FAREWELL TOUR 2002
Kenny Bernstein's Most Memorable
1981 Mile-High Nationals
Fireworks weren't the only thing shooting through the thin air that Saturday night at Bandimere Speedway. Bernstein's Budweiser King Dodge Omni Funny Car, tuned by current NHRA Director of Top Fuel & Funny Car Racing Ray Alley, was unstoppable on the mountain.
As did Top Fuel winner Jeb Allen, Bernstein qualified No. 1, set low e.t. and top speed, and had low e.t. of every round en route to victory.
Bernstein grabbed the pole for the eight racers in the field — half of which were Texans — with a 6.17 at just 217.91 mph, ahead of fellow Lone Star Stater Raymond Beadle's 6.23 at a much faster 229.59 in the two-time season-championship-winning Blue Max Plymouth Horizon, giving many pause as to what Bernstein's car might be capable of if he ran it all the way through the lights.
Bernstein opened eliminations — a Bandimere family tradition to be held Saturday night — with a 6.24 to 6.28 defeat of Tripp Shumake in Johnny Loper's Little Hoss, avenging his final-round loss to the popular Arizona-based racer earlier in the year at the Southern Nationals.
John Collins' 6.278 from his Pioneer Stereo Datsun 280Z was the round's next quickest time and defeated local favorite Rob Williams, in Roger Guzman's perennially pretty, national-speed-record-holding, Westminster-based Assassination Arrow, which ran a 6.282. The Billy Meyer-chauffeured, Hawaiian Tropic-sponsored Citation bested fellow Texan Fuzz Miller's popular Pandemonium Challenger with a 6.283. Beadle had the round's slowest winning time, a 6.32, in defeating Henry Harrison, driver of John Martin's Southern California-based Corvette.
Speculation about what the Budweiser King machine might be capable of was answered in round two when Bernstein pounded out a 6.12 to defeat Collins. At that time, NHRA allowed Pro racers to set national records based on a mathematical formula that converted altitude performances to a sea-level equivalent, and Bernstein's 6.12 translated to a sea-level 5.90 to steal the record from Don Prudhomme, who had set the mark at 5.92 earlier in the year in Gainesville. (Prudhomme was not in Denver because, at that time, racers claimed points at a limited number of events.) Bernstein's qualifying time backed up the .12 for the new record, and Bernstein's speed on the pass, 238.72 mph, stole top speed from Williams, who had run 234.98 in qualifying.
Beadle joined fellow Monterrey High (Lubbock, Texas) alumnus Bernstein in a high-school-reunion sort of final after he defeated Meyer in their half of the semifinals, 6.21 to 6.49.
Bernstein got a very slight jump on Beadle in the final, .496 to .501, then finished him off with an impressive 6.21 at 234.37 mph to the Blue Max's trailing 6.32, 202.24.
The victory moved Bernstein from fifth to third in the points standings, just 12 points behind Shumake. Beadle, meanwhile, en route to his third straight — and final — season title, took over the points lead from Prudhomme, who fell to fourth. Bernstein would eventually finish the season third, behind Beadle and Prudhomme.