Bernstein, Worsham, Allen, Savoie and Coughlin earn event wins at Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals
POMONA, Calif. - Kenny Bernstein earned his sixth NHRA Winston championship of his career Sunday during the 37th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway.
This is Bernstein's second Top Fuel title. He also has four Funny Car titles and is the only driver to win a Winston title in both nitro categories. He coupled the championship with the event win - his eighth victory of the season.
Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie also wrapped up Winston titles. Johnson earned his sixth Winston Pro Stock championship while Savoie earned her second straight Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle title.
Del Worsham, Bruce Allen, Savoie and Mike Coughlin won in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the final of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Bernstein had a 5.500-second pass at 300.46 mph in his Budweiser King Dragster to beat Mike Dunn's 10.397 at 88.45 in his Yankee Dragster in Top Fuel competition.
"It was a tremendous year," Bernstein said. "Today was a tough day as it was for the last six or seven races. Either team could have made a mistake. We certainly want to thank Winston for everything. We are the last Winston Top Fuel champions. Obviously this is what we love to do and it has been a lot of fun.
"I'm glad (the season) is over. I am beat up pretty good. It has been very hard since September, but it has been a wonderful battle."
Dixon lost to Dunn in the semifinals, sealing the championship for Bernstein. The last time Bernstein won a Winston Top Fuel title was in 1996.
"This is at the top of my list of championships," Bernstein said. "When (crew chief) Dale Armstrong was with me in the 1980s, those championships were phenomenal. They all meant something. But this was just above those because of where we came from. This one is very special. (Current crew chief) Tim Richards made this turnaround. Look at what he has done in the last three years."
Worsham turned in a 7.199 at 175.89 in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird to earn his fourth Funny Car win of the season. He won at the starting line when Whit Bazemore's red-light foul in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird ended the race early.
"I saw (Bazemore) red light," Worsham said. "I staged immediately because he has the quickest car out here and I was trying to put the odds in my favor. I took every inch of the track that I could."
The win moved Worsham into third place in the Winston point standings. His previous season-best was fourth place in 1992.
"I definitely wanted to get into third place," Worsham said. "We lost third place in Las Vegas when Ron Capps won the race, and we wanted to re-gain it here. We are definitely going to have a great off-season."
Allen earned his second victory of the season with a 6.869 pass at 200.62 in his Reher & Morrison Pontiac Grand Am, beating Brad Jeter's 6.936 at 199.94 in his Southern Rods and Parts Grand Am to win the Pro Stock category.
"We had an awesome car today," Allen said. "We started the season with a win here, then we had a little dry spell in the middle of the year. But we've got a good car and engine program."
Allen's win prevented another first-time winner from taking the spotlight in Winner's Circle. There have been 15 different drivers that have clocked event wins this season.
"We had to win to keep it from being 16 different drivers," Allen said. "(Jeter) is a good driver and he always gets good lights every time."
Johnson was ousted in the first round, losing to Darrell Alderman. Johnson had to wait for Jim Yates to lose in the second round before he clinched the Winston Pro Stock championship. Johnson claimed six victories this season.
"If you are going to win ugly, you might as well win as ugly as you can," Johnson said. "It's been one of those seasons where we've been real good or real bad - there hasn't been anything in between. That's how this year has gone for everyone in Pro Stock. We just feel fortunate to have won six races and the championship."
Savoie sped to a 7.173 at 184.12 on a Suzuki GSX-R in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category for her seventh win of the season and 22nd overall, beating Shawn Gann, who fouled at the starting line on a Suzuki.
"I had a feeling that Shawn was going to go red," Savoie said. "He is very quick and it is hard to fix being too quick."
Savoie, already the winningest female in NHRA history, won her second straight Winston Pro Stock championship when second-place Antron Brown was ousted in the first round by Joe DeSantis. This was the last race for Winston as the NHRA series sponsor as well as the team sponsor for Savoie.
"I feel like I won twice today," Savoie said. "When we had the title, it was like a 1,000 pounds of weight was lifted from my shoulders. We didn't have to worry about the race anymore because it wasn't a points battle. It felt like I was qualifying for the No. 1 spot again.
"This is very special for me because I am the first female Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion and I am also the last Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle champion. That means a lot to me because it feels like I am losing my family."
Coughlin clocked a 7.427 at 181.72 in a Chevy S-10 for his third Pro Stock Truck victory of the season. Coughlin beat Greg Stanfield's 7.491 at 181.62 in a S-10. The win put Coughlin in fourth place of the Winston standings.
This was the last time the Pro Stock Truck category was classified as a professional category.
"We couldn't be more happy," Coughlin said. "We wanted nothing more than to win the last Pro Stock Truck race. Our goal was to finish the year strong. We've had a good second half.
"We respect the NHRA's decision not to run the Pro Stock Truck category, and we have a lot of high hopes on what we will be doing next year. We definitely wanted to win the last race."