not meant to be as he was unable to make it to the line. John Choate, making his second appearance of the year in Terry Taylor's nitrous Mustang, ran a solid 4.728 at 155.96, but fell to a foul start as points leader Conrad Scarry ran a 4.579 at 160.65. With Mewshaw unable to make the call, Scarry dodged a bullet as a broken camshaft kept him from making a competitive run. Even so, it was another victory as Scarry appears to have clinched the season championship with just one more race to go.

In ProCharger Street Renegade, it was a showdown between the six different true 10.5 winners as all six of the previous winners were represented in the nine-car field. Sam Vincent was the low qualifier with a 7.569 at 181.81. In eliminations, Joe Morgan upset defending class champ Travis Franklin while Angel Padilla and Mike Modeste defeated John Worley and Steve Angell respectively. Don Burton then took out former champ Ronnie Wilson as Vincent got the bye into the next round.

Disaster struck in round two as Padilla, who had just assumed the points lead from Franklin, crashed hard against Vincent and destroyed his new car, which had just made its debut at this race. That round actually took two cars out of eliminations as Vincent hurt his engine on that pass and had to retire from further competition. Former NSCA Limited Street champ Modeste then took out Joe Morgan while Burton got a single. In the end Modeste made his second final round in a row after winning at Norwalk, but it was Burton in the winner's circle as he became the first driver to pick up his second event win of the year in Renegade.

Other heads-up Showdown winners included Mac Sibley taking a big win over Tom Conrad Jr. in Borla Street Bandit. In grabbing his second consecutive event win of the year at Bristol, Sibley was able to leave Bristol with a 39-point lead over Conrad despite missing the first event of the year. Conrad, on the other hand, was the winner in Saleen Speedlab Street Stang as the "hardest working man in motorsports" padded the points lead in that class.