Pomona III: Friday qualifying summmary

Bernstein, Bazemore, Johnson, Savoie, Lingenfelter are early qualifying leaders at NHRA Finals POMONA, Calif. - Kenny Bernstein moved one step closer to clinching his sixth Winston championship Friday by grabbing the early qualifying lead for...

Bernstein, Bazemore, Johnson, Savoie, Lingenfelter are early qualifying leaders at NHRA Finals

POMONA, Calif. - Kenny Bernstein moved one step closer to clinching his sixth Winston championship Friday by grabbing the early qualifying lead for the Top Fuel category.

Bernstein sped down the quarter-mile track in 4.528 seconds at 324.59 mph in his Budweiser King Dragster to move to the top of the 16-car order after two days of qualifying at the 37th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals.

Whit Bazemore, Warren Johnson, Angelle Savoie and John Lingenfelter led their respective categories at the $2 million race, the final of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Without taking oil-down penalties or national records into account, Bernstein can clinch the Winston Top Fuel championship if he goes past the second round of eliminations on Sunday.

"It's a credit once again to the team and (crew chief) Tim Richards for doing a great job," Bernstein said. "We wanted to run a little bit better because we ran later in the day than yesterday, but the humidity got us. Too much moisture in the air just left us where we didn't have enough on the other end."

Bernstein is one of eight Top Fuel drivers that will make at least two passes down the track on Saturday. The Budweiser Shootout, featuring the top eight drivers in the category, will start at 12:30 p.m., followed by the rest of the Top Fuel category.

Bernstein is the No. 1 seed in the Budweiser Shootout and will face No. 8 Darrell Russell in the first round.

"Tomorrow should be some good racing. If it cools like they say it will, we'll be in great shape," Bernstein said. "But if it's hot then all of us will be faced with a different situation. The good thing for us is we're qualified good for the race so we can really get after it in the Budweiser Shootout and try to win that hundred grand."

Mike Dunn set the track speed record with a 4.533 pass at 329.67 in his Yankee Dragster - good enough for the No. 2 spot in the early qualifying order.

Bazemore set both ends of the track record, clocking a time of 4.772 at 323.04 in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to lead the 16-car Funny Car order. If Bazemore keeps the No. 1 spot, it will be the ninth time in the last 12 races that he will have the top qualifying time.

"It was a tremendous effort by this Matco Tools team to come back from blowing up the car yesterday to the kind of performance we had today certainly is very impressive," Bazemore said. "This team has proven all year that they are the best."

Johnson was the quickest in the Pro Stock category with a 6.867 run at 201.49 in a GM Goodwrench Pontiac Grand Am. Johnson is also in the hunt for a Winston championship. Johnson can earn his sixth Winston title if he can qualify third or higher.

Savoie set the pace with a 7.206 pass at 185.60 to lead the Pro Stock Motorcycle category on her Team Winston Suzuki GSXR. She can earn her second straight Winston title if she can advance to the semifinal round to put the title out of reach of second-place Antron Brown. Brown qualified third with a 7.230 pass at 185.72.

Lingenfelter leads the Pro Stock Truck category with a 7.431 at 181.59 in his Summit Racing GMC Sonoma.

Pro qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. and final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.

-nhra-

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