Columbus: Friday qualifying summary

Bernstein, Bazemore, Johnson and Savoie lead NHRA qualifying Friday at Pontiac Excitement Nationals. HEBRON, Ohio -- Kenny Bernstein was quickest Friday in Top Fuel at the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, ...

Bernstein, Bazemore, Johnson and Savoie lead NHRA qualifying Friday at Pontiac Excitement Nationals.

HEBRON, Ohio -- Kenny Bernstein was quickest Friday in Top Fuel at the 38th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals presented by Summit Racing, leading a parade of track record performances in his Budweiser King dragster.

Whit Bazemore, Warren Johnson and Angelle Savoie also were qualifying leaders at the $1.8 million race, the 11th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein covered the quarter-mile in 4.587 seconds with a track record speed of 323.81 mph, which broke a longstanding track speed mark. Rival Larry Dixon, who leads the series and has been a finalist in nine of 10 races this season, was third in the order with a 4.645 at 310.41 in his Miller Lite dragster.

"It was a great run," Bernstein said. "Tim (Richards, crew chief) and the guys did a great job to put it on the button. The car did everything it was supposed to do."

If the run holds at the top, it would be the third No. 1 qualifying effort of the season for Bernstein, the defending series champion who is trying to chase down the runaway Dixon. In this epic battle, every point is critical.

"Any other year you would say we're doing pretty good with the kind of season we're having, but (Dixon) has got off to such a good start that they have a pretty good lead right now," Bernstein said. "Right now we feel pretty good about our car. I think both cars and teams are pretty equal at this point. To be honest we need to run him as early and as often as we can, but that could be a two way street, because they could beat us. We just have to make sure we take advantage of those situations if they come our way."

Bazemore led Funny Car qualifying in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird, covering the distance in 4.863, with a track record speed of 316.97. Defending event winner John Force was second, clocking a 4.895 at 310.41 in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

"We're really pleased with the effort," Bazemore said. "We knew tonight was going to be important. Lee (Beard, crew chief) tuned our car to go for the No. 1 qualifying position. We had room to go for it and take some risk and it paid off. We're fortunate, because it got out of the groove just a little bit. It was a good job by everyone on the team, we'll see what happens tomorrow. If the weather cooperates with some good, cool conditions, we could see some times and speeds that we haven't seen in a while here in Columbus, which is usually very hot and humid. If that happens then that (4.86) won't hold up."

Johnson paced the Pro Stock order with a track record time of 6.880 at 200.02 mph in his GM Performance Pontiac Grand Am. If Johnson can hold on to the top spot, it will be his first No. 1 position of the season and the 300th consecutive race he's qualified for, an NHRA record.

"I really hadn't paid attention to that statistic," Johnson said. "I think the last time I looked it was around 260 races. I wasn't aware that this was the 300th race. Those things are neat but they don't pay you to qualify for 300 straight races. They pay you to qualify No. 1 and that's what we're shooting for."

Savoie rode her CVEC Racing Suzuki to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle order with a 7.215 at 183.69. Matt Hines qualified second on his Eagle One Suzuki with a track record speed of 189.90 mph.

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11:15 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , John Force