Bristol: Friday qualifying summary

Bernstein, Pedgregon and Coughlin lead the way in qualifying At Bristol Dragway BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kenny Bernstein earned the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in the Top Fuel category Friday at the second annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA...

Bernstein, Pedgregon and Coughlin lead the way in qualifying At Bristol Dragway

BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kenny Bernstein earned the provisional No. 1 qualifying position in the Top Fuel category Friday at the second annual Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Bernstein drove his Budweiser King dragster down the quarter-mile track in 4.599 seconds at 323.27 mph to pace the Top Fuel category. The speed is a track record. Qualifying continues with two sessions Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

Tony Pedregon and Troy Coughlin led their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the sixth of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

If Bernstein's run remains the quickest and fastest of the category, it will be his No. 62nd No. 1 qualifiers of his career.

"We went after it pretty hard," Bernstein said. "The car gave me a pretty good shake during the second pass and I am surprised that it didn't get the tires lose. We really didn't expect the first run. When we first got here, it looked like the track conditions were going to be a problem. But I think this is the best we have run as a pack in Top Fuel and Funny Car all season."

Bernstein is celebrating his final season as a driver, and has yet to earn a national event victory at Bristol Dragway.

"I have been coming here for a long time, and I am sure that sometime during my earlier Funny Car days we got a (non-national event) win or two," Bernstein said. "But we would love to win here. It would be great for us and the fans."

While the weather was cool with mild cloud cover, Bernstein said he is not going to make predictions about whether his run will stay at the top of the Top Fuel class.

"If it stays cool and cloudy like it was (Friday), then there are about two or three good cars out there," Bernstein said. "If it warms up, it will probably hold. It is really going to depend on the weather."

Pedregon set both ends of the track record with a 4.844 pass at 322.34 in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. If Pedregon can hold the top spot, it will be his 11th No. 1 qualifier.

"This was really the first time all season that we have been in a position to go for the low E.T.," Pedregon said. "In the last four or five races, we have gained a lot in performance. I am really hoping the 4.84 will just keep us in the show. I would love for it to hold (as the No. 1 spot)."

Pedregon's team owner, John Force, is coming off his 100th career victory. Force qualified in the No. 3 spot with a 4.896 pass at 310.20 in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

"I was kind of hanging out of the Ford Excursion checking to see if (Force qualified in the No. 1 spot)," Pedregon said. "I hope he didn't see me celebrate. We need it for the team morale.

"People ask me what John is going after now that he has the 100th victory. I tell them he is going for 101. But we have our own agenda, just like (teammate) Gary Densham."

Coughlin set the track record for time with a 6.853 run at 200.74 in his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier. If it can hold, it will be Coughlin's second career No. 1 qualifying position.

"It kind of surprised me as well as the other guys on the team," Coughlin said. "The guys back in the Jeg's shop have worked very hard and for us to grab the No. 1 spot is very exciting.

"I've only been No. 1 in Pro Stock one other time. It's a good feeling and it would be great to pick up some extra points."

Qualifying continues with two sessions Saturday at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.

-nhra-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Troy Coughlin , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Gary Densham