Englishtown: Friday qualifying report

NEW YORKER BARTONE TOPS FUNNY CAR FIELD AT HOMETOWN K&N SUPERNATIONALS Bernstein, Yates and Scali round out provisional No. 1 qualifiers ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Local hero Tony Bartone is the surprise leader in Funny Car after the first two of four...

NEW YORKER BARTONE TOPS FUNNY CAR FIELD AT HOMETOWN K&N SUPERNATIONALS
Bernstein, Yates and Scali round out provisional No. 1 qualifiers

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Local hero Tony Bartone is the surprise leader in Funny Car after the first two of four rounds of qualifying at the 37th annual K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals.

Brandon Bernstein (Top Fuel), Jim Yates (Pro Stock), and Geno Scali (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also top their respective fields at the $1.8 million race, the 11th of 23 in the $50 million POWERade Drag Racing Series. For the second weekend in a row, the Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle classes feature the quickest fields of all time.

The native of Long Island, N.Y. -- with the accent to match -- posted a 4.787 at 324.36 mph in his Lucas Oil Chevy Monte Carlo Friday night to assume the provisional No. 1 position for the first time in his career.

A class dominator in the sportsman ranks, Bartone has never been top qualifier in five years at the professional level. He'll need to hold off a talented chase pack through Saturday's final two sessions, scheduled for 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.

"I'm praying for snow," Bartone said. "I'm absolutely tickled pink right now. Certainly, we hope it holds through tomorrow. I think it has a chance. I've got a suite full of friends and family and all our customers from our other business and they're all thrilled. I couldn't think of a better place for this to happen."

Bernstein traversed the quarter mile at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park -- the track where he suffered a season-ending back injury in his rookie season of 2003 -- with a very quick 4.539 at 330.72 mph in his Budweiser dragster. A two-time winner this year, Bernstein is currently third in the points chase.

"I really don't think about the wreck when I come here," Bernstein said. "From Day 1 afterwards I put it out of my mind. This is just another track with a Christmas Tree, a starting line, and a finish line. The main thing I think about here is that I haven't made it out of the first round yet. We're gonna change that this weekend."

A winner of four of the last five races on tour, Doug Kalitta is a distant second to Bernstein after a best of 4.564 at 329.91 mph. Three-time and back-to-back POWERade Series champion Tony Schumacher, meanwhile, has yet to make the Top Fuel field.

Yates' steady upward climb in Pro Stock continues with his top qualifying effort of 6.655 at 208.17 mph in his Sea Ray Boats Pontiac GTO. The run was a personal best for Yates and set both ends of the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park category record. His speed was just six-hundredths shy of Greg Anderson's national record of 208.23 set at Gainesville in 2005.

When bracketed with No. 16 qualifier Erica Enders' 6.692 at 207.56 mph, Yates leads the quickest field of all time.

"Any time you can say you're No. 1 in any field says a lot about your team," said Yates, who last led a field at the 2005 season opener in Pomona, Calif. "To be No. 1 in the quickest field ever is really something. We were No. 1 after both sessions today so I'd say that's a heckuva way to start the weekend."

Former champion Scali is a bit of a surprise at the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle ladder, but the 7.023 at 191.54 mph he posted on his Performance Machine Suzuki placed him atop the grid at the midway point of qualifying. Scali last qualified No. 1 at the first Chicago race in 2003, the year he won his POWERade Series championship.

"A half hour later and we would have seen some sixes," Scali said, referring to runs in the six-second range. "We just needed the sun to get behind the bleachers. Tomorrow morning's session will be the best of the weekend and I predict we'll see a 7.0-second bump and at least a couple of sixes."

Back-to-back champ Andrew Hines set the Day 1 bump at 7.115 seconds, making this the quickest 16 bikes ever assembled.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Bartone , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Geno Scali , Brandon Bernstein , Andrew Hines