Seattle Top Fuel Preview

ONE MISSION FOR BERNSTEIN: WIN A SIXTH WINSTON CHAMPIONSHIP KENT, Wash. - As far as Kenny Bernstein is concerned there is only one mission. The focus is clear: he wants to win a sixth NHRA Winston championship. However, he knows...

ONE MISSION FOR BERNSTEIN: WIN A SIXTH WINSTON CHAMPIONSHIP KENT, Wash. - As far as Kenny Bernstein is concerned there is only one mission. The focus is clear: he wants to win a sixth NHRA Winston championship. However, he knows the key to winning a drag racing championship is patience. He put the great virtue to use in 1996 when he won his first Top Fuel title. He dominated Funny Car competition in the mid-1980s, winning four straight championships by managing to keep his emotions in check. Midway through the 1999 season and Bernstein is in the thick of the championship hunt once again, sitting second in the Winston point standings. Unlike his past championship runs, this one has been quite unique. After 12 events, Bernstein is still looking for his first victory of the season. However, remember the keyword here: patience, patience, patience. "We need a win," said Bernstein, who has posted runner-up finishes during events at Phoenix and Chicago. "We've been consistent all season and have made it to a couple of final rounds. It's just like in any other sport, if you're consistent, success is eventually going to come. It's just a matter of time. We feel confident that we're going to get a trophy here pretty soon." Bernstein hopes that trophy comes at the 12th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply, July 30-Aug. 1, at Seattle International Raceway. The $1.3 million race is the 13th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Despite his absence from the winner's circle, Bernstein is within a little over two rounds of passing three-time winner and points leader Mike Dunn in the Winston point standings. "We've had some excellent opportunities to move into first in the Winston point standings," Bernstein said. "We just haven't been able to grab it. At Denver we had severe tire shake and smoked the tires after we knocked 'em loose in the second round. We really don't have an answer why, because everything on the computer looked the way it should have been. Mike (Dunn) lost in the first round and we could have moved into the spot that he's held all year. That's where we want to be, No. 1." That alone keeps Bernstein, 54, going. "We're only 44 points away from the lead and that's incentive enough to keep the momentum going," Bernstein said. "Our crew chief, Lee Beard, and the Bud King team have their work cut out for them at Seattle International Raceway. That place has been tricky for us over the years. I've won in Funny Car there (1988), but never in Top Fuel. We hope to change that stat this season." A season that has been arguably one of the most competitive for Top Fuel in NHRA history. "You look down the list of the Winston top 10 and everybody is a contender," Bernstein said. "There's no freebies in this game. It's going to be a real fight to get that championship. There's still half a season remaining on the schedule and a lot of hungry teams out there."

CAPPS READY TO MOVE FORWARD, PUT SLOW START BEHIND KENT, Wash. - The last thing you'll hear from Ron Capps is a lot of excuses. That's not the way the driver who one year ago came so close to ousting John Force from his championship perch in NHRA Funny Car competition operates. Not even close. The San Diego driver, mired in the slump of slumps for most of the 1999 season, knows there will be a better day. In fact, he feels certain that it's coming soon. Each event brings new hope. And some events bring more hope than others. Capps is really excited about returning to one of his favorite tracks for the 12th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply, July 30-Aug. 1, at Seattle International Raceway. Capps is the defending Funny Car winner at the $1.2 million event, the 13th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. For Capps, who earned his first NHRA victory at the Washington quarter-mile, there's nothing like going back to a place that always brings out his best. "No doubt, Seattle is a special place for me and brings back a lot of great memories," Capps said. "What a great feeling it was to beat Cory (McClenathan) in Top Fuel there in 1995. And last year, to beat Force in front of all those people was a tremendous feeling. I want to experience that feeling again. I know we've not had the best of seasons so far, but I'm positive that this team has turned the corner and we're headed in the direction we need to be going. We're definitely ready to win some races." After winning five races and pushing Force to the limit in '98, Capps and his Copenhagen Camaro Funny Car team have struggled this year. He's posted a couple of DNQ's and posted first round losses in nine events. His recent outing in Denver matched his Englishtown, N.J. run for best outing of the season. In both of those races he advanced to the second round. "We've had a lot of different things go wrong," Capps said. "We just have to face reality and go out there and try to win a lot of rounds and as many races as possible. We've got to focus our efforts on making the best of what remains, while at the same time preparing for the upcoming year." That's exactly what the Don Prudhomme-owned team is doing. The team recently promoted Todd Okuhara to crew chief and named former chief tuner Roland Leong the team's advisor. At Seattle, the team plans to debut its newly configured Chevrolet Camaro body, which fellow Chevy driver Whit Bazemore used with much success at Denver. "We've made some progress in the last couple of weeks that should help us on down the road," Capps said. "I feel like good things are getting ready to happen. Bringing out our old chassis was a big step, and having Roland back was a plus. We're going to get this thing turned around before long."

