A thrilling side-by-side qualifying heat featuring reigning series champion Larry Dixon and returning legend Kenny Bernstein highlighted a crowd-pleasing opening day of racing action at Heartland Park Topeka. Just as they did countless times over the past few years, the two beer rivals fought it out the entire length of the strip with Dixon edging Bernstein for the Day 1 lead with a 4.50-second pass.
No big surprises in Funny Car where Tony Pedregon has once again established himself as the man to beat. His 4.80 easily earned him the provisional No. 1 slot. Greg Anderson showed Heartland Park Topeka the best Pro Stock pass of its 15-year history, cruising through a 6.82 seconds at 202 mph.
The Dixon and Bernstein tilt brought the crowd top its feet before their 8,000-horsepower machines came to life. Seconds later, the roar grew even louder as the two men who claimed the last two POWERade titles between them raced their cars to the top two positions on the ladder.
Dixon's Miller Lite machine was first after a 4.509 at 327.11 mph, but Bernstein, who hadn't been in his Budweiser dragster since he retired in November, drew a thunderous ovation of his own for his 4.563 at 326.56 mph. Kenny is subbing for his son ,Brando,n who was injured last weekend in Englishtown, N.J. Kenny had opened the day with a 4.65 at 316 mph.
Americn Racing Wheel pro David Baca, the new frontrunner for Rookie of the Year, zoomed into third with a 4.585 at 317.42 mph. Snap-on Tools ace Doug Herbert followed with a 4.615 at 314.97 mph.
Joe Harltey limped through a 9.091 at 91.01 mph to claim the provisional bump spot. Top Fuel results
Funny Car leader Tony Pedregon took his usual position at the top of the qualifying ladder after a 4.806 at 320.51 mph. The Castrol Syntec driver has claimed the No. 1 slot at half the races this year. His worse qualifying effort placed him an enviable third in the field. Pedregon also is the defending event champion in his class.
"The curse continues with this No. 1 qualifier deal," said a laughing Pedregon, whose four wins this year came at the four races where he was not the No. 1 qualifier. "But hey, we'll take it. I'll tell you what made that special. We were able to gain some quick feedback from John when Cruz [Pedregon] oiled down the track in front of us. That gave John time to get back to his pit and quickly download what his run had done and they radioed over some suggestions. We were able to make a couple, not just one, adjustment with the clutch and timing and it paid off.
"It's time like this where we show what this team is capable of doing. We're still on an upward trend I think. I'm spoiled and my expectations are getting higher and higher. I'm not saying that to be arrogant, it's just human nature to feel that way when you look at this group. I know I'm not going to win them all. Tiger Woods doesn't win every tournament he enters. But this group makes me feel pretty confident."
Skoal Racing teammates Tommy Johnson Jr. and Ron Capps are second and third on the grid, respectively. T.J. ran a 4.817, while Capps posted a 4.820. Pedregon's boss and teammate John Force, the most prolific driver at this facility with four victories, is fourth after carding a 4.823 at 320.51 mph.
Sporting a patriotic God Bless America-themed racecar this Memorial Day weekend, part-time driver Keith Jackson is 16th at the midway point of qualifying after a 5.186 at 259.51 mph. Cruz Pedregon and Dean Skuza find themselves outside the field with two rounds remaining. Funny Car results
The sport's quickest and fastest Pro Stock driver picked up right where he left off after his record-setting weekend in New Jersey with a double-track-record blast of 6.825 seconds at 202.15 mph. Anderson, who reclaimed the POWERade points lead with last weekend's sweep in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am, already has three low qualifier honors to his credit this season.
"We're still on such a high from last weekend," Anderson said. "I sure would have hated if we had fallen back to mid-pack this weekend so it was extra nice to keep things rolling. I almost feel like we didn't get enough time to enjoy what we accomplished in Englishtown. We're definitely riding a wave. Life is good.
"The guys on this team continue to amaze me. They've been able to find things between every race this year that have made us better. That's pretty odd. I know from personal experience that doesn't happen very often. Like I said, we're on a high and we want to stay here as long as possible."
The former elapsed time mark for this track, 6.846 seconds, was set in 1999, making it one of the older records in the books. Jeg Coughlin Jr. owned the previous HRP mark.
The only driver who has been able to keep up with Anderson of late, ACDelco's Kurt Johnson, stayed within range with a 6.838 at 201.76 mph. Rebounding from a DNQ finish last weekend, Bruce Allen has his Reher-Morrison/Speedco Truck Lube Grand Am in third place with a 6.848 at 200.71 mph. Another Texan, Taylor Lastor III of Team Dart, is fourth with a 6.849.
Western Motorsports pro V. Gaines set the Day 1 bump with a 6.883 at 200.83 mph, holding off Darrell Alderman, Allen Johnson, Troy Coughlin and nine others. Pro Stock results