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The Bristol Motor Speedway has long been one of the most iconic facilities of any genre of powersports, but the tradition of the adjacent Bristol Dragway runs just as deep.

The first National Championships in Spring 1965 were the first NHRA national event held in the Southeast. From the IHRA and AHRA to the NHRA, the unique facility known as Thunder Valley has been a mecca for fans of fearsome hot rods, daredevil pilots and blazing speeds.

For the free-spirited residents of the far southwest of Virginia in Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City, it was a rite of passage to spend a breathtaking day perched on the towering concrete grandstands of Thunder Valley.

Concrete has since been replaced with modern seating and suites, but Thunder Valley’s exotic appeal remains.

The 2021 Thunder Valley National Championships will be remembered for the all-women final between Karen Stoffer and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle, the raw emotion of resurgent Funny Car winner Alexis DeJoria, and the classic story of the underdog of Salinas in Top Fuel.

Unfortunately, the main stage of NHRA competition continues to be run by older drivers from mega-teams. Just like in NASCAR, it is difficult for a talented youngster to get into the sport without a family connection to an existing operation or a wealthy dad.

The NHRA could also benefit from a stronger social media presence, increased exposure to television and especially radio, and greater awareness in the community.

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