Bristol:

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Doug Kalitta became the first repeat winner of the season in Top Fuel by capturing Sunday's inaugural Mac Tools NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. Ron Capps and Greg Anderson also were winners of the $1.9 ...

BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Doug Kalitta became the first repeat winner of the season in Top Fuel by capturing Sunday's inaugural Mac Tools NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Ron Capps and Greg Anderson also were winners of the $1.9 million race, the sixth of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Kalitta claimed his seventh career victory by powering to a 4.690-second run at 300.75 mph in his Mac Tools dragster to outrun final round opponent Tony Schumacher, whose U.S. Army dragster lost traction near the finish and posted a 5.056 at 217.14.

"This is a dream come true," said Kalitta, the 1994 USAC National Sprint Car champion. "Winning a race at your title sponsor's race with the president of the company and the whole Mac Tools team here cheering us on is pretty special. My first win was the best, but this is a very close second."

Kalitta defeated Rhonda Hartman-Smith, Gary Scelzi and Larry Dixon en route to his second victory of the season. With the win he moved to third in the Winston standings, 26 behind points leader Dixon.

"The competition is so tough in Top Fuel," said Kalitta, who took his first win of the season in Phoenix. "You feel very fortunate to get a win, any win. It's great to be in the points chase and keep fighting for the Winston championship. That's been our goal all along and you've got to win races to get there, so it's nice to have two in the bank already."

Capps scored his 10th career NHRA victory and ninth in Funny Car, edging Al Hofmann in a close final round. Capps powered his Skoal Chevy Camaro to a 5.045 at 288.52 to cross the finish line in front of Hofmann's Pontiac Firebird, which posted a slower 5.154 at 283.79.

"With the history of this track and the fact that Snake (Don Prudhomme, team owner) won here in 1967, this win is very special," said Capps, whose last win came at Memphis last season. "Shoot, I was only two years old back then. What's wild is that the fans here haven't forgotten. They've been lining up to get Snake's autograph and they're all talking about his win here."

Capps' win gives team owner Prudhomme his third victory in as many races: Tommy Johnson Jr. won at Las Vegas, while Dixon took the win at the rain-delayed Mac Tools Gatornationals.

"Three wins in a row for Snake Racing is a tribute to the depth of this team," Capps said. " 'Ace' (Ed McCulloch, crew chief) gave me a four-second car that earned lane choice all day and it turned out great. 'Ace' is my hero. I model myself after him every day."

Said Prudhomme, the Top Fuel winner at the last NHRA national event held at Bristol Dragway in 1967: "I used to ask my wife, 'What am I gonna do when I quit driving?' I thought it would all end. But it's worked out so good for us. I'm proud of Ron. He was my first choice when I started a Funny Car team and he's worth his weight in gold."

John Force, who was upset by Hofmann in the semifinals, holds a 72-point lead over Bruce Sarver, who along with Tim Wilkerson and Bob Gilbertson were victims to Capps' consistently fast machine.

Anderson earned his first-career Pro Stock victory, using a holeshot start to deny two-time Winston champ Jim Yates in a photo-finish. Anderson, a former crew chief for five-time Pro Stock champ Warren Johnson, covered the quarter-mile in 6.993 at 196.85 in a Pontiac Firebird to upset 22-time winner Yates, who posted a quicker, but losing 6.985 at 197.51 in a Pontiac Grand Am.

"I can't believe this weekend," said Anderson, who worked as a crew member for Warren Johnson for 12 years before making his driving debut in 1998. "Everything was flawless. When I got through the lights and saw the win light come on I just about busted out of my seatbelts. I was so happy, kind of like in shock. What a feeling. It's the best thing in the world."

Several first round upsets shook up the Winston standings in Pro Stock, including the fortunes of Warren Johnson, but the five-time champion managed to hold onto a seven point lead over son Kurt.

The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the 21st annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals, May 3-6 at Atlanta Dragway.

-NHRA

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Al Hofmann , Ron Capps , John Force , Rhonda Hartman-Smith , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Tim Wilkerson , Tommy Johnson Jr.