CHARLOTTE (Sept. 16) - Brandon Bernstein and the ProtectTheHarvest.com/MAVTV Top Fuel dragster team started the NHRA's Countdown to the Championship on a strong note with a semifinal finish at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Nationals.

Brandon Bernstein
Brandon Bernstein

Photo by: Michael C. Johnson

During qualifying, the ProtectTheHarvest.com had an issue with keeping the blower belt on the car through a full 1,000-foot run. Thankfully, a special shipment from the shop arrived from the Morgan Lucas Racing shop in Brownsburg, Ind., on Saturday night.

"It was one of the problems we were having," Bernstein said. "Today was really good. We got some different belts shipped in, they stayed on and the car ran great.

"It's unfortunate we didn't get the win, but we're right there."

Bernstein beat Cory McClenathan in Round 1 and Doug Kalitta in the quarterfinals before falling to eventual race winner Shawn Langdon in the semis.

"I feel we've got a great car that can go through the Countdown," he said. "If we can say on this kind of pace where we're going to semifinals and finals; that's what wins you championships.

"You always want to win, but if you make the semis in a bunch of these races, we've got a chance."

With his finish, Bernstein moved from eighth to seventh in the Top Fuel points.

The day got started approximately four hours after its scheduled starting time due to rain in the Charlotte area. Despite all the time in the world to get ready, Bernstein and crew had a bit of a panic before Round 1.

"We were all sitting around hoping the skied would clear and we'd get to race," Bernstein said. "Once it did, we had an issue with our warm-up. We were struggling to hustle and make it up for that first round. We got it fixed, but it was a comedy of errors for a while there.

"You sit around all day waiting to run and when you can finally start the car, stuff's not working right."

Against McClenathan, Bernstein was off the starting line first and never looked back. He ran a 3.838-second pass at 321.50 mph to McClenathan's 3.842 at 311.92 mph.

With their startup blues behind them, but still under the gun from a quick turnaround time mandated by the NHRA, Bernstein turned in another great effort against Kalitta.

Once again Bernstein was off first, and cruised to a 3.822 second lap at 324.36 mph with Kalitta hot on his heels with a 3.827 at 323.50 mph.

His day was cut short in the semis by Langdon, who ran a 3.808 at 322.19 mph in that round to Bernstein's 3.948 at 298.73 mph lap.

"Once you starting going rounds and putting up numbers you can race with, it gives you a boost," Bernstein said. "Going rounds does that for you. We just need to focus on that going into Dallas and accumulate as many points as we can."

Bernstein and the ProtectTheHarvest.com crew next head to the AAA Texas NHRA Fall Nationals at Texas Motorplex from Friday-Sunday.

Source: Protect The Harvest