Pomona III: Top Fuel title to be decided

POMONA, Calif. - The only thing Kenny Bernstein and Larry Dixon have in common is drag racing. That's about it. Kenny drives the Budweiser King dragster. Larry drives the Miller Lite dragster. Kenny's car is red. Larry's car is blue. Kenny...

POMONA, Calif. - The only thing Kenny Bernstein and Larry Dixon have in common is drag racing. That's about it.

Kenny drives the Budweiser King dragster. Larry drives the Miller Lite dragster. Kenny's car is red. Larry's car is blue. Kenny started racing in the 1960's. Larry just turned 35. Kenny has earned 60 national event wins en route to five Winston championships. Larry's highest finish in five previous seasons is the third place he claimed in his rookie year (1995).

Okay, so maybe they do have one thing in common - they both want to win the 2001 Winston NHRA Top Fuel championship.

The title will be decided in dramatic fashion as the NHRA's 50th anniversary season, and the title, will be wrapped up during the 37th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Nov. 8-11, at historic Pomona Raceway. The $2.1 million race is the final of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Gary Scelzi is the defending champion in the Top Fuel category while John Force is the defending champion for Funny Car. Force has already clinched his 11th NHRA Winston championship - his ninth consecutive title.

With only four rounds of racing left, Bernstein has a 54-point lead over Dixon. There are a total of 138 points up for grabs in Pomona. In order to clinch, Bernstein must advance past the second round, and avoid costly oil-down penalties.

Dixon's path to the championship is very clear: he needs a victory, and an early round exit for Bernstein. Anything less will produce a second place points finish.

"Going into the last three races we were less than three rounds out," Dixon said. "So if we won all three races and Kenny went to the finals, it wouldn't have mattered because we would have passed him and (won) the title. Well, we did well at Dallas, but we didn't get it done (in Las Vegas). So now we are relying on him to have some bad luck at the last race for us to even have a shot.

"Still, we have to go out and win. We can't control anything that goes on with them. We can just go into the last race and try and win and see what happens."

Bernstein has made a record-tying 11 final round appearances this season, taking home seven trophies. Dixon has notched six wins, making nine final round appearances.

"It may appear that we have a little bit of breathing room, but it's still anybody's championship," Bernstein said. "The fans will get a good show at the final event with virtually two races, the Budweiser Shootout for Top Fuel dragsters on Saturday and the race for the championship on Sunday."

While Bernstein has the lead going into the final event, there is still a chance that Dixon could claim the Winston title. If Dixon wins the event, and Bernstein is ousted no later than the second round, Dixon can claim the title. That does not, however, take into account points being added for national records or points being deducted for oil downs.

"I am not quitting," Dixon said. "I am racing the next race to win. I race every race to win. Until they tell us that we are out of it, we're in it. So all you can do is go to the next event and try and win."

-NHRA-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Gary Scelzi