WCYB TV News Anchor Kristen Quon was the last celebrity to sign up for the 2023 Thunder Valley Celebrity Drag Challenge with a late email on Tuesday night, but on Wednesday afternoon she emerged No. 1 when the smoke cleared at historic Bristol Dragway.

The popular event that pits local celebrities in head-to-head meetings on the legendary Bristol Dragway quarter-mile in a variety of late model sedans is the official kick-off of activities for the prestigious NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, which rolls into town next weekend, June 9-11. The highly-anticipated race is round No. 8 of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Defending NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Top Fuel winner Justin Ashley was on hand to coach and assist the Celebrities with their on-track pursuits and also to provide a sneak preview of the racing action next weekend.

Quon, who anchors the evening news at 6 and 11 for WCYB, marched through the tough eliminations ladder like she was a drag racing veteran, eventually meeting WJHL TV Sports Director Kenny Hawkins in a tough final round matchup. Quon used a quick start to pull ahead and take the win over Hawkins, whose Dodge Charger lost traction momentarily at the hit of the throttle.

Along the way to her first career victory in the Thunder Valley Celebrity Drag Challenge, Quon defeated Chris McIntosh of Daytime Tri-Cities, WCYB News Reporter Andrew McClung, and Tri-Cities Airport’s Kristi Haulsee.

“I’m so glad I decided to do this, and I swear I don’t usually drive this fast,” Quon said with a smile as she held the winning trophy and plaque. “This was so much fun.”

Hawkins, who has won awards for his Touchdown Friday Night high school football coverage, took home the runner-up plaque for his efforts. Before losing to Quon, Hawkins advanced to the final with wins over WCYB Sports Anchor Lauren Bradford, Bristol Police Chief Matt Austin and a titan semifinal round pairing against noted actor and director Jeremy Ray Taylor, from nearby Bluff City, who has appeared in the Stephen King thriller IT, Goosebumps 2, Big Sky, and Senior Year, among other Hollywood films.

Hawkins also led the group in the special performance awards by claiming the plaque for the Best Reaction Time at .240.  The award for the Fastest Speed went to King University basketball coach Jason Gillespie at 97.84 mph. The Quickest Time was claimed by Team Jeremy Ray Taylor’s Kaylee Benzing at 14.957 seconds. Veteran Bristol Herald-Courier Sports Reporter Allen Gregory scored the plaque for posting the Slowest Speed, at 77.37 mph.

The Practice Tree Challenge title was won by Jeremy Ray Taylor and Kristen Quon added the runner-up plaque to her collection of awards.

After each racer received a practice round run and instruction from NHRA driver Ashley, the 22-racer field bracket was set via blind draw, with an eight racer Race in Round to make to the Field of 16. Below are the results of each head-to-head race during the Thunder Valley Celebrity Drag Challenge.

Race in Round:

Chris Carrier, NASCAR Crew Chief def. Allen Gregory, Bristol Herald-Courier sports reporter
Kaylie Burzing, Team Jeremy Ray Taylor def. Casey Goetz, WCYB News Anchor
Alicia Phelps, NETTA Executive Director def. Beth Rhinehart, Bristol Chamber of Commerce CEO
Elon Werner, Werner Communications def. Carter Dorton, King University Basketball Support Staff
Kristen Quon, WCYB News Anchor def. Chris McIntosh, WJHL Daytime Tri-Cities Host
Andrew McClung, WCYB News Reporter def. Jason Gillespie, King University Basketball Coach

First Round:

Jeremy Ray Taylor, Actor & Director def. Duane Nelson, Holston Broadcasting Reporter
Amy Lynn, Daytime Tri-Cities Host def. Emily Ball, Bristol Herald-Courier Photographer
Kenny Hawkins, WJHL Sports Director def. Lauren Bradford, WCYB Sports Anchor
Matt Austin, Bristol Police Chief def. Jeff Birchfield, Johnson City Press/Kingsport Times-News Sports Reporter
Kristi Haulsee, Tri-Cities Airport Marketing Director def. Nick Dugan, WJHL Sports Anchor
Elon Werner, Werner Communications def. Chris Carrier, NASCAR Crew Chief
Kaylee Benzing, Team Jeremy Ray Taylor def. Alicia Phelps, NETTA Executive Director
Kristen Quon, WCYB News Anchor def. Andrew McClung, WCYB News Reporter

Second Round:

Jeremy Ray Taylor def. Amy Lynn
Kenny Hawkins def. Matt Austin
Kristi Haulsee def. Elon Werner
Kristen Quon def. Kaylee Benzing


Kenny Hawkins def. Jeremy Ray Taylor
Kirsten Quon def. Kristi Haulsee


Kristen Quon def. Kenny Hawkins