Madison: Sunday final eliminations report

BRANDON BERNSTEIN RETURNS TO WINNER'S CIRCLE AT SEARS CRAFTSMAN NHRA NATIONALS Ron Capps, Kurt Johnson and Angelle Sampey win their categories MADISON, Ill. -- Brandon Bernstein ended a 26-race Top Fuel drought Sunday when he turned in a ...

BRANDON BERNSTEIN RETURNS TO WINNER'S CIRCLE AT SEARS CRAFTSMAN NHRA NATIONALS
Ron Capps, Kurt Johnson and Angelle Sampey win their categories

MADISON, Ill. -- Brandon Bernstein ended a 26-race Top Fuel drought Sunday when he turned in a 4.553-second pass at 324.59 mph to beat Morgan Lucas in the final round of the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals at Gateway Raceway.

The other winners Sunday were Ron Capps in Funny Car (4.862, 321.04), Kurt Johnson in Pro Stock (6.729, 205.19) and Angelle Sampey in Pro Stock Motorcycle (7.237, 186.02).

Before winning the Sears Craftsman Nationals, the 12th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Series, Bernstein last won and last reached a final round in his Budweiser dragster at the O'Reilly Summer Nationals in Topeka in May, 2004.

"That's definitely true, the monkey's off our back," said Bernstein, who improved to 7-1 in final rounds. "It had been over a year since we had won a race. Hopefully this is a snowball thing."

The importance of the win was two-fold for Bernstein, who drives with the Budweiser paint job on his dragster. Racing in the hometown of Anheuser-Busch is exciting, but also carries with it a lot of pressure.

"It's very special to win here," Bernstein said. "You come in with a lot of obligations for Budweiser and we have a lot of friends at Budweiser that come out and you want to perform as well as possible in front of them. They realize that this is racing and things happen, but it's just great to be able to win in St. Louis. They get to go back to their office Monday morning and say, 'Hey, Bernstein won.'

Capps's win in his Brut Dodge Stratus over Tim Wilkerson's Levi, Ray and Shoup Chevy Monte Carlo was his first since the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in February of 2003.

"I knew the win was coming, I was just hoping it would get here soon," said Capps, who improved to fourth in the POWERade Series Funny Car standings. The top two Funny Car drivers, John Force and Gary Scelzi, were each beaten in the first round.

Wilkerson, who is from nearby Springfield, Ill., was a favorite of the fans and quite a sentimental favorite of his fellow drivers after the death of his mother earlier in the weekend.

"In the staging lanes, I went over to give him a hug and he had tears in his eyes before we got suited up," Capps said. "I was sitting in my car and thinking of my mom and if she died and what it would be like to get in the race car and drive. I was tearing up."

"I would have been okay losing to him," Capps said. "It was that kind of day."

Johnson's win was the 29th of his career, but just his first in 10 final round appearances over reigning Driver of the Year Greg Anderson.

"In 2003 and 2004, we felt like we were making good runs, I felt like I had beaten him (before), just not to the finish line," Johnson said.

It extends Johnson's streak of at least one win per season to 11. It was his first win since the Checker Schuck's Kragens Nationals in Phoenix in February, 2004.

"I don't want to win on a red light (Anderson red-lighted), but you take the wins when you can get them," Johnson said.

Sampey's win over U.S. Army teammate Antron Brown -- who won last weekend at the K&N Filters Supernationals in Englishtown -- was her first since the 2004 season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals and it moved her all the way to third in the POWERade Series Pro Stock Motorcycle standings (from ninth).

"It's totally awesome," said an elated Sampey. "Antron won last weekend and now I get to go to victory lane. This U.S. Army team is bad to the bone. I feel so happy that we were able to deliver a second straight win for all of our soldiers."

The victory was her third at Gateway Raceway -- more than any other rider in Pro Stock Motorcycle -- and it was the 36th win of her decorated career, most by a female in NHRA history.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Kurt Johnson , Ron Capps , John Force , Greg Anderson , Tim Wilkerson , Brandon Bernstein , Angelle Sampey