BERNSTEIN IMPROVES FINAL-ROUND RECORD TO 11-3 WITH TOP FUEL WIN OVER SCHUMACHER AT LUCAS OIL NATIONALS Tommy Johnson Jr., Dave Connolly and Antron Brown round out Lucas Oil winner's circle BRAINERD, Minn. -- Brandon Bernstein upset three-time...
BERNSTEIN IMPROVES FINAL-ROUND RECORD TO 11-3 WITH TOP FUEL WIN OVER SCHUMACHER AT LUCAS OIL NATIONALS
Tommy Johnson Jr., Dave Connolly and Antron Brown round out Lucas Oil winner's circle
BRAINERD, Minn. -- Brandon Bernstein upset three-time series champion Tony Schumacher Sunday in the Top Fuel final of the $1.6 million Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals for his third victory of the season. Bernstein's 4.510-second pass at 329.34 mph was enough to dismiss the hottest driver on the NHRA tour, who smoked his tires a few hundred feet down Brainerd International Raceway.
Rounding out the Sunday winners were Tommy Johnson Jr. in his Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo (Funny Car), Dave Connolly in his Skull Shine Chevy Cobalt (Pro Stock) and Antron Brown on his U.S. Army Suzuki (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
Bernstein shook off a forgettable Western Swing, where he failed to win a single round, with a stunning victory in his Budweiser dragster over the three-time and defending champion Schumacher, who went into tire-spin at half track. The pilot of the U.S. Army dragster was competing in his fifth consecutive final round, two short of his own NHRA Top Fuel record for consecutive final rounds (7).
"We knew we needed to run something in the final against Schumacher because he'd been running so well," said Bernstein, who improved to 11-3 running for the money in his career. "I figured we'd have a low 4.50 and that's what we did. We made up some serious ground in the points today. I really believe we have a car that can contend for the title. There are still seven races left. If we stay consistent like this anything can happen."
Schumacher defeated Top Fuel point leader Doug Kalitta in the second round and he was able to make up 45 points on Kalitta to move into a second-place tie with Melanie Troxel (81 points back). Six races ago, Schumacher was in eighth place and was 336 points off the pace.
Funny Car driver Tommy Johnson Jr. defeated reigning series champion Gary Scelzi, who also lost traction during his final-round run. Johnson saved his best pass of the event for the final, running a 4.741 at 321.73 mph to take the win and set low E.T. of the meet. Scelzi got a small jump at the lights in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger, but was soon battling tire shake and smoke and could only watch as T.J. zipped away for the win.
"I saw sprinkles on the windshield when I was backing up from the burnout and I stepped on it because I was so ready to race I wanted to get it done," said Johnson, who recorded his first multiple win season since 1999. "This win is a credit to the crew. It was a long wait and then we had 65 minute rounds so it was a thrash."
Johnson previously won at Phoenix this season and Sunday's win moved him into sixth place in the POWERade Series standings. At the top of the Funny Car points there was little movement in spite of the fact that leader Ron Capps lost in the first round to Bob Gilbertson. His closest pursuer, John Force, once again lost in the quarterfinals so the spread is 48 points heading to Memphis for the O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals Aug. 18-20.
In Pro Stock, Dave Connolly stole one away from current points leader Jason Line on a four-hundredths of a second holeshot, winning with a slower 6.74 to Line's 6.73.
Connolly's reputation as a starting line expert definitely paid off Sunday as he tag-teamed the powerful Summit Racing team of Greg Anderson (who red-lighted in the semis) and Line (who lost on a holeshot in the final). Connolly had a .013- to .052-second starting line advantage for a three-hundredths victory over Line.
"Luck was going our way today," Connolly said. "With Greg going red and then Jason maybe thinking about it too much, I guess any time you can get in a driver's head a little bit it always helps. They still have the cars to beat but we're staying with them the best we can."
Line's third final-round showing in the last four races helped him increase his lead in the Pro Stock points from 64 to 83 points over his Pontiac GTO teammate Greg Anderson. Connolly remains in third, 108 points behind Line.
Antron Brown took the POWERade points lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle by winning his 16th career race and second this season, this one over Steve Johnson. After a runner-up finish at the last event in Sonoma, Calif., Brown made sure he took care of business here with a 7.108 to 7.159 win over 20-year veteran Johnson.
"I'm really proud of Steve Tartaglia," Brown said. "It's just his second year as a crew chief and he's hanging with all the big boys. Any one of the top four bikes can win the title this year. It's going to be exciting."
Brown's teammate Angelle Sampey was disqualified after her first-round win over Ryan Schnitz when she was found to be five pounds light at the scales. The miscue dropped her from second to fourth in the points. Brown, meanwhile, moved from fourth to first and now leads Andrew Hines by 15 points. Chip Ellis is third, 45 points behind Brown.