Phoenix pre-season test report

Doug Kalitta clocks a sub 4.5-second pass while Bernstein makes fastest run in FIR history CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta dipped below the 4.5-second range during a preseason test session outside of Phoenix on Sunday. NHRA...

Doug Kalitta clocks a sub 4.5-second pass while Bernstein makes fastest run in FIR history

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Top Fuel driver Doug Kalitta dipped below the 4.5-second range during a preseason test session outside of Phoenix on Sunday. NHRA race teams are participating in various test sessions around the country gathering valuable data in preparation of the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, which begins with the 45th annual CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals, Feb. 10-13, at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway.

Kalitta, who finished No. 2 in the final POWERade point standings last season, recorded the quickest pass of the weekend as he powered his Mac Tools dragster to the finish line in 4.497 seconds at 327.43 mph. Kalitta was joined on the low E.T. podium by 13-time NHRA POWERade world champion John Force, who led the Funny Car entrants with a pass of 4.736 at 329.67 in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang.

Kalitta waited until dusk to power his dragster through the lights with the quickest run of the weekend. Earlier, Brandon Bernstein continued to be impressive at the track where he has won the last two NHRA nationals events, including his first-ever Top Fuel victory (2003). Bernstein's Budweiser dragster posted a top speed of 330.63, the fastest pass ever in Phoenix.

Kalitta's bionic pass stole a little thunder from second-year pro Morgan Lucas and Bernstein, who both made great runs on the day. Lucas, a veteran of eight national events in the Top fuel category, drove the Joe Amato-owned Lucas Oil/Keystone dragster to the quickest pass of his young career with a 4.507 at 324.98 mph.

Bernstein was the early leader after a 4.519 in the earlier round on Sunday. He then backed that pass up with a 4.530 in the evening session but was passed by Kalitta and Lucas on the grid later in the round.

Force showed up his strong-running young teammates with what turned out to be the quickest and fastest pass of the test session. Just as it's been at numerous national events in the pass, the three John Force Racing Ford Mustangs were 1-2-3 on the performance ladder. Force got the better of proteges Robert Hight and Eric Medlen with a 4.736 at 329.67 mph, but all three cars were worthy of praise. Rookie driver Hight and second-year standout Medlen both ran a best time of 4.743, with Hight going slightly faster, 329 to 327 mph.

Cruz Pedregon, the 1992 NHRA POWERade Funny Car world champion, continues to be aggressive in his Advance Auto Parts Chevrolet Monte Carlo. He clocked a run of 4.748 at 312.02 mph to put a nice stamp on Sunday's racing.

Del Worsham, a leading contender for the 2005 POWERade title posted a weekend-best run of 4.791 at 282.24 mph in his red Checker Schuck's Kragen Monte Carlo despite the fact he lifted very early in the run when his engine dropped a cylinder.

Dale Pulde had the busiest day of all the drivers in attendance, making six combined Funny Car passes for Schumacher Racing. He made three runs in the Oakley Dodge Stratus normally driven by Gary Scelzi and three additional ones in the new Brut Stratus which will be piloted by the latest driver to join Schumacher Racing, Ron Capps. Pulde chalked up runs of 4.82 and 4.83 in Scelzi's car but did not record a representative lap in Capps' Stratus.

ESPN color analyst Mike Dunn, Schumacher's other fill-in driver, posted a best of 4.847 on his final effort in Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Dodge Stratus.

Worsham's teammate Phil Burkart was two thousandths of a second back of his boss with a 4.793 in the blue Checker Schuck's Kragen Monte Carlo. Skoal's Tommy Johnson Jr. had a best time 4.83, and Tony Pedregon also ran under the five-second mark with a 4.96 in the Quaker State Monte Carlo.

The other strong runners in Top Fuel include Larry Dixon, who coaxed a 4.538 out of the Miller Lite hot rod, Snap-on Tools dragster driver Doug Herbert, who zipped to a 4.560 at the end of the session, FRAM's Cory McClenathan, who went 4.574 with a one-piece body on his chassis, Clay Millican, who drove to a 4.646 from the Werner Enterprises rail, and Rod Fuller, who finished upgrading his Top Fuel license with a 4.757 at 305.77 in the David Powers dragster.

NHRA pre-season testing for the '05 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season concludes this weekend at the "Last Chance" test session, Feb. 4-6, at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.


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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Cruz Pedregon , Phil Burkart , Brandon Bernstein , Eric Medlen , Dale Pulde , David Powers , Robert Hight , Tommy Johnson Jr.