Atlanta Friday summary

COMMERCE, Ga. - Kenny Bernstein led all Top Fuel competitors Friday after the first day of qualifying at the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Bernstein, from Lake Forest, Calif., blasted down the...

COMMERCE, Ga. - Kenny Bernstein led all Top Fuel competitors Friday after the first day of qualifying at the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Bernstein, from Lake Forest, Calif., blasted down the quarter-mile in 4.601 seconds at 312.06 mph in his Budweiser King dragster to set the pace for the rest of the field. "Tomorrow it's going to be hot and when it's hot it's tough to get down (the track)," said Bernstein. "These cars can run in the 50s on a pretty warm race track with this 90 percent rule. We can do that. I don't think a 60 is by any means safe. Somebody can run in the high 50s under good conditions, and even warm conditions. We will give it everything we think we can to run and keep that No. one spot. It will just be a little tougher tomorrow." Todd Paton, Kurt Johnson, Dave Schultz and Bob Panella Jr. were also the leaders of their respective categories at the $1.7 million race, the seventh of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Paton, from Brantford, Ontario, covered the distance in 4.956 at 290.69 in his Nitro Fish Pontiac Firebird to lead the Funny Car category. Paton is competing in only his fifth race in the nitro-powered class and earned top qualifying honors in Las Vegas this season. "I just want to keep (the No. one qualifying position)," said Paton. "We are collecting data right now and every time we get down the track it is more and more information for us. We are pleased with it because the performance is there and every lap I get is better for the team. The more experience I get the better off I feel in the car and everyone is more confident going into Sunday's eliminations. Hometown favorite Johnson, from Lawrenceville, Ga., made the fastest pass ever in Pro Stock when he drove his AC Delco Chevrolet Camaro down the track in 6.922 at 203.68 to lead the 16-car field. Johnson will have to run within the required one percent over the next two days of competition to set a national speed record. Schultz, from Fort Myers, Fla., led all Pro Stock Motorcycles as he set a track record for elapsed time when he sped down the track on his Sunoco Suzuki in 7.247 at 185.21. Defending NHRA Winston champion Panella, from Stockton, Calif., established two track records with his run of 7.525 at 180.09 in his Panella Trucking Chevy S-10 to sit on top of the Pro Stock Truck pack. It was the first time Panella has eclipsed the 180 mph barrier. Qualifying continues Saturday at 10:45 a.m.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Panella , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Todd Paton