Gainesville: Gatornationals final summary

Bernstein, Densham, Johnson and Savoie earn wins at Gatornationals. GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Rookie Brandon Bernstein won for the second time in just three races, capturing the Top Fuel title Sunday at the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville ...

Bernstein, Densham, Johnson and Savoie earn wins at Gatornationals.

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Rookie Brandon Bernstein won for the second time in just three races, capturing the Top Fuel title Sunday at the Mac Tools Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.

Gary Densham, Kurt Johnson and Angelle Savoie also won in their respective categories at the $2 million race, the third of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Bernstein beat first-time finalist John Smith down the quarter-mile track for the win. Bernstein turned in a 4.594-second pass at 326.67 mph in his Budweiser dragster to beat Smith's 4.718 pass at 315.90 in his Prestone dragster. This is the second consecutive victory for Bernstein, who won in Phoenix three weeks ago.

"(Crew chief) Tim Richards and the guys are just amazing," Bernstein said. "They gave me a car that ran 4.5-second passes all weekend long in Phoenix and we were running 4.5s all weekend long here. It's so fun to drive the car when you go straight down Broadway every time. I'm just so fortunate to be driving this Budweiser dragster. I've got to pinch myself."

Bernstein had to get past points leader Larry Dixon to move into the finals. Bernstein went 4.537 at 323.04 to beat Dixon's 4.577 at 322.00. Dixon and the Miller Lite team won the season opener in Pomona, Calif., in February and finished in the runner-up position to Bernstein in Phoenix. Dixon maintains a 17-point lead after the Gatornationals.

"Winning the first one was amazing," Bernstein said. "Now, winning back-to-back races is almost too much to think about. The big round today was obviously the one against Dixon. He's the champion so he's the guy we're after. To beat a team of that caliber two times now says a lot. Another beer battle is on, plus we closed on them in the points a little bit."

Densham moved into the points lead with a victory over Del Worsham in the Funny Car final. Densham's 4.876 at 320.85 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang beat Worsham's 4.906 at 315.67 in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird. It was the fifth career win for Densham.

Densham was on the outside of the 16-car qualifying field after the first two of four sessions this weekend.

"At this race we were struggling mightily Friday and went home not in the show," Densham said. "I was up all night looking out the window worrying that the last two sessions were going to be rained out. Then we got a chance to run and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock got a hold of this thing and we ran well. Then today we're right back to being the best car on the property."

Densham's teammate and owner John Force lost in the first round for the second time this season. Force has recorded just one round victory and is having his worst start to a season since 1989.

"This is one of those races, one of the originals, that you just have to win," Densham said. "We've had a John Force Racing Mustang in every final this year and our boss may be struggling in his car but he is still the biggest motivator you could ever be around."

Johnson earned his first victory of the season with a win over Jeg Coughlin in the Pro Stock final. Johnson went 6.825 at 202.65 in his ACDelco Chevy Cavalier to beat Coughlin's 6.840 at 201.29 in his Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier.

It was the 24th career victory for Johnson, son of six-time Pro Stock champion Warren Johnson.

"I would like to win all of the races, but that is just not realistic," Johnson said. "But I have to say that winning Gainesville is special. I have been coming to this track for 27 years. The first time my dad raced here he was the runner-up. I have never won here before and this is something special."

Johnson was one of 45 cars to make qualifying attempts for Sunday's eliminations. He came into the event tied for sixth place with three other cars. He sits in the No. 2 spot after the victory.

"This category is just crazy," Johnson said. "This whole deal is giving me ulcers because the category is just so close. You have to make the right calls at the right times and sometimes you even have to gamble."

Savoie took the Pro Stock Bike win by beating Geno Scali in the first of 15 national events for the two-wheel category. Savoie turned in a 7.240 pass at 182.33 on her Team 23 Suzuki to beat Scali's 7.233 at 181.19 on his Trim-Tex Suzuki.

Savoie qualified in the No. 1 spot for the 32nd time en route to her 29th career victory. Savoie is now racing with teammate Antron Brown - a deal they put together shortly before the season started.

"I can't believe it," Savoie said. "I couldn't believe we were No. 1 in qualifying and I couldn't even sleep last night. I called Antron three weeks ago and I asked him what he thought we would be able to do in Gainesville and he told me we would be able to qualify in the top eight and that we would be able to compete for a win by the third race of the season.

"Antron and (crew chief) Mark Peiser are great. I didn't know Antron knew so much about the bikes until this weekend. Mark is so calm and they both really helped me. It feels like my first win all over again."

The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event is the SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas, April 3-6.

-nhra-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham , Geno Scali , Brandon Bernstein , Tim Richards