Top Fuel Notebook (T/F)

>From NHRA Communications FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK --Join the club: Kenny Bernstein became just the third driver in NHRA history to make a pass...

>From NHRA Communications

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

SEARS CRAFTSMAN NATIONALS TOP FUEL NOTEBOOK

--Join the club: Kenny Bernstein became just the third driver in NHRA history to make a pass in the 4.50-second range with a run of 4.598 seconds in the Budweiser King Dragster during the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals in mid-September at Reading, Pa.

The other drivers are Joe Amato and the late Blaine Johnson, who entered the 4.50's at the Western Auto Nationals presented by Slick 50 in early July at Heartland Park Topeka. Johnson made a national-record pass of 4.592 in the Travers Tool Dragster, and Amato was the first in the 4.50's with a run of 4.595 in the Keystone Automotive Warehouse Dragster.

--Fitting tribute: Kenny Bernstein had mixed emotions after winning the Pioneer Electronics Keystone Nationals and regaining the Top Fuel point lead from the late Blaine Johnson.

Johnson suffered fatal injuries in a crash Aug. 31 at the U.S. Nationals.

"Our hearts are going to be heavy for a long time, forever," Bernstein said. "It's tough to take the points lead this way.

"But all we can do is try to represent him in the way that he would have done it, try to perform his way, which was first-class all the time. What we want to do is go to the next three races and do them in classy style. That's the way Blaine Johnson would have done it."

Johnson had led the points since the Fram Nationals in April at Atlanta. Bernstein led the points after winning the Slick 50 Nationals presented by Western Auto in late March at Houston.

Bernstein leads third-place Larry Dixon by 149 points. Bernstein is trying to become the first NHRA driver to win Winston championships in Top Fuel and Funny Car. He won four straight Funny Car titles from 1985-88.

--In memory of Blaine: A memorial fund to benefit Blaine Johnson's family has been established. The address is: Blaine Johnson Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 5546, Santa Maria, Calif. 93456.

--Performance prediction: Top Fuel dragsters will run in the 4.50- second range at this event, Smokin' Joe's Dragster driver Jim Head said, and his car might be one of them.

That might sound like a stretch considering that Head's career- best time is 4.707 seconds, recorded earlier this month at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. But Alan Johnson, older brother of the late Blaine Johnson, serves as a tuning consultant to Head.

Head said his car and the car driven by Blaine Johnson are identical now except that Head's car weighs 40 pounds more. Blaine Johnson produced a NHRA elapsed-time national record of 4.592 seconds at the Western Auto Nationals presented by Slick 50 in July at Heartland Park Topeka.

So, anything is possible.

"Yeah, that car will do whatever he puts into it," Head said of Alan Johnson.

--Goals unchanged: Jim Head has emerged as a threat for victory in the Smokin' Joe's Dragster with help from tuning and cylinder-head wizard, but his goals remain the same as they were when he struggled to qualify in the Smokin' Joe's Dragster.

"I always want to be No. 1 qualifier, I want to run low elapsed time in every round, and I want to win the race," Head said. "It always has been. We're very confident people. I'm a racer. No racer is going to tell you a different thing."

--Welcome sight: Scott Kalitta has lost in the first round at the last five NHRA Winston national events, but he can take heart that Heartland Park Topeka is the next stop on the series.

Kalitta has won the Top Fuel title at five of the last six NHRA national events at Topeka in the American International Airways Dragster, a hot streak that started with a victory in this event in 1993. The only race at Heartland Park that Kalitta didn't win since October 1993 was the 1994 Sears Craftsman Nationals, in which he lost in the first round to Kenny Bernstein.

--Tire talk: There's more to a Goodyear Eagle drag racing rear tire than what meets the eye.

The length of the cord used in one rear Eagle tire could fly a kite four miles high. The rubber itself, rolled out, is almost 10 feet long.

--Working through the pain: There was only one thing for crew chief Alan Johnson to do the day after his brother, driver Blaine Johnson, was killed at the U.S. Nationals earlier this month, Jim Head said. Johnson helped tune Head's Smokin' Joe's Dragster for the rest of the event.

"A racer just can't go to a race and not race," Head said. "That's what he needed to do, was work on a race car. Good, I've got one. Same deal this weekend. Want to work on a race car? I've got one.

"We get along so well. It's a neat deal. There's never been any friction between the crews."

--Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Sept. 27 and is followed by a night-qualifying session at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Sept. 28, with final eliminations starting at 11 a.m. Sept. 29. Sportsman competition starts at 9 a.m. Sept. 26.

--Tickets: Tickets are available for the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Call (800) 43-RACES for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets.

--On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise 60 minutes of live final-round competition from the Sears Craftsman Nationals at 5 p.m. (CDT) Sept. 29.

--On the Web: The NHRA home page on the World Wide Web at http://www.goracing.com/nhra/ offers more information about NHRA Winston Drag Racing, including qualifying and eliminations results, news, point standings, statistics, driver biographies and video clips.

Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Joe Amato , Scott Kalitta