Gainesville: Gatornationals post-race notes

TOP FUEL * Brandon Bernstein, from Lake Forest, Calif., earned his second victory in his third professional start driving past first-time finalist John Smith for the win. The rookie standout had four elimination runs in the 4.50-range in the ...


* Brandon Bernstein, from Lake Forest, Calif., earned his second victory in his third professional start driving past first-time finalist John Smith for the win. The rookie standout had four elimination runs in the 4.50-range in the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster, including his final round pass of 4.594 seconds at 326.67 mph. Smith's Prestone dragster recorded a pass of 4.718 at 315.90 as the runner-up. In a key semifinal matchup, Bernstein ran the quickest time of eliminations (4.537) to defeat rival and defending POWERade champion Larry Dixon and the Miller Lite dragster. Bernstein trails Dixon by 17 points in the POWERade standings.

* Bernstein established a track record for speed when he hit 327.27 mph during qualifying.

* Dixon, from Indianapolis, has led the POWERade standings for an NHRA record 26 straight events, dating back to the 2002 season-opener at Pomona, Calif.

* Doug Kalitta, from Ann Arbor, Mich., earned his 10th career No. 1 qualifying position and his third straight of the season as his Mac Tools dragster covered the quarter-mile in 4.535 seconds at 326.08 mph. Kalitta became the fourth Top Fuel driver ever to earn the No. 1 qualifying position at the first three events of a season (Gary Beck, Joe Amato, and Blaine Johnson). Kalitta lost to eventual runner-up Smith in the second round.

* Shirley Muldowney, from Armada, Mich., anchored the quickest Top Fuel field in NHRA history. Led by Kalitta's No. 1 qualifying effort, Muldowney secured the No. 16 position when her Mac Tools dragster went the distance in 4.694 at 305.39, edging out Scott Weis for the final spot in the field.


* Gary Densham, from Bellflower, Calif., scored his fifth career victory and first of the 2003 season and at Gainesville in his Auto Club Ford Mustang. Densham sped to the finish line in 4.876 seconds at 320.85 mph to outrun Del Worsham, who shut the clocks off in 4.906 at 315.67 in his Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird. After going 243 events without a win, Densham has five wins in his last 32 national events starts.

* Tony Pedregon, from Chino Hills, Calif., led Funny Car qualifying for the second straight event and the 19th time in his career. Pedregon blasted his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to the top spot with his run of 4.811 seconds at 317.57 mph.

* John Force lost in the opening round of eliminations for the second time this season and he has only one round win on the year. After the first three races of the season, Force is in 12th place in the standings, his worst start since 1989. However, Force Racing has accounted for two of the three wins in 2003 with Densham and Pedregon each winning once.

* Force tied Pro Stock driver Warren Johnson by qualifying for an NHRA-record 303rd consecutive national event. The last time Force failed to qualify for eliminations was in the last race of the 1987 season at Pomona, Calif. Johnson's streak ended last year at Sonoma, Calif.

* Densham's victory placed him atop the POWERade standings, 11 points ahead of Ron Capps, whom Densham beat in the second round. Densham's teammate Pedregon is in third place, three points behind Capps. It is the second time in Densham's career that he has led the standings. He was atop the points for four events last year.


* Kurt Johnson, from Buford, Ga., earned his 24th career victory and first-ever at the Mac Tools Gatornationals. In an all-Chevy final round, Johnson drove his AC Delco Cavalier to the win over defending POWERade champion and last year's runner-up at the Gatornationals, Jeg Coughlin and the Jeg's Mail Order Cavalier. Johnson and Coughlin posted nearly identical reaction times (Johnson's .014 to Coughlin's .013) but Johnson recorded the quicker pass of 4.825 seconds at 202.5 mph to outrun Coughlin's pass of 6.840 at 201.29 for the victory.

* Johnson set the track record for speed when his ACDelco Chevy Cavalier hit 203.71 mph during qualifying.

* Bruce Allen, from Arlington, Texas, had the quickest car of the 45 Pro Stock vehicles attempting to qualify for the 16-car field. Allen's Reher-Morrison Pontiac Grand Am established a track record time with a run of 6.777 seconds at 202.33 mph to lead the ladder for the second straight event and for the 16th time in his career.

* Johnson's victory moved him into second place in the POWERade standings, 42 points behind leader Greg Anderson, whom Johnson defeated in the semifinals. Johnson leads his father Warren by 16 points.

* Allen earned a $1,000 bonus by earning the Motel 6 'Who Got the Light' award when he defeated Jim Yates by 0.0042 of-a-second margin of victory in the opening round of Pro Stock eliminations.


* Defending series champion Angelle Savoie, from New Orleans, notched her 29th career victory, her second at Gainesville, and the first atop her Team 23 Suzuki with new teammate Antron Brown. Savoie recorded the win when fellow Suzuki rider Geno Scali left the starting line early on his Team Trim-Tex bike. Savoie leads Scali by 22 points in the standings.

* Savoie earned her 32nd career No. 1 qualifying position, blasting her Team 23 Suzuki to an event-best time of 7.160 seconds at 182.03 mph.

* For the first time in NHRA history, a factory-backed Harley-Davidson qualified for eliminations. Andrew Hines, brother of three-time champion Matt Hines, rode his Screamin' Eagle Harley-Davidson to the No. 10 spot in the field with a 7.275 pass at 179.89. The Harley team made their debut at the 2002 Gatornationals with GT Tonglet as the rider. The team failed to qualify in seven attempts, and added a second bike during the offseason. Tonglet failed to make the field, missing the No. 16 spot by two-one-thousandths of a second.


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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Shirley Muldowney , Antron Brown , Matt Hines , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Scott Weis , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Doug Kalitta , Greg Anderson , Gary Densham , Bruce Allen , Geno Scali , Brandon Bernstein , Andrew Hines , GT Tonglet