Columbus: Sunday eliminations report

BERNSTEIN POWERS BUDWEISER DRAGSTER TO 10TH WIN IN 11 FINAL CAREER ROUNDS Other winners were Tony Pedregon (Funny Car), Jim Yates (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle) KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio -- Second-generation driver Brandon ...


Other winners were Tony Pedregon (Funny Car), Jim Yates (Pro Stock) and Angelle Sampey (Pro Stock Motorcycle)

KIRKERSVILLE, Ohio -- Second-generation driver Brandon Bernstein improved to 10-1 in Top Fuel finals with his victory Sunday at the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals presented by Summit Racing. The $1.5 million race is the eighth of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein traversed National Trail Raceway's quarter-mile in his Budweiser dragster in 4.531 seconds at 329.58 mph to beat veteran Cory McClenathan, who blew up the motor in his Jeg's Mail Order dragster. He was joined in the winner's circle by Funny Car winner Tony Pedregon, Pro Stock champ Jim Yates, and Pro Stock Motorcycle victor Angelle Sampey.

"By the time you get to the final you just have such a good feeling," Bernstein said. "Especially with the success we've had in finals. It seems (crew chief) Tim (Richards) always delivers either our best pass of the weekend or at the very least keeps us repeating what we've done in previous rounds.

"I think we're contenders," said Bernstein (515), who pulled into third place, within 21 of Doug Kalitta (536) and 175 of Melanie Troxel (690). We certainly have the car and the capability to win the championship. This team has gotten it done before. (Troxel) got a good lead on all of us but we have a long way to go this year and if you can have a few days like today when she goes out early and you go on, it doesn't take long to catch up."

Pedregon's win was his second in a row in the sport's crowded Funny Car class. He powered his Q Racing Chevy Monte Carlo past Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Dodge Charger in the final despite Bazemore's lane-choice advantage, which was negated when Bazemore's engine failed at half-track. Pedregon's slowish 4.923 at 313.66 mph ended up being more than enough for his 31st career win.

It was the fourth win in the last 13 events dating back to Reading 2005 for Pedregon, second only to POWERade Series points leader Ron Capps (five wins) over that stretch.

"We put so much time and effort into what we do," said Pedregon, who has moved from 12th to sixth in the last two events. "On the surface it seems like such a glamorous job but it's a lot of work just to get to the track. To win one race out here is very difficult. To win two in a row is fantastic. This is a huge victory for us."

Yates became the eighth different Pro Stock winner of the first eight races by trouncing a quicker Vieri Gaines at the starting line. Yates left the starting line with a .040-second reaction time to Gaines' costly .082-second start. The early advantage was enough to reward Yates the win by .0032 seconds, as he posted a 6.726 at 205.72 mph ahead of Gaines' quicker but losing 6.687 at 206.23 mph.

"Before the final Jamie (Yates, son and crew chief) told me he needed some help on the Tree because he didn't think we had enough in the tune-up to win," Yates said. "So I told him I'd get it done. We're a team and we all contribute. I tell you, it's such a joy to work with my son and my wife also. It makes it so special for all of us."

The win was the first in four seasons (Reading, 2002) for the driver of the Sea Ray Boats Pontiac GTO who is a two-time POWERade Series world champion (1996, 1997). Yates moved into third place in this season's standings, just 48 points behind Greg Anderson.

Sampey regained the POWERade points lead with her third win of the season, which has featured only four Pro Stock Motorcycle races so far. Sampey rode her U.S. Army Suzuki to its quickest run of the weekend -- a 7.046 at 188.52 mph -- to collect the 40th victory of her 139-race career, extending the all-time record for female drag racers.

The win also pulled her to within five of Dave Schultz (45 career wins) for the all-time lead in the NHRA POWERade Series Pro Stock Motorcycle career wins list.

"My goal this year was for the rest of the Pro Stock Motorcycles to hate the U.S. Army Suzukis," Sampey said. "I learned a long time ago that if everyone else hates you then you're doing good. Between me and Antron we've won all four races this year so I'm sure the hatred is building out there."

Sampey regained the points lead she held after the first two races. The three-time series champion now leads reigning champ Andrew Hines by 36 points, while Sampey's teammate Antron Brown, who led coming into this event, slipped to third, 74 off the pace.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Melanie Troxel , Brandon Bernstein , Vieri Gaines , Andrew Hines , Angelle Sampey