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Friday September 30th, 2016 4:16PM

Johnson, Jr. breaks drought with Thunder Valley win

By Pete McCole
  Contact Editor
BRISTOL, TN - Tommy Johnson, Jr. scored his first NHRA victory in seven years with a win over Tim Wilkerson in the Funny Car finals in Sunday's Thunder Valley Nationals NHRA Mello Mello Drag Racing Series event at Bristol Dragway.<br /> <br /> Defending Top Fuel World Champion Shawn Langdon defeated Doug Kalitta to score his first Wally of the season, while Pro Stock points leader Erica Ender-Stevens notched her third win of the year with a victory over Jonathan Gray.<br /> <br /> "Upset" was the word of the day in Sunday's eliminations as none of the top qualifiers in the top three divisions made it out of the second round, with Top Fuel No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force falling to "The Greek" Chris Karamesines in the opening round.<br /> <br /> Tommy Johnson, Jr., competing in his first full NHRA season since 2008, advanced to his first final round of the season and beat out Wilkerson for his first win since Englishtown in 2007, breaking a 53-race final-round drought and collecting his 10th-career win.<br /> <br /> Johnson, who came into Sundays eliminations as the fifth qualifier, knocked out Cruz Pedregon, points leader Robert Hight and Matt Hagan to reach the finals for a first-ever money-round match-up against Wilkerson.<br /> <br /> At the start, both drivers left the tree even, but Johnson quickly pulled ahead. Despite losing cylinders at the 700-foot mark, Johnson managed to hold on for the win, going 4.156 at 302.14 over Wilkerson's 4.423, 227.34.<br /> <br /> "I'm thrilled that we were able to get it done and all that work paid off," Johnson, Jr. said. "The guys did a great job today. We've qualified great we just couldn't get it to go our way on race day. We've been competitive and we just couldn't close the deal. It's tough out here. I wanted to prove that we're not in a slump and we needed to step it up a little bit and we did."<br /> <br /> Hight remains atop the points standings in the Funny Car division over his boss
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