NHRA LEGEND BERNSTEIN INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME OF AMERICA CLASS OF 2009 DETROIT (Aug. 12, 2009) -- NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein was one of seven icons from the world of motorsports inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of ...
NHRA LEGEND BERNSTEIN INDUCTED INTO MOTORSPORTS HALL OF FAME OF AMERICA CLASS OF 2009
DETROIT (Aug. 12, 2009) -- NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein was one of seven icons from the world of motorsports inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America this evening during the organization's annual induction ceremony at the Fillmore Theatre.
Bernstein, a six-time NHRA world champion who earned the title "King of Speed" in 1992 when he became the first NHRA driver to break the elusive 300 mph barrier, was inducted alongside sports-car specialist turned successful television personality David Hobbs, flat track motorcycle dominator Scott Parker, two-time Indy 500 winner Al Unser Jr., NASCAR pioneer Joe Weatherly and innovative racing promoters Les Richter and H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler.
"There are a multitude of people that I could thank for touching our lives through the years," Bernstein said during his acceptance speech. "First of all, I would like to recognize my wife, Sheryl, who has danced every dance and has helped me build the structure for our racing and sports marketing business. I would also like to thank Tom Compton and all of those at NHRA who have helped grow the sport of drag racing. Founder Wally Parks had a vision that provided many generations of racers like me a safe place to race."
Bernstein was the first NHRA driver to win world championships in both premier nitro categories, taking consecutive Funny Car crowns from 1985-'88 and earning Top Fuel titles in 1996 and 2001. He won 69 races during his career, 39 in Top Fuel and 30 in Funny Car. He powered to his landmark milestone speed of 301.70 mph at the 1992 NHRA Gatornationals at Florida's Gainesville Raceway. In 2001, he was named No. 6 on the list of the top 50 drivers in NHRA history, as part of the NHRA's 50th anniversary celebration.
Since his official retirement in 2002, Bernstein has competed in parts of two seasons. In 2003 he found himself back in the driver's seat near mid-season after son Brandon suffered season-ending injuries in a crash at Englishtown, N.J. The elder Bernstein won four of the last five races during the 15-race substitute driver stretch. In 2007, Bernstein returned to the cockpit of a Funny Car, and drove a Dodge Charger to two runner-up finishes. After the 2007 campaign he went back into retirement and continues to be an active team owner for the Top Fuel dragster that Brandon drives.
"I also want to thank all of the employees of our race teams these past 30 years who have contributed to our success, as well as the media who have brought exposure into the households of millions," Bernstein said. "And to the great fans who have followed us over the years -- thank you. Finally, a special thanks to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America for the honor bestowed upon us tonight."
Bernstein has long been regarded as one of motorsports' most savvy businessmen and this year he celebrated the 30 year anniversary with longtime sponsor Anheuser-Busch, the longest team sponsorship relationship in the history of auto racing. He continues to hold the unique distinction of being the first and only race team owner to have collected wins in each of America's major motorsports series: NHRA Drag Racing, NASCAR Cup Series and Indy Car open-wheel racing (CART).
"We also owe a debt of gratitude to Budweiser, Lucas Oil, Mac Tools and all the sponsors who have supported us, past and present," Bernstein said. "Though we lose our sponsorship with Budweiser at the end of this year, the unprecedented 30-year relationship we have enjoyed allowed a Texas boy to follow his dream. Maybe our story will be an inspiration for others to be able to follow their dreams. It's been a wonderful ride."
Bernstein is the 21st inductee in the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America from the world of NHRA drag racing. Others are Don Garlits (1989); Shirley Muldowney (1990); Don Prudhomme (1991); Connie Kalitta (1992); Wally Parks (1993); Bob Glidden (1994); Keith Black (1995); Bill Jenkins (1996); Art Chrisman (1997); Don Nicholson (1998); C. J. Hart (1999); Danny Ongais (2000); Tom McEwen (2001); Eddie Hill (2002); Ed Donovan (2003); Joe Amato (2004); Tommy Ivo (2005); Chris Karamesines (2006); Ronnie Sox and Buddy Martin (2007); and John Force (2008).
The Motorsports Hall of Fame of America is a museum housing more than 40 racing and high-performance vehicles, and showcasing the stories of 175 Hall of Famers known as the Heroes of Horsepower. The constantly changing collection features racers from the world of Indy cars, stock cars, Can Am, TransAm, sprint cars, powerboats, truck racing, drag racing, motorcycles, air racing and even snowmobiles.