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Millican, Prock lead after Friday qualifying at Thunder Valley

BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – The rumbled of hot rods returned to Thunder Valley this weekend, as the SuperGrip Thunder Valley Nationals finished two rounds of qualifying on Friday.

Drivers of all classes took to the track with an extra named fixed to the Legends of Thunder Valley shrine on the grandstands. Shirley Muldowney was a three-time NHRA champion and a pioneer for women in sport of drag racing.

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“First, I didn’t think [my name] was there were they covered it up and then I had stretch my neck and there it was, nice, fresh white paint,” he said on Friday.

Muldowney will be officially honored during pre-race ceremonies on Sunday morning.

It was hot for the first rounds of qualifying. But, even as the lights took effect, the top qualifiers in the pro stock ranks stayed the same in the second session.

Matt Smith clocked a run of 6.788 seconds on his motorcycle, beating out Gaige Herrera, who entered the weekend on an eight-event win streak.

“I messed up a Chicago tune-up on Sunday and I come here to redeem myself,” Smith said. “And now we’re all good. We’re good.”

In the pro stock car, Erica Enders gave herself a leg up in a shot at back-to-back Bristol titles. She qualified on top after two rounds with a time of 6.631 seconds.

“As I mentioned earlier, I feel like I’m getting a better handle on our race car,” she said. “Yeah – two nice runs and it definitely, like, helps the cause going into tomorrow.”

As the sun began to set behind the tower, Austin Prock saved his best run for last. He closed out the Funny Car qualifier by earning the top spot for a sixth time in eight races this season – blazing to a time of 3.958 seconds.

“I definitely leave the starting line a lot better when I’m just cool, calm and collected,” he explained. “So yeah, I’ve just been really just trying to enjoy it, you know, not overthink it, not worry, not get nervous, just have fun.”

Clay Millican finished the night as the Top Fuel top qualifier, reaching speeds of more than 325 miles per hour. He also finished faster than anyone else at 3.786 seconds.

The Midway opens at 10:30 a.m. on Saturday for fans, while pro stock qualification continues at 12:30 p.m.

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