CHIEF AUTO PARTS NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK
--Which spot?: You can be sure that Kenny Bernstein will have a big group of friends on hand whether he clinches the NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship at this event or the season-ending Winston Select Finals, Oct. 24-27 at Pomona, Calif.
That's because Bernstein has deep ties to both Texas and Southern California. He grew up in Lubbock and lived in Dallas for many years, racing and running a successful towing service.
But Bernstein's Budweiser King race team has been based in Southern California since the early 1980s.
So, where does he want to clinch?
"That's a tough one," Bernstein said. "Maybe I favor Dallas only because of the fact that my family is there. But we're not going to get greedy. We'll take it wherever it happens."
--Due respect: It's almost certain that Kenny Bernstein will win his first NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship this season, but he can't help but think of Blaine Johnson as prepares to wear the crown.
Johnson led the NHRA Winston point standings by 113 points over Bernstein when he was killed in a qualifying accident during the U.S. Nationals in late August at Indianapolis.
"Our hearts are heavy because of what happened at Indianapolis to Blaine," Bernstein said. "It certainly will be a title with an asterisk by it, or a star, in some people's minds and ours because of the fact that Blaine was the points leader at the time, though, I'm sure, most people would agree that we were going to have a pretty good battle to the end."
--Veney's the man: Ken Veney has signed an agreement to remain the crew chief of the Team Mopar Top Fuel dragster through at least the 1997 season, team owner Darrell Gwynn said.
Veney joined the team as a consultant in early May and became crew chief later that month. Mike Dunn drives the car.
Veney was crew chief of the Gwynn team from 1988-92. Veney has many wins and performance records to his credit in Top Fuel racing and was responsible for tuning Gwynn to many of his career victories.
--Meyer to stay: Larry Meyer will remain as crew chief in 1997 for the Parts America Top Fuel dragster driven by Shelly Anderson.
Meyer joined the team last winter and has tuned Anderson to victories at the Pennzoil Nationals in May at Richmond, Va., and the Northwest Nationals in August at Seattle, the first time she has won two races in one season during her career.
Meyer also will play an active role on the Parts America Funny Car team of Randy Anderson next season. Anderson, older brother of Shelly Anderson, is moving up after competing in Top Alcohol Funny Car. Meyer will not serve as crew chief, as the search for a head tuner for Randy Anderson's car is underway.
--Paying off: Smokin' Joe's Dragster driver Jim Head never doubted that his pairing with tuning wizard Alan Johnson would pay off this season, and that patience was rewarded with a victory at the Sears Craftsman Nationals Sept. 29 at Topeka, Kan.
The victory was Head's first in Top Fuel and his first overall since winning Funny Car at the 1985 NorthStar Nationals in Brainerd, Minn. The groundwork for the victory was laid when Head hired Johnson as a tuning consultant in late April. Johnson is a noted cylinder-head builder and served as crew chief for his younger brother, Blaine Johnson, until Blaine Johnson was killed in a qualifying accident at the U.S. Nationals in August at Indianapolis.
Results didn't come quickly, as Head won just one round in the first 10 races with Johnson. But patience finally paid off at Topeka when Head beat NHRA Winston point leader Kenny Bernstein in the final.
"It took Alan and I a long time -- four or five months -- to get to this particular point," Head said. "We knew we would get there.
"I just wish Blaine was still here so he and I could go heads-up. I really enjoyed running Kenny Bernstein, but running Blaine Johnson would have been just about the ultimate. I'm going to someday. They've got Top Fuel dragsters in heaven, I guarantee."
--Performance prediction: Kenny Bernstein thinks the NHRA elapsed- time national record of 4.592 and speed national record of 315.67 mph -- both set in July at Heartland Park Topeka -- could fall at Texas Motorplex.
"I consider Dallas and Topeka the two best racetracks in the country," Bernstein said. "If we get lucky and have cool weather, those numbers can go over there (Texas Motorplex) pretty hard."
--Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Oct. 11 and is followed by a night-qualifying session at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Oct. 12, with final eliminations starting at 11 a.m. Oct. 13. Sportsman competition starts at 9 a.m. Oct. 10.
--Tickets: Tickets are available for the Chief Auto Parts Nationals. For ticket information, call (800) 668-6775, or (972) 878- 2641 in metropolitan Dallas. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.
--On TV: ESPN will televise 60 minutes of same-day, final-round competition from the Chief Auto Parts Nationals at 9 p.m. (CDT) Oct. 13.
--On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www. goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics, driver biographies and video clips. -30-
Paul Kelly, NHRA Communications
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