Spencer Massey: “I’m definitely excited to get back out there because I feel like we have our race car back,”
BRISTOL, Tenn. — After back-to-back victories in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Spencer Massey suffered a first-round loss at the most recent event in Englishtown. But to hear the ever-optimistic Top Fuel standout talk, he may be as thrilled to get back in his 10,000-horsepower Battery Extender by Schumacher Electric dragster as he has been at any point in 2014.
“I’m definitely excited to get back out there because I feel like we have our race car back,” Massey said. “The car is moving in the right direction. We need to be running strong and need to be consistently in the 3.70s, and after Englishtown I feel like we have a car and motor that can make that power. Hopefully we can go back to the final round in Bristol and maybe even win it this year.”
Massey and the rest of the NHRA stars return to action June 13-15 for the 14th annual Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), who beat Massey in the final round, John Force (Funny Car) and Rodger Brogdon (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
It is the 10th of 24 events during the 2014 NHRA season and Massey, currently fourth in points, seems intent to make a major statement during the busy summer stretch.
It couldn’t come at a better time, either, as the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals kick off a stretch of four straight race weekends and seven races in eight weeks.
“The car wants to go fast now,” Massey said. “This four-race swing is going to be intense, but we enjoy that. It’s where this team seems to thrive. Our crew has done a great job, and with myself, Phil and Todd, we’ve got a great relationship where we can work though a lot of give and take situations. We all know what it takes during these busy stretches and we’re ready for it.”
That comfort level despite the rigorous upcoming stretch comes from Massey’s ability to work closely with Okuhara and Shuler. With constant communication taking place they are able to put together an impressive game plan, knowing when to push the car when the situation calls for it and knowing when to rely on Massey’s standout talent on the starting line.
Those pressure-packed situations also seem to bring out the best in Massey, who has 16 career victories.
“I like being the best on the tree and I take a lot of pride in that,” Massey said. “I practice it and I thrive in those pressure situations. I enjoy it and you need to do well in those situations, especially during the summer months when the driver may need to get you a couple hundredths.”
Massey had the best of both worlds a year ago at historic Thunder Valley, racing to the No. 1 qualifier, his only one during the 2013 season, and finishing as the runner-up. He hopes to take it one more step this season, though a loaded Top Fuel field has other ideas.
Torrence recorded his first win at Bristol a year ago, but has yet to taste victory in 2014, while everyone is looking up at Doug Kalitta, a three-time winner in Bristol. Other marquee challengers include five-time Bristol winner Tony Schumacher, 2012 world champion Antron Brown, reigning world champ Shawn Langdon, J.R. Todd and Englishtown winner Richie Crampton.
The Bristol experience is enough to get Massey excited for the event, but he believes his team also knows how to succeed at the popular facility.
“It’s cool for the fans and cool for the drivers, and it’s one of those deals where you don’t feel and hear these cars quite like you do in Bristol,” Massey said. “It’s a first-class facility and the track is always good. What makes it special is that you have to be able to run a great time on Friday and then have the driver and crew chief stand out on Sunday when the temperature is so much different.”
Funny Car points leader Robert Hight, who won at Bristol in 2011, is arguably the most consistent driver in NHRA, appearing in five finals out of nine races this season and winning three of them. 16-time Funny Car world champion Force has four career wins at Bristol including his victory over Cruz Pedregon last season, while other Bristol standouts include Ron Capps (three wins) and Del Worsham (two wins). Alexis DeJoria, Matt Hagan, Jack Beckman, Courtney Force and Tommy Johnson Jr. are other talented championship contenders in the class.
Texas native Brogdon secured his first career Pro Stock win at Bristol last season, knocking off Erica Enders-Stevens in the final. This season Enders-Stevens has won twice, is the class points leader and this past weekend in Englishtown reset both ends of the Pro Stock national record (6.464 seconds, 215.55 mph). Other talented drivers chasing her include local favorite Allen Johnson, who has three victories this season but has never won at his home track in Bristol, reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, Greg Anderson, Dave Connolly, Vincent Nobile, Chris McGaha, V Gaines, Shane Gray and Jason Line.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, June 13, with sessions at 5 and 7:30 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, June 14, at 12:30 and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 15.