BERNSTEIN, PEDREGON, ANDERSON AND TREBLE LEAD QUALIFYING AT GATORS GAINESVILLE, Fla. - It appears as though the top runners-up of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season are trying to avoid being No. 2 or 3 this year. The No. 2 finishers in ...
BERNSTEIN, PEDREGON, ANDERSON AND TREBLE LEAD QUALIFYING AT GATORS
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - It appears as though the top runners-up of the 2002 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season are trying to avoid being No. 2 or 3 this year. The No. 2 finishers in Funny Car and Pro Stock Bike as well as the No. 3 finisher in Pro Stock are the top qualifiers after two of four sessions at the 34th annual Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.
Tony Pedregon, Brandon Bernstein, Greg Anderson and Craig Treble led their respective categories at the $2 million race, the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Pedregon finished behind his boss, John Force, in the race for the Funny Car championship last season. He topped the category with a 4.814-second run at 317.57 mph in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Pedregon is the defending winner of the Gatornationals.
"Last year we were 11 points away from Force going into the final race of the season," Pedregon said. "It makes you realize how important each and every qualifying session and round of racing is. Our approach to this season is to be the No. 1 qualifier at every race."
Bernstein may be a rookie, but he was working on his father's Top Fuel team that finished No. 2 to Larry Dixon last year. Now he is the driver with championship expectations of his own.
Bernstein drove the Budweiser dragster down the quarter-mile track in 4.547 seconds at 324.67 mph.
"I'm really excited to be No. 1 and I hope we can keep it," Bernstein said. "I could tell at half-track that the car was on a very good run."
Bernstein replaced his retired father, Kenny, at the start of the 2003 season. The rookie Bernstein is coming off his first career win three weeks ago in Phoenix.
"That is just racing," Bernstein said. "Some days are going to be like Phoenix and there may be some days when we don't event qualify."
Greg Anderson, the current Pro Stock points leader, drove his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am to a 6.788 at 203.43 to pace the Pro Stock field. Anderson was No. 3 in the final Pro Stock standings in 2002.
Craig Treble is looking to earn the top qualifying position of the Pro Stock Bike category. He is the provisional leader after turning in a 7.176 at 181.48 on his Matco Tools Suzuki in the category season opener. The two-wheelers will race at 15 of the 23 national events.
Treble had a career year in 2002, winning four races in six final round appearances. He finished second to Angelle Savoie in the final standings.
"I have never been the No. 1 qualifier and it would be a pretty sporty thing to do our here," Treble said. "I'm riding for Matco Tools and this is a Mac race, so that gives me even more motivation to stay at the top and do well."
Qualifying continues Saturday with two sessions at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday.