Dallas: Sunday final summary

Dixon and Anderson claim series championships; Bernstein, Force earn wins at Texas Motorplex ENNIS, Texas - Larry Dixon and Greg Anderson clinched their respective NHRA series championships Sunday at the 18th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals at...

Dixon and Anderson claim series championships; Bernstein, Force earn wins at Texas Motorplex

ENNIS, Texas - Larry Dixon and Greg Anderson clinched their respective NHRA series championships Sunday at the 18th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex.

Kenny Bernstein, John Force and Anderson earned the wins in their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 20th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon earned his second consecutive Top Fuel championship when Doug Kalitta, No. 2 in the points, lost in the second round and Dixon went on to win his round two matchup against Darrell Russell. Dixon lost in the semifinal to Kenny Bernstein, but the loss was softened with the championship.

"This is a big deal," Dixon, the driver of the Miller Lite dragster, said. "It's hard to win a race. It's very hard to win a championship. Anytime you don't win the race, you are disappointed, but we accomplished our year-long mission today."

Anderson doubled up, winning his first Pro Stock championship before beating 2002 Pro Stock champion, Jeg Coughlin, in the final round. Coughlin fouled at the starting line in his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier, giving Anderson the automatic win in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am. Anderson has 10 victories this season, 14 in his career.

"This is such a tremendous accomplishment for this team," Anderson said. "I can't say enough about what my guys have been able to do with this race car. It has been a total team effort."

The record for the most wins in a season is 11, held by Darrell Alderman in 1991. Anderson said the record would be the only thing left on his list of goals for the 2003 season.

"I said it before, that if you win a championship without winning (the U.S. Nationals) at Indianapolis, the season has something missing," Anderson said. "But we won Indy, we set both ends of the national record, and we just won the POWERade championship. The only thing that I would like to accomplish still is breaking the single-season win record. If we can do that, we will sweep the season.

"This team has been so consistent. This is just a testament to the guys on the team and the people in the shop who have worked on this car all season."

Bernstein beat Scott Kalitta for his 67th career victory and second this season. Bernstein turned in a 4.514-second pass at 327.86 mph in the Budweiser Top Fuel dragster to beat Kalitta's 8.685 at 84.90 in the Jesse James/Mac Tools dragster.

This is the first time Bernstein has won a race at the Motorplex since 1986, when he took the Funny Car event win. Bernstein was raised in Texas and calls the Motorplex his ultimate home track.

"Winning in Dallas is so special because we have so many people here that started my career with me," Bernstein said. "It's neat to be able to win in front of the home town. And the fact that we moved up into the seventh place of the standings is terrific. I give all the credit to (crew chief) Tim Richards and this crew. When I first got back in the car, and we has 13 races left in the season, I was just hoping we could break into the top 10."

Now Bernstein is faced with a similar situation - retirement. He came out of retirement at the end of the 2002 campaign and put his son Brandon, into the seat of the Top Fuel car. The younger Bernstein was injured and sidelined for the rest of the season in May, forcing the six-time champion back into the driving role. With two races left on the schedule, Bernstein said he is comfortable knowing he will be ready to assume the sole role of team owner again soon.

"When I first saw that car go down the track and I wasn't in it (in February) I was standing on the sidelines and it wasn't too fun for me," Bernstein said. "But it is going to be great having Brandon back in and I am very cool with it. Now I know what to expect. It will be better the second time around."

Force used a 4.889 at 317.68 pass in his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang to earn his 109th career win by beating Dean Skuza in Funny Car. Skuza's 5.013 at 274.30 in a Pontiac Firebird was good enough for his third runner-up finish of the season.

This is the first time Force has won a race since July in Seattle. His teammate, Tony Pedregon, is still leading the points race, with two events left on the schedule. Force has not been eliminated from the 2003 championship, but time is running out.

"It felt real good to win," Force said. "I didn't realize it had been so long. But we're still alive in the championship chase and I win either way. Being the team owner, if Tony wins, I still get to be part of that too."

The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in Las Vegas, Oct. 23-26.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Scott Kalitta , Tim Richards , Jesse James