BRISTOL, Tenn. (WJHL) – The roar of engines has returned to Bristol, albeit a weekend ahead of Father’s Day this year, as the Thunder Valley Nationals kicked off under the lights on Friday night.

But, for drivers in the Top Fuel and Funny Car divisions, there was more than just qualifying at stake.

“I think for everybody this is going to be a Bristol to remember,” Top Fuel top qualifier Leah Pruett said.

Fans were asked to close their eyes and picture themselves in Epping, New Hampshire for a portion of the action. It is the site of the NHRA’s New England Nationals event, however, it was rained out last weekend before it could be completed.

So, on Friday night at Bristol Dragway, drivers pulled up to the starting line looking to gain good qualifying position, as well as advance in the elimination round of the New England Nationals.

“I know they finished a round or two before at other races, but not an entire race,” Funny Car top qualifier Robert Hight said.

Hight turned in the top qualifying time of 3.938 seconds, while also advancing to the second round of the New England Nationals.

“It’s a different mindset going up there and qualifying,” he said. “You know, you’ve got to cut a light and be ready and, you know, still try to shallow stage and put up the best you can. So, it’s a little different.”

Pruett surged to the top spot of Top Fuel qualifying with a run of 3.745 seconds, despite some early trouble.

“We smoked the tires in Q1 within the first quarter of a revolution,” she said. “What that gives you going into the first round is not a lot of confidence.”

But, Pruett stayed the course, despite the emotions of a qualifying and elimination merging together.

“You combine all those emotions in one and – you’re already tapped out, so you just live at this high level of what’s the best that you can be.”

Erica Enders clocked the top qualifying time in Pro Stock at 6.627 seconds, while Gaige Herrera turned in a top qualifying time on the Pro Stock Motorcycle of 6.820 seconds.

Qualifying continues at 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.