PRO STOCK'S EDWARDS HOPES TO CONTINUE WINNING WAYS AT SEATTLE KENT, Wash. -- Mike Edwards, a native of Broken Arrow, Okla., really can't explain why he has a tendency to become Pro Stock Superman at Seattle International Raceway. During the past three seasons, Edwards has compiled an impressive record at the quick quarter-mile in the Great Northwest. The Dewco Chevrolet Camaro driver posted back-to-back victories there in 1996 and 1997, and left the track with a semi-final appearance last season, losing to eventual runner-up Kurt Johnson in a close race. He'll try to continue that trend at the 12th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by Al's Auto Supply, July 30-Aug. 1, at Seattle International Raceway. The $1.3 million race is the 13th of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. "I don't know if there's a trick to Seattle, but we've had some success there in the last few years," Edwards said. "You've got to find the right combination for that track. I think the combination we run works well there. It really fits the track and the typical weather conditions we face there during that time of the year." Edwards defeated Kurt Johnson at SIR in 1996 and topped Jim Yates there in '97 for two of his six career victories. He says it's always a confidence-builder returning to a winning track. "The confidence is there, but you've still got to perform," Edwards said. "The competition is so tough out here today in Pro Stock. We've got guys running fast and cutting great lights. Every race it seems to get a little more competitive." Especially this season. While SIR defending winner Warren Johnson has earned five victories, several other drivers have joined the winning parade this season, including Yates, Kurt Johnson, Allen Johnson, Jeg Coughlin and Richie Stevens. Edwards has been to two final rounds this season -- at Houston and Dallas -- but lost both times. Besides those efforts, Edwards has been working to figure out his Camaro. Edwards switched from a Pontiac Firebird to a Camaro at the beginning of this season. "We've struggled a little this year trying to figure this car out," Edwards said. "We thought we had a handle on the it until St. Louis. The car is really fast when you hit the setup, but it can be a little touchy when you don't. You've really got to stay on top of it. Especially at Seattle, where the weather conditions change rapidly. You've really got to find the right gear and clutch combination. It's critical to a good performance there." Edwards, the 1981 NHRA Winston Modified champion, serves as his own crew chief and has earned at least one victory each season since he claimed co-Rookie of the Year honors in 1996. He wants to keep that streak going this season. "We need to be more consistent," Edwards said. "We made it to two finals this season and it seems like the success we've had this season has come in spurts. Hopefully we can get back to the winner's circle pretty soon. Hopefully we'll get to celebrate in Seattle."

PROLONG SUPER LUBRICANTS NORTHWEST NATIONALS PRESENTED BY AL'S AUTO SUPPLY GENERAL INFORMATION * Schedule: Pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. July 30. Qualifying continues at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. July 31. Final professional eliminations start at 11 a.m. Aug. 1. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 9:15 a.m. July 30. * Tickets: Tickets are available for the Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals. Call (253) 631-1550, or Ticketmaster for ticket information. * On TV: ESPN2 will televise one hour of final round coverage and race highlights Aug. 1 at 8 p.m. (ET). ESPN2 will also show two hours of first round coverage and qualifying highlights on Aug. 1 at 2 p.m. (ET). In addition, ESPN2 will show two hours of qualifying highlights on July 31 at 10 p.m. (ET). * On the net: NHRA press releases are available on the internet at www.nhraonline.com.

* * * * * * * Thanks for your coverage of the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Ron Capps , John Force , Don Prudhomme , Allen Johnson , Mike Edwards