Phoenix: Sunday eliminations final report

Bernstein, Worsham and Johnson earn Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals Victories CHANDLER, Ariz. - Brandon Bernstein remains undefeated in final round appearances in Top Fuel competition as he earned the victory Sunday during the 20th ...

Bernstein, Worsham and Johnson earn Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals Victories

CHANDLER, Ariz. - Brandon Bernstein remains undefeated in final round appearances in Top Fuel competition as he earned the victory Sunday during the 20th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA at Firebird International Raceway.

Del Worsham and Kurt Johnson also earned wins in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the second of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series.

Bernstein's fourth career victory was the second consecutive outside of Phoenix. Bernstein earned three wins en route to rookie of the year honors in 2003 before he was sidelined with injuries suffered during a May incident at Englishtown, N.J.

Bernstein beat Doug Kalitta, driving his Budweiser dragster to a 4.537-second run at 326.63 mph. Kalitta's Mac Tools dragster smoked the tires before half-track, turning in a 5.837 at 184.85.

"To come back out and get another win at the track where I got my first career victory after being laid up and out of the car for so long is really special," Bernstein said. "Having won here before I had a level of comfort and once we got past the first round and I saw how we were running and how everyone else was running, I felt like we had a good chance to win this thing."

The biggest competition to the cars on Sunday was the heat. Saturday's qualifying session was warm, but Sunday's conditions created the warmest yet, with track temperatures soaring as high as 120 degrees.

Bernstein's crew chief, Tim Richards, seemed to master the heat this time.

"Tim and Kim (Richards, assistant crew chief) and the rest of the guys did a great job of dialing this car in to the hot conditions we faced," Bernstein said. "They just kind of finessed it down the track each round. From my standpoint, the car felt great. It just went straight down through there every time. It was easy to drive."

Worsham won his sponsor's event, driving his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird to a 4.970 pass at 303.78 for his 15th career Funny Car victory. Worsham beat defending POWERade series Funny Car champion Tony Pedregon, who turned in a 5.098 at 251.58 in his Quaker State Chevy Camaro.

"Winning your sponsor's race is a close second to winning the POWERade championship in terms of goals," Worsham said. "We're hoping the championship isn't too far behind."

Worsham has finished as high as third in the point standings. The victory Sunday moved Worsham into the points lead for the first time in his career.

"It's early in the season and you don't want to look at the points too much," Worsham said. "But you also don't want to get too far behind. If you don't get points early, you won't be able to catch up and you won't be in the game late in the season when it really matters."

Worsham's teammate, Phil Burkhart Jr., advanced to the semifinals. Worsham beat Burkhart, but the team was still pleased with the performance from both cars.

"Having both cars in the semifinals is very exciting," Worsham said. "I guess I'm partial, I wanted the red car to win."

Johnson earned his 28th career victory by defeating first-time finalist David Connolly in a battle between two Chevy Cavaliers. Johnson went 6.835 at 203.49 in his AC Delco Cavalier to earn the win over Connolly's 6.860 at 202.39 in his Bullet Motorsports Cavalier.

"We made four perfect runs today," Johnson said. "I felt confident after we ran a 6.80 (in qualifying) on Saturday and that made me feel confident. I felt confident this morning and I have a great team behind me."

Johnson raced - and defeated - defending series champion Greg Anderson in the semifinal. Anderson had won four consecutive Pro Stock events before Johnson knocked him out by what turned out to be less than six inches. Johnson went 6.850 at 202.88 to Anderson's 6.820 at 203.09. Johnson beat Anderson off the line with a reaction time of .027 to Anderson's .063.

"When we raced (Anderson) I was scared to look over," Johnson said. "I could feel him on my left side. I just had to suffer for those seven seconds and wait for the win light to come on."

The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 35th annual Mac Tools NHRA Gatornationals, March 18-21, at Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Fla.

-nhra-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Doug Kalitta , Brandon Bernstein , David Connolly , Tim Richards