Englishtown: Finals summary

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Kenny Bernstein showcased a dominating performance Sunday to earn his second Top Fuel victory of the season and 55th of his career at the Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions. Tony Pedregon, Richie...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Kenny Bernstein showcased a dominating performance Sunday to earn his second Top Fuel victory of the season and 55th of his career at the Matco Tools SuperNationals presented by Racing Champions.

Tony Pedregon, Richie Stevens and Matt Hines also were winners in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the eighth of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein covered the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park quarter-mile in 4.532 seconds at 321.35 mph in his Budweiser King dragster, and pulled away from final round opponent Doug Kalitta, whose dragster lost traction and slowed to a 9.169 at 87.98.

"The conditions today (cool and overcast) were ideal for great performance and the crew really put (the car) on the button," said Bernstein. "That last run is as good as it gets -- an E-ticket ride as they say. It had the wheels up and was dancin' hard through there. The team did a great job today with no mistakes and that's what it takes to get it done."

Bernstein, aided by crew chief Tim Richards' tuning talent, posted three consecutive 4.50-second runs en route to the victory. In the process, he created a tight scramble for the NHRA Winston points chase as he moved to third, trailing points leader Mike Dunn by five points and second place driver Larry Dixon by two.

"The confidence with this team just keeps building," Bernstein said. "Since Tim has been with us I can only think of two or three aborted runs. That's what it's all about. If you are consistent and keep the good numbers coming you are going to win some races and keep putting pressure on the other guys to match your performance level. The key is consistency, and that's what Tim has brought to the table for this team."

Pedregon cruised to his first Funny Car victory of the season when John Force's identically-prepared Castrol Ford Mustang lost a blower-belt at half-track. Pedregon covered the distance in 4.936 at 316.23 to take his 11th career victory, while his team owner slowed to a 6.117 at 147.58.

"It's a tough business and you've really got to earn the right to stand up there on the podium and today we worked really hard at it and punched a few guys out along the way," said Pedregon, whose last victory came in Houston last fall. "Over the last few months I've learned to enjoy things a little more and this (victory) is going to be a good one. I'm glad we had a strong car for the final and we were fortunate that (Force) lost a blower belt there because his car was really strong all day. We wanted to give the fans a good run and that's what we did."

With the runner-up finish, Force extended his Winston points lead to 73 over second place Bruce Sarver. Pedregon, who struggled in recent races with a string of first round losses, moved to 10th in the Winston standings with the win.

Stevens claimed his first Pro Stock win of the season and fourth of his career by upsetting top qualifier and national record-setter Mark Pawuk. Stevens used a perfect .400 reaction time and clocked a 6.892 at 200.14 in a Pontiac Grand Am to drive away from Pawuk, who had to shut off early when his Grand Am neared the centerline at mid-track. Earlier in the day Pawuk set the national elapsed time record for the category at 6.806 seconds.

"It started out as a slow weekend," said Stevens, who also logged his first career victory here in 1997. "We qualified 15th and it's real hard to come from that spot and win. But today Tommy Utt (crew chief) gave me a great car. It was very consistent and went down the racetrack on every run. We went 6.85 twice, 6.86 and 6.89 and I don't think you can't get more consistent than that. To win here again is great. This track has always been good to us."

With a semifinal finish, Warren Johnson moved back into the Winston points lead and holds a seven point advantage over Pawuk.

Hines earned his second Pro Stock Motorcycle victory of the season and 28th of his career, defeating 18-year-old first-time finalist GT Tonglet. Hines, who has been to every final round this season, posted an incredible final round performance of 7.119 at 194.10 (national record speed) on his Eagle One Suzuki as Tonglet fouled at the start.

"This is starting to look like 1998 again," said Hines, referring to his dominant campaign three years ago. "The only thing is the competition is looking a lot tougher this year. In the final we weren't trying to set the speed record, but we were trying for the elapsed time record."

Hines increased his Winston points lead to 96 over another national record-setter, Antron Brown, who clocked the national record run (7.103 seconds) in a second round loss (foul start).

The next NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event is the 13th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.), May 24-27.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Bruce Sarver , Matt Hines , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Mark Pawuk , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , John Force , Doug Kalitta , Tim Richards