Bernstein, Force, Anderson and Scali
Earn Top Honors at Atlanta Dragway
By NHRA Communications
COMMERCE, Ga. - Top Fuel rookie Brandon Bernstein earned his second straight No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at the 23rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
John Force, Greg Anderson and Geno Scali also were the No. 1 qualifiers of their respective categories at $1.4 million race, the seventh of 23 races in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Bernstein covered the quarter-mile in the Budweiser dragster in a career-best time of 4.505 seconds at 327.98 mph, both track records, to lead the category.
"I could really tell we were on a good run" Bernstein said. "The wheels were up and they set the car down real nice. You could tell it was a really fast run because the finish line got there awfully fast. I knew right after I clicked it off that it was a good run and I hoped it was going to be good enough for the No. 1 spot. A 4.50 career best is great - it just keeps getting better and better."
Bernstein, the current POWERade points leader following his win at Bristol, Tenn., last week, will face 71-year-old NHRA legend "Big Daddy" Don Garlits in the opening round of eliminations.
"(Racing Garlits) is kind of neat, something special having the hero and legend racing next to me, the youngster and the rookie," said the 30-year-old Bernstein. "It's going to be interesting."
Force earned his 113th No. 1 qualifying position in Funny Car and his first No. 1 spot of the 2003 season. He blasted the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to the finish line in a track record time of 4.768 seconds at 320.13 mph to lead the field heading into eliminations for the sixth time at Atlanta Dragway. Force is looking to regain his championship form as he is trying to recover from a slow start to the 2003 season, not advancing past the second round at any of the first six events and came to Atlanta ninth in the POWERade standings.
"It feels great to be No. 1 for the first time this year," said Force, who will celebrate his 54th birthday Sunday. "Tony (Pedregon) still has the best car out here and what we want to accomplish is winning this race. We're still in learning mode, we're not there yet. All you have to do is look at the numbers between Tony and us."
Force is followed in the Funny Car ladder by teammate and current points leader Pedregon in the Castrol Syntec Mustang and then Atlanta native Whit Bazemore in the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T.
Anderson drove his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am to the top spot in Pro Stock for the fifth time in his career and the third straight year at Atlanta Dragway. Anderson shut the clocks off at 6.821 at a track record speed of 203.00 for top honors.
"We had a good shot at the top spot the last two races but didn't get it done," said Anderson, who has been the runner-up at the Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals the past two seasons. "At least we know that the car is capable of going fast but to get it done I am going to have to drive my butt off. The last couple of races I've been too conservative on the starting line. If you are going to win races in Pro Stock these days you have to get it out of safe mode and set it for kill."
Anderson was followed in the 16-car field by defending POWERade champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. and current Pro Stock points leader Kurt Johnson. Ron Krisher failed to qualify in his Valvoline Chevy Cavalier ending the longest qualifying streak among Pro Stock drivers at 76 consecutive events, dating back to the final race of the 1999 season.
Scali notched his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and of his career, riding his Team Trim-Tex Suzuki to the top of the Pro Stock Bike field with a pass of 7.181 at 186.92. Scali also was the top qualifier at Houston, the last event for competitors in the two-wheel category.
"I was realistically hoping to be in the top five, but how much better can you get than No. 1?" said Scali. "It's really an awesome feeling, To be No. 1 two times in a row is a true testament to this team because we haven't been able to do much testing. We've been doing our testing at the track and now I am getting an idea of where the fine balance with the bike is and it's exciting."
Defending NHRA POWERade champion Angelle Savoie qualified second while her teammate Antron Brown qualified third. Andrew Hines and GT Tonglet both qualified their Vance & Hines Harley Davidson V-Rods in the top half of the field, fifth and eighth respectively. Craig Treble failed to qualify for eliminations atop his Matco Tools Suzuki ending a qualifying streak spanning 58 consecutive events.
