Denver: Saturday qualifying summary

BERNSTEIN, HIGHT, ANDERSON AND HINES ARE NO. 1 QUALIFIERS FOR THE MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS AT BANDIMERE SPEEDWAY MORRISON, Colo. -- Brandon Bernstein earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Mopar...

BERNSTEIN, HIGHT, ANDERSON AND HINES ARE NO. 1 QUALIFIERS FOR THE MOPAR MILE-HIGH NHRA NATIONALS AT BANDIMERE SPEEDWAY

MORRISON, Colo. -- Brandon Bernstein earned his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season Saturday at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway outside of Denver.

Robert Hight, Greg Anderson and Andrew Hines also were the top qualifiers in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 13th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein became the first driver ever at the scenic mountain-side drag strip to record a 330-plus speed when he shut the clocks off in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster in 4.596 seconds at a track record pace of 330.88 mph, earning him the top qualifying spot for the eighth time in his career.

It has been more than six years (Feb. 1999) since Tony Schumacher became the first in NHRA history to eclipse the 330-mph barrier (330.23), demonstrating the challenges the atmospheric conditions at Bandimere Speedway present for crew chiefs and drivers alike. The track record for E.T. in the Top Fuel category is one of the oldest on the tour, a 4.584 run made by NHRA legend Joe Amato in 1999.

"No one expected the conditions to be the way they were (on Friday night)," said the 32-year-old Bernstein. "Today we knew it was going to be warmer and the weather conditions were going to be similar to what they will be for eliminations tomorrow. We smoked the tires during our first run today, but (crew chief) Tim Richards wanted to gather some information for tomorrow."

Bernstein, who ended a winless streak of 26 events with a victory at St. Louis a few weeks ago, will face No. 16 qualifier Rob Passey in the opening round of eliminations. A victory for Bernstein on Sunday would catapult the native Southern Californian. higher in point standings in the race towards the 2005 POWERade world championship.

"It would be very nice to get back-to-back wins for the Budweiser/Lucas Oil team, especially after going without a win for so long" Bernstein said. "Winning at St. Louis was huge for our team. I think it gives us a little bit of an edge and it definitely gives us the confidence we need. We know we can win, but our performance lately makes us remember how to win these races."

Hight, a rookie Funny Car driver and the leading contender for Rookie of the Year honors, established track records for time and speed when he steered the John Force-owned Auto Club Ford Mustang down the quarter-mile in 4.796 at 319.82, giving the 35-year-old Southern California native a category-best total of five No. 1 qualifying efforts. The three Force-owned Mustangs qualified first, sixth (Force) and 10th (Eric Medlen) for tomorrow's eliminations.

"All three of us on the team want to do better than everyone else but there isn't that much competition among the three of us," Hight said. "If we finished one-two-three, and I was third, I would be fine with that. I do know that we want one of our Ford Mustangs to win this Mopar event."

Hight has a special place in his heart for Bandimere Speedway. In 1995, Hight's first race ever as an employee for Force was at Bandimere Speedway, a race Force eventually went on to win. Following the victory, Hight's future-father-in-law gave him the 'Wally' trophy given to event winners and now Hight wants to repay his boss.

"I was his clutch specialist back in '95 and John gave me his Wally after the win," Hight said. "This time, I want to give John the trophy if I win here."

Anderson, the two-time defending NHRA Pro Stock world champion and defending event winner, debuted a Pontiac GTO and recorded a track record time of 7.106 at 194.07 for his third top qualifying spot of the season and the 36th of his career. Anderson, who led the point standings entering the Denver race, will line drive his Summit Racing GTO to the starting line Sunday to meet Mike Edwards in the opening round of eliminations.

Defending POWERade Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Hines rode his Vance & Hines Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson to the top of the two-wheel category for the fifth time this season and the 13th time of his career. Hines, formerly a Colorado resident, reset the track record that provisional No. 1 qualifier Ryan Schnitz established last night. Hines will face Matt Smith in the first round of eliminations.

Professional eliminations begin Sunday at noon.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Greg Anderson , Brandon Bernstein , Ryan Schnitz , Andrew Hines , Matthew Smith , Tim Richards , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Mike Edwards , Rob Passey