Bernstein Takes First Career
Top Qualifying Position
Dixon Escapes Injury in Spectacular Crash
at Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals
By NHRA Communications
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Brandon Bernstein's dream season continued, but Larry Dixon had a nightmare on his final qualifying attempt Saturday at the Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
Paired side-by-side, rookie Bernstein earned his first No. 1 qualifying award of his career, but in the other lane his rival took a wild ride.
Dixon's Miller Lite dragster went out of control near the finish line, impacted the left guard wall and slid across the track spitting off sparks and flames before coming to rest in the opposite lane.
Dixon, who was not injured in the spectacular crash, walked away from the wreckage stunned more than anything else.
The Top Fuel points leader qualified No. 2 in the 16-car order with a 4.532 second run at 323.74 mph and will face Don Lampus in his back-up car in Sunday's first round of eliminations (noon).
"I'm more disappointed about ruining a great race car than anything else," Dixon said. "I'm not sure what happened. I was going for the parachutes and it started to feel like a tire was going down. The next thing I know I'm into the wall. I'm OK and will be ready to race in the morning."
Bernstein posted a track record performance of 4.530 at 328.22 in the Budweiser dragster to end Doug Kalitta's season-long top qualifying streak. Kalitta, who opened the season with five straight No. 1 performances to tie Gary Beck's record from 1983, was fifth with a 4.564 at 289.94 in the Mac Tools dragster.
"Kalitta has a great team over there as we've all seen and they can put the numbers up there but it's good to get them out of that streak," Bernstein said. "It's awesome to get the No. 1 qualifying position. I really couldn't believe what happened to Larry. I saw a bright flash and then saw something fly over my car, so I knew something went wrong. He was behind me so I really didn't see what happened. I stopped the car right away and went back there to check on him. Fortunately he was OK."
Tony Pedregon and Warren Johnson also were No. 1 qualifiers in their categories for the $1.2 million race, the sixth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Pedregon scored the 20th top qualifying effort of his career with a track record run of 4.765 at 322.81 in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Force Racing teammates John Force (4.775, 323.04) and Gary Densham (4.796, 325.06) were second and third in the order in identically prepared Mustangs, giving the team the top three spots for the second time this season.
"Getting low E.T. is nice, but our goal is to go rounds and win races on Sunday," Pedregon said. "It's nice to see our team step up and get the top three positions. Depending on what the weather does tomorrow, we could have a situation to go a little quicker and faster than we did today. But our primary goal is to win. That's what we're focused on."
In Pro Stock, Johnson claimed his 129th career No. 1 qualifying position with a 6.862 at 200.62 in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac Grand Am.
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the Third annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals at Bristol Dragway, the sixth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended Saturday.
Top Fuel -- 1. Brandon Bernstein, 4.530 seconds, 328.38 mph vs. 16. Josh Starcher, 4.719, 306.05; 2. Larry Dixon, 4.532, 323.74 vs. 15. Don Lampus, 4.705, 299.26; 3. Tony Schumacher, 4.542, 326.40 vs. 14. Bruce Litton, 4.687, 311.77; 4. Darrell Russell, 4.547, 322.34 vs. 13. John Smith, 4.677, 316.08; 5. Doug Kalitta, 4.564, 289.94 vs. 12. Clay Millican, 4.633, 308.50; 6. Doug Herbert, 4.565, 311.85 vs. 11. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 4.630, 319.45; 7. Jim Head, 4.588, 317.42 vs. 10. Paul Romine, 4.628, 308.35; 8. David Baca, 4.599, 315.27 vs. 9. Cory McClenathan, 4.601, 327.27.
Funny Car -- 1. Tony Pedregon, Ford Mustang, 4.765, 322.81 vs. 16. Bob Gilbertson, Pontiac Firebird, 4.979, 306.95; 2. John Force, Mustang, 4.775, 323.04 vs. 15. Frank Pedregon, Firebird, 4.976, 301.33; 3. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.796, 325.06 vs. 14. Cruz Pedregon, Firebird, 4.948, 300.53; 4. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Camaro, 4.805, 314.83 vs. 13. Dale Creasy Jr., Firebird, 4.930, 308.50; 5. Whit Bazemore, Dodge Stratus, 4.807, 317.57 vs. 12. Tim Wilkerson, Firebird, 4.895, 314.61; 6. Johnny Gray, Firebird, 4.852, 313.37 vs. 11. Scotty Cannon, Firebird, 4.880, 312.13; 7. Ron Capps, Camaro, 4.852, 308.71 vs. 10. Del Worsham, Firebird, 4.875, 314.24; 8. Gary Scelzi, Stratus, 4.869, 320.43 vs. 9. Dean Skuza, Firebird, 4.870, 307.86.
Pro Stock -- 1. Warren Johnson, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.862, 200.62 vs. 16. Troy Coughlin, Chevy Cavalier, 6.912, 198.41; 2. Greg Anderson, Grand Am, 6.864, 201.25 vs. 15. Taylor Lastor, Cavalier, 6.911, 199.43; 3. Mike Edwards, Grand Am, 6.881, 199.26 vs. 14. Mark Pawuk, Grand Am, 6.905, 199.02; 4. Bruce Allen, Grand Am, 6.886, 199.40 vs. 13. George Marnell, Grand Am, 6.904, 198.29; 5. Kurt Johnson, Cavalier, 6.887, 200.44 vs. 12. Barry Grant, Cavalier, 6.901, 198.93; 6. Greg Stanfield, Dodge Neon R/T, 6.891, 199.76 vs. 11. Mark Whisnant, Cavalier, 6.900, 198.17; 7. Scott Geoffrion, Ford Escort, 6.894, 199.97 vs. 10. Jeg Coughlin, Cavalier, 6.897, 199.46; 8. Ron Krisher, Cavalier, 6.894, 199.05 vs. 9. Terry Adams, Cavalier, 6.896, 200.00.