COMMERCE, Ga. -- First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the 23rd annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac at Atlanta Dragway, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
1. Brandon Bernstein, 4.505 seconds, 327.98 mph vs. 16. Don Garlits, 4.788, 319.98; 2. Tony Schumacher, 4.553, 326.48 vs. 15. Paul Romine, 4.776, 261.47; 3. David Baca, 4.566, 318.99 vs. 14. Chris Vandergriff, 4.701, 306.95; 4. Cory McClenathan, 4.569, 324.83 vs. 13. John Smith, 4.671, 310.84; 5. Larry Dixon, 4.573, 323.35 vs. 12. Mike Smith, 4.664, 314.83; 6. Doug Kalitta, 4.582, 322.96 vs. 11. Rhonda Hartman-Smith, 4.655, 309.70; 7. Doug Herbert, 4.598, 318.62 vs. 10. Darrell Russell, 4.644, 316.52; 8. Don Lampus, 4.631, 315.05 vs. 9. Clay Millican, 4.641, 312.64.
1. John Force, Ford Mustang, 4.768, 320.13 vs. 16. Bob Gilbertson, Pontiac Firebird, 4.955, 309.20; 2. Tony Pedregon, Mustang, 4.799, 320.58 vs. 15. Dale Creasy Jr., Firebird, 4.938, 312.42; 3. Whit Bazemore, Dodge Stratus, 4.802, 322.73 vs. 14. Tim Wilkerson, Firebird, 4.934, 304.25; 4. Gary Scelzi, Stratus, 4.855, 318.09 vs. 13. Johnny Gray, Firebird, 4.923, 311.13; 5. Gary Densham, Mustang, 4.856, 317.27 vs. 12. Dean Skuza, Firebird, 4.920, 308.57; 6. Frank Pedregon, Firebird, 4.880, 311.77 vs. 11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Chevy Camaro, 4.917, 309.13; 7. Ron Capps, Camaro, 4.892, 313.29 vs. 10. Scotty Cannon, Firebird, 4.911, 288.46; 8. Del Worsham, Firebird, 4.906, 310.41 vs. 9. Cruz Pedregon, Firebird, 4.908, 313.37.
1. Greg Anderson, Pontiac Grand Am, 6.821, 203.00 vs. 16. Mark Whisnant, Chevy Cavalier, 6.872, 199.70; 2. Jeg Coughlin, Cavalier, 6.822, 201.07 vs. 15. Greg Stanfield, Dodge Neon R/T, 6.870, 200.71; 3. Kurt Johnson, Cavalier, 6.840, 202.67 vs. 14. Darrell Alderman, Neon, 6.870, 200.74; 4. Mike Edwards, Grand Am, 6.846, 200.95 vs. 13. Ben Watson, Cavalier, 6.868, 199.67; 5. Taylor Lastor, Cavalier, 6.847, 201.28 vs. 12. Scott Geoffrion, Ford Escort, 6.863, 200.83; 6. Warren Johnson, Grand Am, 6.849, 201.85 vs. 11. Terry Adams, Cavalier, 6.863, 201.31; 7. Jim Yates, Grand Am, 6.850, 201.10 vs. 10. Bruce Allen, Grand Am, 6.860, 200.74; 8. Allen Johnson, Dodge Stratus, 6.858, 201.40 vs. 9. Mark Pawuk, Grand Am, 6.858, 201.22.
PRO STOCK BIKE
1. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.181, 186.92 vs. 16. Chris Reuter, Suzuki, 7.327, 186.28; 2. Angelle Savoie, Suzuki, 7.192, 187.68 vs. 15. Matthew Smith, Suzuki, 7.320, 181.18; 3. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.200, 186.18 vs. 14. Fred Camarena, Suzuki, 7.310, 180.33; 4. Shawn Gann, Suzuki, 7.213, 190.73 vs. 13. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 7.301, 182.65; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.214, 185.89 vs. 12. Sean Conner, Suzuki, 7.292, 183.79; 6. Reggie Showers, Suzuki, 7.217, 185.38 vs. 11. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.277, 181.94; 7. Mike Berry, Suzuki, 7.222, 184.60 vs. 10. Fred Collis, Suzuki, 7.263, 182.95; 8. GT Tonglet, Harley-Davidson, 7.234, 183.24 vs. 9. John Smith, Kawasaki, 7.244, 182.28.