Gainesville Bernstein story (TOP FUEL)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 BERNSTEIN SHOWING CHAMPIONSHIP FORM HEADING INTO GAINESVILLE GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In the most emotional moment of the NHRA Winston Championship Awards Ceremony...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

BERNSTEIN SHOWING CHAMPIONSHIP FORM HEADING INTO GAINESVILLE

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- In the most emotional moment of the NHRA Winston Championship Awards Ceremony last October, Kenny Bernstein brought the family of the late Blaine Johnson on stage and gave them his Winston championship trophy.

The gesture was the best way Bernstein knew to acknowledge that his fallen colleague was headed toward the title before suffering fatal injuries at the U.S. Nationals in August while leading the NHRA Winston Top Fuel standings.

So as Bernstein enters his title defense this year, there's additional motivation created by last season's tragic championship chase. Bernstein, from Dallas, doesn't want to just win another title in the Budweiser King Dragster. He wants to stamp this season as his own.

"We're proud of what we accomplished, but we know what happened," Bernstein said. "I'm respectful and sorrowful of what happened. We really want to win heads-up. We want to win so there are no questions."

So far, so good. Bernstein is second in the NHRA Winston point standings and will look to climb at the 28th annual, $1,831,950 Mac Tools Gatornationals, March 6-9 at Gainesville Raceway. The race is the third event of the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997.

Bernstein wasted no time at the season-opening Chief Auto Parts Winternationals establishing himself as a contender for a repeat title. He lost in the semifinals to eventual runner-up Joe Amato despite posting a time of 4.617 seconds. Amato won at 4.587 in the quickest race in NHRA history.

"I'm pretty happy with what we saw at Pomona," Bernstein said. "Five straight passes from a 4.61 to a 4.65. That's pretty consistent. We'll take that. That's going to win some races."

It almost did at Phoenix. Bernstein was runner-up to Gary Scelzi at the ATSCO Nationals.

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi