Baytown: Final summary

Stoffer Joins Elite Group of Female Winners in NHRA History; Bernstein, Wilkerson and Anderson also Win at O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston BAYTOWN, Texas - Karen Stoffer became the seventh woman in NHRA history to win a professional race ...

Stoffer Joins Elite Group of Female Winners in NHRA History; Bernstein, Wilkerson and Anderson also Win at O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston

BAYTOWN, Texas - Karen Stoffer became the seventh woman in NHRA history to win a professional race Sunday, earning the Pro Stock Bike title of the 17th annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park.

Brandon Bernstein, Tim Wilkerson and Greg Anderson also earned victories in their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the fifth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Stoffer earned her first career victory in the two-wheel category by beating Antron Brown in the final. Stoffer rode to the win with a 7.159-second pass at 186.38 mph to top Brown's run of 7.176 at 186.05 in a battle between two Suzukis. The final margin of victory was .0018 seconds, or approximately six inches.

"I knew it was going to be a tough road for us because we had such good competition on our side of the ladder," Stoffer said. "But we are a tough team too and right now anything seems possible. All I can say is 'wow' because I don't know how to describe it any other way."

At one point last week, Stoffer wasn't sure if she was going to be able to race this weekend. Her sponsor, Geico Insurance, signed an extension with her, allowing her to come to the race. She will compete at the full slate of POWERade series events.

"For a team that might not have been here, this is just amazing," Stoffer said.

Bernstein earned the fifth Top Fuel win of his career in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster and is a perfect five-for-five in final round appearances. Bernstein went 4.695 at 271.79 to beat first-time finalist Clay Millican's 5.032 at 238.81.

Bernstein has earned five wins in just 13 career races. He was quick to give credit to the tuning ability of crew chief Tim Richards.

"I can't say enough about the performance of the car," Bernstein said. "Tim and the entire team are doing such an incredible job. I feel very fortunate to have a great car and a great ride. This is a dream come true."

Bernstein had a full house of guests this weekend. The Texas native graduated from Texas A&M and had his grandfather, Bert Bernstein and mother, Donna Easom, cheering him on.

"I had some college buddies here and it was great to see them along with my mom and grandfather here too," Brandon Bernstein said. "My mom has been to a lot of races but she hadn't been to one that I won before."

With the win, Bernstein moved closer to the top of the point standings. Tony Schumacher lost to Larry Dixon in the second round and saw his points lead cut to 38 - less than two rounds of competition.

"It's still early in the season but someone needs to stop him before he runs away with (the championship)," Bernstein said. "It's going to be a tough battle. I'm not going to say that I was cheering for (Dixon, during the second round matchup against Schumacher) but I will say that I was happy that I saw the win-light on that side of the track."

Wilkerson earned the fourth win of his career in Funny Car with a 4.896 pass at 303.30 in his Levi, Ray & Shoup Chevy Monte Carlo to beat Jerry Toliver's 5.081 at 277.03 in his Schick Toyota Celica.

Wilkerson beat Funny Car points leader Del Worsham in the semifinal round before claiming the victory. The win helped Wilkerson move into the No. 3 spot of the points order.

"We were lucky to get around Del," Wilkerson said. "It seems like every time we meet it is the darndest race. We're going to keep chasing him and hopefully we'll meet enough in the later rounds that we will been in the hunt at the end of the season."

Wilkerson said the car got better as the day wore on.

"The track was a little funky for us," Wilkerson said. "But it came around to us. It's wonderful."

Anderson beat his teammate in the Pro Stock finale in a duel between a pair of Pontiac Grand Ams. Anderson earned the 20th win of his career by turning in a 6.738 run at 205.57 in the Vegas General Construction car to top Jason Line's 9.466 at 98.16 in the KB Framers car.

It was the first time Line had been in a final round. The 1993 Stock eliminator champion now has just nine events on his professional resume.

"Jason had a better light (reaction time) and he was faster to the 60-foot mark," Anderson said. "But then his car got out of the groove and I am not sure if anyone could have saved it. He shut it off before hitting the wall. I would have been happy if he won too. It would have been a better race if the car hadn't had problems."

Line said he hopes he gets another shot at beating his boss.

"It should have been a better race and I hope I get another chance to race Greg in the final," Line said. "The car just went left and I had to shut it off. But it was tuned up to race. It should have been a real good finish. We should have finished so close to where we could have received the Motel 6 'Who Got the Light' award. Next time."

Anderson has four wins in just five national events this season. If he wants to break records, he will break his own. Anderson set the record for the most wins in a season - 12 - last year en route to his first POWERade Pro Stock championship.

While Anderson admits he may be dominating the category now, he said he thinks it is good for the fans.

"The best thing for the category is for everyone to run quicker and faster," Anderson said. "Our team works very hard at finding more power and I think we are just elevating the category. Already other teams have stepped up their team too. Jeg (Coughlin) and Warren (Johnson) both turned in faster runs than I did and that shows you they are finding the power.

"Right now our team does a better job of putting the power to work on the track. Who knows what can happen in two or three months? We might not be the only team who can say that."

The next NHRA POWERade series event is the fourth annual O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tenn., April 30- May 2.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Clay Millican , Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Del Worsham , Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Tim Wilkerson , Karen Stoffer , Brandon Bernstein , Jason Line , Tim Richards , Jerry Toliver