Pomona: Winternationals event summary

Dixon, Force and Marnell earn Season-Opening Victories at The K&N Filters Winternationals POMONA, Calif. - Larry Dixon and Kenny Bernstein have started the 2002 NHRA Drag Racing season right where they left off - facing each other in the final...

Dixon, Force and Marnell earn Season-Opening Victories at The K&N Filters Winternationals

POMONA, Calif. - Larry Dixon and Kenny Bernstein have started the 2002 NHRA Drag Racing season right where they left off - facing each other in the final round.

This time, however, Dixon got the edge, beating Bernstein, the 2001 Top Fuel champion, at the K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway.

John Force and George Marnell also won their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the first of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Dixon used a 4.535-second run at 324.75 mph in his Miller Lite Dragster to beat Bernstein's 4.612 pass at 324.67 in his Budweiser King Dragster.

"We stumbled a little bit at the beginning of the day, but we had our act together for the final," Dixon said. "Our crew has a couple of new guys and we broke 'em in in style today."

Last season Dixon was ousted by Bernstein six times on race day, including two finals. Bernstein earned the Top Fuel championship by advancing further than Dixon at the season-concluding race in November. Bernstein was hoping to keep that streak alive in 2002.

"I'm never happy when we lose and I'm pretty unhappy right now," Bernstein said. "We worked really hard this week and the team did a great job. We still have some work to do to get on up there. It's going to be a long season."

The victory was the 17th of Dixon's career and second at the Winternationals. He said the win was a result of a busy offseason.

"Testing went really well, but testing doesn't mean anything if you don't produce on race day," Dixon said. "Last year Kenny was the champion and he deserved it. They had the better team. But we have worked real hard over the winter to become the better team. Right now we are, but that could change in two weeks when we go to Phoenix."

Force earned his 99th career victory by beating Del Worsham in the Funny Car final. Force went 6.260 at 219.76 in a Ford Mustang to get the win over Worsham's 6.642 at 243.68 in a Pontiac Firebird. Both cars smoked the tires before mid-track, but Force peddled through for the win.

"That was a wild one," Force said. "Del stood up there and we almost hit the wall but I got her straightened out and she trucked on down there. It feels good to get another win. This is Austin Coil and a group of 40 other guys that made this happen.

"That was a wild ride just like that Jurassic Park ride at Universal. I can't believe I got another win at this place."

An 11-time champion, Force is the winningest driver in NHRA history but is looking to earn his 100th victory.

"We are very excited to come out at the first race and win," Force said. "We came out of the box good in qualifying. We'll see what happens next. I'm just real excited."

Marnell beat Jim Yates in a photo finish to claim the second Pro Stock victory of his career. Marnell went 6.880 at 200.89 in a Pontiac Grand Am, beating Yates' 6.812 at 202.61 in a Pontiac Grand Am.

"I had a good day. What a battle," Marnell said. "It's going to be a tough year because everyone is so tough out here. That was a great ride. I got out there first and was able to hold him off."

There were 15 drivers that won Pro Stock races in 2001. Marnell said he had a feeling his team could be competitive.

"There aren't just 16 good cars out there," Marnell said. "There are about 20-25 good cars out there. I think anyone can win out there. But I feel we have a great team, we have great equipment and I felt very confident that we could go out and win."

The next NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event will be the 18th annual Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals, Feb. 21-24 at Firebird International Raceway in Phoenix.

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Del Worsham , John Force , George Marnell , Austin Coil