Englishtown: Saturday qualifying report

BRANDON BERNSTEIN EARNS 10TH CAREER NO. 1 QUALIFIER; SEEKS FIRST ROUND-WIN AT OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK Tony Bartone, Allen Johnson and Chip Ellis round out No. 1 qualifiers at 37th K&N Filters NHRA Supernationals ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. --...

BRANDON BERNSTEIN EARNS 10TH CAREER NO. 1 QUALIFIER; SEEKS FIRST ROUND-WIN AT OLD BRIDGE TOWNSHIP RACEWAY PARK

Tony Bartone, Allen Johnson and Chip Ellis round out No. 1 qualifiers at 37th K&N Filters NHRA Supernationals

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Brandon Bernstein earned his 10th career No. 1 qualifier Saturday and he enters Sunday's final eliminations at the 37th annual K&N Filters Supernationals with plenty of motivation. His father, NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein, has won a career-high seven races at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, but Brandon has yet to even win a round at the historic track that was the site of the spectacular accident that ended his 2003 Rookie of the Year season.

The other No. 1 qualifiers at the $1.8 million race, the 11th of 23 on the $50 million POWERade tour, were hometown favorite Tony Bartone (Funny Car) of Long Island, Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Chip Ellis (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

The Bud Prince shaved five thousandths of a second off his leading time from Friday night to stay in front of Top Fuel with a 4.534 at 330.72 mph. It is the second No. 1 qualifying effort of the season and the 10th of his career.

"We're going to try to keep this racecar as consistent as it's been all weekend," said Bernstein, who's currently in third place in the POWERade Series points race with 608 points behind Melanie Troxel (748) and Doug Kalitta (652).

"We smoked the tires in Round 1 like everyone else. Then we ran two 4.53s and a 4.57. I'd say Tim (Richards, crew chief) has a good hot weather tune-up, which gives us a lot of confidence going into the races we have ahead of us."

Tony Schumacher went from out-of-the-field to third place in his U.S. Army dragster with a 4.561. Earlier in the day the three-time champ ran a 4.563.

Season-long Top Fuel points leader Melanie Troxel qualified 11th in her Skull Shine/Torco Race Fuels Top Fuel dragster and will open final eliminations against No. 6 qualifier Larry Dixon, who will be seeking his sixth consecutive Father's Day win.

Bartone and team owner Jim Dunn elected not to run their Lucas Oil Monte Carlo in the final qualifying session due to the hot conditions but they still stayed out front with the 4.787 at 324.36 mph Bartone carded Friday evening. The pass remained the only 4.7-second run of the weekend.

"Right now I have goosebumps," Bartone said of the first career No. 1 qualifying effort of his 10-year career (first race, Phoenix 1996). "This is a career highlight for me and it's awesome to do this here at home. I'm a New York boy through and through and this track has been very, very good to me over the years. This is a special moment and it hasn't set in yet."

Funny Car points leader Ron Capps is 14th best with a 4.866 in his Dodge Charger and he will open final eliminations against Jim Head. John Force will open with Whit Bazemore.

Ellis's 6.997-second top-qualifying pass in his Drag Specialities S&S Buell V-Twin was just the fourth six-second Pro Stock Motorcycle pass in history. Of the four six-second Pro Stock Motorcycle runs in the books, Ellis has two, the same number carded by two-time and defending POWERade Series champion Andrew Hines. Now Ellis will try to parlay his third straight No. 1 qualifying effort into his first win of the year.

"We've built 29 engines and we're still using No. 7," Ellis said. "It's one of the older ones but it's still living. I don't know what makes it so good but we're gonna keep running it."

POWERade Series points leader Angelle Sampey has struggled this weekend but she did find a spot for her U.S. Suzuki. Her best of 7.102 at 188.12 mph placed her 14th overall.

After not earning a No. 1 qualifying spot for the first 10 and a half years of his career, Pro Stock leader Johnson has now earned two in the last four races. The Mopar Dodge Stratus R/T driver used a career-best run of 6.645 at 207.43 mph in Round 3 to get the job done. His elapsed time set a track record.

"It's a big deal to lead the quickest field ever," Johnson said. "It means you're one of the best of the best, and there are probably 10-to-12 cars out here that could be considered the best. Dad (Roy Johnson) is doing a great job building these engines and it's gonna be a good Father's Day starting as the No. 1 qualifier. I can't think of anything that would be better than winning the race for him."

Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Bartone , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Doug Kalitta , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Allen Johnson , Andrew Hines , Chip Ellis , Angelle Sampey , Roy Johnson