Columbus: Saturday summary

Bernstein, Pedregon, Anderson and Hines Qualify at the Top at Pontiac Excitement Nationals KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio - Cruz Pedregon earned the No. 1 qualifying position for the first time since 1998 Saturday during the 40th annual Pontiac Excitement...

Bernstein, Pedregon, Anderson and Hines Qualify at the Top at Pontiac Excitement Nationals

KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio - Cruz Pedregon earned the No. 1 qualifying position for the first time since 1998 Saturday during the 40th annual Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

Brandon Bernstein, Greg Anderson and Andrew Hines also earned the No. 1 qualifying position in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Pedregon earned the 30th No. 1 qualifying position of his career and first since the Pomona (Calif.) Finals in Nov. 1998. Pedregon drove his Advance Auto Parts Chevy Monte Carlo to the top Funny Car spot by setting the E.T. track record with a 4.769-second pass at 301 mph.

"This year we have not been anywhere close to reaching the potential of this team," Pedregon said. "This is scratching the surface, but we've got to keep going. I haven't been pushed back in the seat like that in quite awhile. What a great morale boost for this team."

Pedregon and his brother, Tony, have each earned an NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship. Cruz took the title in 1992 and Tony followed in his footsteps and earned the 2003 honors. They teamed up for the 2004 season, hoping to share ownership duties and track knowledge.

"We've had a problem for the last three races with (our car) dropping cylinders but that time we just happened to hit all eight and the Monte Carlo body really kept us planted," Cruz Pedregon said. "Obviously, I'm elated with the end result."

Bernstein earned the fourth top qualifier of his career and third of the season with a 4.489 run at 328.86 in his Budweiser dragster to lead Top Fuel.

"We're in a good position, we think" Bernstein said. "I double-stepped it in the final session there and we lost a good chance to get some data under some sunshine but I think Tim [Richards, crew chief] has a good enough handle on this thing. We'll aim for the semis or the finals, like always, and try to accumulate more points."

Bernstein leads the Top Fuel point standings after the first nine events of the season. But second-place Tony Schumacher is just 21 points behind. Still, Bernstein said he feels comfortable driving the car into tomorrow's round. So far the Budweiser team has earned three wins in four final round appearances.

"There's not as much pressure when the car's running like this," Bernstein said. "All you have to do is make sure you don't make any mistakes as a driver. I feel like I just need to get a good light and then let the car take care of the rest."

Anderson paced the Pro Stock class for the seventh time this season and 24th time in his career with a 6.790 pass at 203.06 in his General Construction Pontiac Grand Am.

"We made some wholesale changes in the chassis today," Anderson said. "We've been struggling at the top end so we had to do something. When you have all these races in a row you don't have time to test and we knew we had run well enough yesterday to stay in the field so the only thing we had to lose was the (No. 1 qualifier). We decided that would be okay. As it turns out we got even quicker so I'd have to say our little test session went real well."

Not only does Anderson have seven wins this season but his teammate, Jason Line, has one win too.

"We've learned a lot this weekend, not the least of which is that a lot of cars out here have gotten better," Anderson said. "I'll take a lot of the credit for that because I think we've put so much heat on everyone else that we forced them to go home and work that much harder."

Hines earned the fourth top qualifying position of his career and fourth of the season when he rode his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson to a track-record time of 7.081 run at 187.99 to lead the Pro Stock Bike category.

"The first run of the day was the cleanest pass we've made all weekend," Hines said. "We just went out and did our normal deal and the .08 came up. I just need to keep the red lights out of my lane and we just need to get our setup ready for the possibility of four clean passes tomorrow.

"Being the No. 1 qualifier is nice for the team, but it really doesn't matter on Sunday. A lot of racers have won from a lot of positions outside the No. 1 spot."

Final eliminations are set for 11 a.m. Sunday.

-nhra-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Schumacher , Greg Anderson , Cruz Pedregon , Brandon Bernstein , Jason Line , Andrew Hines