Baytown: Sunday final eliminations report

Bernstein breaks through with big win; Capps, Edwards, Sampey share the winner's circle BAYTOWN, Texas -- Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein scored his ninth career victory Sunday at the $1.7 million O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals, the fourth of...

Bernstein breaks through with big win; Capps, Edwards, Sampey share the winner's circle

BAYTOWN, Texas -- Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein scored his ninth career victory Sunday at the $1.7 million O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals, the fourth of 23 races on the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. His 4.534 at 329.83 mph beat points leader Melanie Troxel.

Funny Car driver Ron Capps extended his points lead with a 5.005-second, 293.47-mph victory over Bob Gilbertson. Mike Edwards won in Pro Stock for the first time in four years, beating Jim Yates with a 6.731 at 206.01 mph. Angelle Sampey remained perfect on the season with her second win in as many Pro Stock Motorcycle races, beating rival Andrew Hines with a 7.144 at 190.11 mph.

The son of drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein, Brandon entered the day without a single elimination round win on the year. But the "Bud Prince" churned out the suds in the Texas heat, recording low elapsed time and top speed of the meet along the way.

"These guys never gave up," said Bernstein, who improved to 9-1 in his career in final rounds. "We just stayed positive through the stupid little mechanical failures we had earlier this year. Dad told us that he had many stretches during his career where stuff like this happened. We just had to be patient.

Starting the day 12th on the ladder, Bernstein beat Gainesville winner Dave Grubnic, Morgan Lucas, and low qualifier Cory McClenathan to get to the final. His slowest pass of the day was a 4.558 in the semis.

"Tim [Richards, crew chief] tuned us to a (best-of-the-weekend) 4.51 in the first round and I knew he had a handle on this racetrack. Once he gets like that he's very tough to beat. It was like I had a bracket car today."

Bernstein is in sixth place, but just 27 points out of second place and 155 behind Troxel, who almost doubled her POWERade Series points lead this weekend.

Capps had little more than a victory lap in the final when surprise finalist Gilbertson immediately smoked his tires at the hit of the throttle. His Brut Dodge Stratus R/T was beatable in the final, but Gilbertson only watched as Capps pushed his lead in the Funny Car standings to 68 over John Force.

"I'm still kind of in shock when I hear that," Capps said after being announced as the POWERade Series points leader and winner of the last two events. "We all saw (teammate Gary) Scelzi DNQ at this race and it reminds you that you're only as good as your last pass, not even your last race. I mean, if the defending series champ can DNQ, anything can happen to any of us."

It appears parity has returned to the Pro Stock class as Edwards becomes the fourth winner in four races this year. This slump-busting victory came at the end of the closest Pro race of the day as he edged Jim Yates by .0098 seconds to win on a holeshot, 6.731 at 206.01 mph to Yates' 6.726 at 205.63 mph.

"There is some parity in the class now and it's good to see for us guys that haven't won in awhile," Edwards said. "I still think Greg (Anderson's) the guy to beat but it's fun to go to the races when you know you at least have a chance to win."

Edwards jumped up to second place in the points and finds himself just 34 markers behind three-time and defending champion Greg Anderson, who was dismissed by Yates in the quarterfinal.

No matter which of these two drivers won, it would have broken a long dry spell for the veteran drivers who entered the final found Sunday with a combined 35 career wins. Edwards' last win came at the 2002 Denver race, while Yates last collected a trophy in Reading, Pa., that same season.

Sampey's 39th career win places her all alone in ninth place on NHRA's all-time wins list despite the fact she's only 35 years old and has run in just 137 events. She is also second in on the all-time NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle wins list, just six behind Dave Schultz (45). Her 7.144-second, 190.11-mph victory over finalist Hines, who went 7.200 at 188.04 mph on his Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson V-Rod, looked picture-perfect from start to finish.

"It feels great when we can beat the Harleys," Sampey said. "I thanked Andrew at the end of the track because I told him that their team is so hard to beat that it's an accomplishment to beat them. I appreciate the competition."

Two races into the 15-race Pro Stock Motorcycle schedule, Sampey is 63 points ahead of her nearest rival, which is now two-time and defending champion Hines. Her teammate Antron Brown slipped to third, 15 back of Hines.

-nhra

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Kenny Bernstein , Bob Gilbertson , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Cory McClenathan , Brandon Bernstein , Morgan Lucas , Angelle Sampey , Mike Edwards