Bernstein Wants Defending Winston Champ Title For 2002 CLERMONT, Ind. - Kenny Bernstein has already established himself as one of the all-time elite NHRA competitors over a celebrated career that spans five decades and will conclude at the end...
Bernstein Wants Defending Winston Champ Title For 2002
CLERMONT, Ind. - Kenny Bernstein has already established himself as one of the all-time elite NHRA competitors over a celebrated career that spans five decades and will conclude at the end of the 2002 season.
He has accumulated five Winston crowns and is the only driver ever to win a title in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. He became the first driver to eclipse the 300-mph barrier and this season set the national record for elapsed time with a remarkable 4.477-second pass. His 58 career wins places him fourth on the all-time win list for professional competitors and is the only driver be in the top three in career wins for both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Last season ESPN recognized Bernstein as one of the 50 greatest drivers in any form of motorsports. What more can the 56-year-old Bernstein do to solidify his status as a drag racing legend?
Finish on top with a championship and complete a storied career with an exclamation of supremacy.
Bernstein will be looking to regain the Winston points lead when he competes in the nation's motorsports capital at the historic 47th annual Mac Tool U.S. Nationals, Aug. 29-Sept. 3, at famed Indianapolis Raceway Park. The $2.6 million event is the 18th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag racing Series and the 500th national event in NHRA history.
During the NHRA's 50th Anniversary season, there have been five different leaders in the Winston standings among Top Fuel competitors, but no one has been as consistent as Bernstein. With a victory in Topeka, Kan. in May, Bernstein moved into the points lead, which he held until an uncharacteristic first round loss at Brainerd, Minn. opened the door for Larry Dixon to move eight points ahead.
Bernstein has suffered only one other first round loss this year (at the season-opening AutoZone Winternationals in Pomona, Calif). Otherwise, the Budweiser King dragster has advanced to at least the semifinals in 12 of 15 races and has a category-leading five wins and seven No. 1 qualifying efforts.
"It's been a wonderful season, very enjoyable and a lot of fun" said Bernstein. "To be in the battle for the championship is what you wish for every season. The wins, top qualifying spots, and the chance to be competitive have just been fantastic."
Bernstein, who has won both Top Fuel (1991) and Funny Car (1987, 1983) titles at Indy, is returning to a facility where he hasn't hasn't made a final round appearance since '91 when he won, and he suffered a very rare DNQ (did not qualify) at IRP in '99. The prestige of the event alone provides enough incentive for lesser-known teams to pull off the upset and eliminate the better-financed teams whether it's bumping them from the qualifying order or sending them home during eliminations.
"Indy is a very special place," said Bernstein. "(The Mac Tools U.S. Nationals) is our Indy 500 or Daytona 500. If you told a competitor that they could win one race, Indy would be the one they chose. And to win in Indy during the NHRA's 50th anniversary season would be extra special. The difference for us this year in Indy, is that we're in the battle for the Winston championship. We have to go as many rounds as we can."
As the season-long battle for positioning in the standings rages on, it has become a battle of the beer cars for the top two spots. Bernstein's Budweiser entry and the Don Prudhomme-owned Miller Lite dragster driven by Dixon are beginning to distance themselves from the rest of the field and make it a two car race for the title.
"The Dixon car is very good and they have a great team, but I don't think that is the only battle," said Bernstein. "I think (No. 3 in the standings) Gary Scelzi will have a say-so in this championship, and bottom line, we are going to have to take care of business to win the championship this year. I still predict there will be a lot of changes before November."