Columbus: Final qualifying summary

Bernstein, Bazemore, Yates and Hines earn no. 1 qualifying spots at Pontiac Excitement Nationals. HEBRON, Ohio -- Kenny Bernstein earned his third No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position of the season and the 64th of his career Saturday at the 38th...

Bernstein, Bazemore, Yates and Hines earn no. 1 qualifying spots at Pontiac Excitement Nationals.

HEBRON, Ohio -- Kenny Bernstein earned his third No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying position of the season and the 64th of his career Saturday at the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

Whit Bazemore, Jim Yates, and Matt Hines also were the top qualifiers of their respective categories at the $2 million race, the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein's Budweiser King dragster blasted down the quarter-mile track in 4.586 seconds at 323.81 mph to lead all competitors into eliminations.

"(Our team) was pretty consistent out there and that's what you have to be if you're going to win," said Bernstein, the defending NHRA POWERade champion. "It was really cool today but the sun might come out tomorrow and then everyone will be basically starting over. Luckily we have experience and the knowledge to use in that case."

Bernstein entered the event 203 points behind rival Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite dragster. Bernstein will meet No. 16 qualifier John Smith in the first round of eliminations. Dixon secured the No. 6 spot in the qualifying order and will meet Scott Weis.

"I sure hope (Dixon) goes out first round, and I'm sure he's hoping the same for me," said the 56-year-old Bernstein. "Those guys have been awfully good out there all season and been dominant. I'm sure the Budweiser folks are tired of reading about that blue car winning. We can't worry about how they're going to do in eliminations because all we can do is take care of ourselves. We have no control over what happens to Dixon. You can only have control over your own destiny."

Bazemore scored his 20th career top spot in Funny Car as he established a track record for time and speed when he powered his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to a run of 4.798 at 320.36 to lead the 16-car field.

"It's really important for us to go rounds on Sunday," said Bazemore, currently fifth in the standings. "On one hand we have had a great season already winning twice and being the No. 1 qualifier twice. On the other hand, we've been disappointed with all the first round losses (five). I'm starting to think it's better to just consistently make it to the semifinals and not win than win three or four times and be knocked out in the first round a lot."

At the end of last season Bazemore made a strong run for the NHRA championship, qualifying No. 1 at nine of the final 12 events and snagging three wins. He finished as the runner-up to nemesis John Force and is hoping for a run similar to last year.

"I know I've made (Force) really mad in the past on several occasions and he's upset me too," said Bazemore. "But this year we've become more friendly, and that makes it more fun. I think he's killing me with kindness. I did better against him when I couldn't stand the guy. He has a heart of gold and I'm glad I have gotten to know him better. It's nice to beat him, even during qualifying, because he's the best. You can't make a mistake against him. One day though, after one of us retires, we'll go drink beers and go fishing."

Yates notched his fourth straight No. 1 Pro Stock qualifying position and fifth of the year as he reached the finish line in a track record time of 6.862 at 199.58 in his Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am.

Hines rode his Eagle One Suzuki to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle order for the 41st time in his career when he set both ends of the track record with a pass of 7.177 at 190.59.

Professional eliminations begin Sunday at 11 a.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Scott Weis , Whit Bazemore , John Force