Brainerd: Friday summary

Bernstein, Force, Allen and Savoie lead qualifying at Brainerd International Raceway. BRAINERD, Minn. - John Force continued to lead the Funny Car pack in Minnesota. Force has logged nine victories at Brainerd International Raceway during his...

Bernstein, Force, Allen and Savoie lead qualifying at Brainerd International Raceway.

BRAINERD, Minn. - John Force continued to lead the Funny Car pack in Minnesota. Force has logged nine victories at Brainerd International Raceway during his career and he could be on his way to No. 10.

Force grabbed the provisional No. 1 qualifying position Friday in the Funny Car category after a lengthy rain delay at the 21st annual Rugged Liner NHRA Nationals. Rain canceled one of the two scheduled rounds of qualifying for the Top Fuel and Funny Car categories. The Pro Stock and Pro Stock Bike categories were able to complete both sessions.

Kenny Bernstein, Bruce Allen and Angelle Savoie led their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 16th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Force drove his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang to a 4.935-second run at 257.24 mph to pace Funny Car. If he can maintain the top spot, it will be the sixth No. 1 qualifying position at the track, and 111th of his career. Force is currently the Funny Car points leader and is looking to earn his 12th Funny Car championship. Teammates Tony Pedregon and Gary Densham are second and third in the standings, respectively.

"Austin (Coil, crew chief) made a few changes to the car after he saw Whit (Bazemore's) run," Force said. "We're happy with it. You feel secure that you are in since you might only get one pass tomorrow. The plan was to just put it in the show. The car skated a little bit at the top end. I got close to the wall and the parachute got tangled up underneath it and it almost crossed over into Tony's (Pedregon, other lane) car. But we got it straightened out."

Pedregon turned in a 4.943 at 299.73 for the No. 2 qualifying position while Densham was fourth after a 4.999 run at 310.13.

Bernstein leads the Top Fuel category after he went 4.664 at 319.98 in the Budweiser King dragster.

"That was an excellent run and the full credit goes to Tim Richards (crew chief) and all his knowledge and years of experience," Bernstein said.

Bernstein is second in the Top Fuel point standings and is looking to close the gap on leader Larry Dixon. Bernstein, the 2001 Top Fuel champion, is set to retire in November and would like to finish with a seventh career championship.

Weather, however, played a role in the way the cars were set up for the one qualifying session.

"We just wanted to get down the race track and get a run under our belt," Bernstein said. "That first run is pretty critical especially when you don't know what the weather is going to be. We didn't want to smoke the tires because if you do that you are automatically behind. If the sun comes out tomorrow it will be a different game. I don't think the time will stand."

Dixon was seventh after one round with a 4.826 pass at 227.92 in the Miller Lite Dragster.

"The hardest part about the weather is the fact that we lose runs," Dixon said. "Losing runs puts the crew chief and the team up against the wall. They already have to be perfect and (without all four runs) you are asking them to be more perfect. If we lose just one run, that takes away 25 percent of our qualifying opportunities."

Allen went to the top of the Pro Stock category with a 6.960 run at 197.71 in his Speedco Truck Lube Pontiac Grand Am. Allen is the defending champion at Brainerd.

"Even though it was cloudy it was really humid out there today after it rained," Allen said. "It'll get quicker tomorrow because it should be cooler. I'm sure it won't hold. I think it'll be in (the field), but not at the top. I think we'll see a 6.92 or a 6.93 just based on the conditions we're expecting for our 10 a.m. run. This was good for us. We'll take it."

Allen has four victories at Brainerd and is looking to earn the back-to-back wins. There have been only two other Pro Stock drivers to collect repeat wins in Minnesota - Warren Johnson and retired driver Bob Glidden. They each have four victories, but they were never able to put more than two wins together.

"We've struggled lately. We tested on Monday and Tuesday and I think we made some progress," Allen said. "We had high hopes coming into this race. That run was really good for the conditions. That's encouraging. I'm not sure why we run so well up here. I wish I knew so I could bottle it and take it with us to every track. We just seem to have a tune-up that's right for the conditions and elevation here. I hope we can parlay today's performance into something good for the rest of the weekend."

Savoie earned a share of the elapsed time track record with a time of 7.262 at 181.11 on her Star Racing Suzuki to top the Pro Stock Bike category. She shares the record with Antron Brown, who went an identical 7.262 last year. If she can hold on to the No. 1 position, it will be the 30th of her career.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Densham , Bruce Allen