O'Reilly Fall Nationals
Dallas turned into Titletown during the O'Reilly Fall Nationals presented by Castrol Syntec as two old champions and a pair of new ones collected the hardware at Texas Motorplex. Legends Kenny Bernstein and John Force raced to the winner's circle, while Pro Stock's Greg Anderson and Top Fuel's Larry Dixon clinched their respective POWERade titles. Anderson also added his 10th event win of the year.
Bernstein scored his 37th career Top Fuel win and 67th overall when Scott Kalitta, who ran the fastest pass ever earlier in the day at 333.95 mph, smoked the tires. Force took care of Dean Skuza, while Anderson got a red-light victory over Jeg Coughlin.
Bernstein's win, his second of the last three races, moved him to seventh in the POWERade standings, a remarkable perch considering he's raced in just 13 events. This was his 67th career victory and the 37th he's captured in a Top Fuel dragster.
Despite entering the final without lane choice, Bernstein's co-crew chiefs, Tim and Kim Richards, found the perfect combination to get down the racetrack with Bernstein posting a 4.514 at 327.86 mph, his best pass of the day. Kalitta never had a chance as he smoked the tires just off the launch pad, eventually carding a resigned 8.685 at 84.90 mph.
"Winning here in Dallas and being at home is special," Bernstein said. "There are so many people I grew up racing with and people that helped me race here with us this weekend. It's so special to win in your hometown. Even dad was here. He's 80 years old and he still gets up and goes to work every day at his wholesale jewelry business here in Dallas. He's been here for a couple of our wins so Dad might have to come on tour with us. He's good luck.
"Tim and Kim have a beautiful combination for this racecar. Our goal when I took over the seat was to get into the top 10 and now they tell me we're all the way up to seventh. It says a lot about this team. They're the ones who put it together. Now that we're back in cooler weather we're running strong again."
Bernstein raced his Budweiser dragster to his second final of the year and 116th of his career by blazing past David Baca, Cory McClenathan, and newly re-crowned series champion Dixon. None of the races were easy but Bernstein's hot rod got progressively quicker as the day went along.
Two-time series champ Kalitta rode the Jesse James dragster past Dave Grubnic, No. 1 qualifier and cousin Doug Kalitta, and Jim Head. In Round 2, Scott posted the fastest pass of all-time when he reached 333.95 mph during a 4.50-second run. Kalitta now has a 15-14 record in final rounds.
Dixon clinched his second consecutive POWERade championship with a second round victory over Darrell Russell. The title is worth $400,000. Top Fuel results
Force's victory over red-hot Dean Skuza thrilled the overflow crowd, which roared its approval when the win light came on in the 12-time champ's lane. This was the 109th victory of his career, which extends his own record. It also moved him to within 177 points of the POWERade lead, keeping alive slim hopes for a 13th title.
The 54-year-old Force was on his game in the final, leaving with a .051-second reaction time to Skuza's .059-second start. He never looked back, clicking the timers in 4.889 seconds at 317.68 mph, well ahead of Skuza's 5.013 at 274.30 mph.
"I didn't realize it's been so long since I'd won," said Force, who last visited the winner's circle in late July at Seattle. "Getting another one in Texas is great. It's always real fun to win here. The people here have always been great. You can sign autographs for hours and there's still more of them out there. I wonder how long I can hold up. I take naps whenever I can.
"It's good to see Kenny win because he's older than me. If he can keep doing it then I can keep doing it. You think of these things when you get older.
"I'll still win the championship this year because I own [Tony Pedregon's] team. I learned how cover my butt years ago. They ain't gonna get one on ol' Force."
A six-time winner at the Texas Motorplex, low qualifier Force got a chance to add to his ledger by racing to his 168th money round in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. On the day, Force beat the Team Worsham trio of Cory Lee, Phil Burkart Jr., and Del Worsham, plus Skuza in the trophy round.
The hottest Funny Car driver of the last five events, unsponsored runner Skuza got a third chance at a trophy this season by beating Tim Wilkerson, Gary Densham, and points leader Tony Pedregon. It was an eventful and expensive day for Skuza, who blew up an engine every round.
Pedregon had another golden opportunity to put away championship rival Whit Bazemore when he lost to Worsham in the second session, but Pedregon was beaten one round later, adding just 20 extra points to his advantage. He now leads Bazemore by 114 points. Funny Car results
This was the 10th Pro Stock victory of the season for Anderson, putting him within one of tying the record set by Darrell Alderman in 1991. This one was gift-wrapped by final-round foe Coughlin, who red-lighted with a -.015 second foul launch. It's likely that Anderson would have won the race anyway as he posted a stellar 6.807 at 203.66 mph to Coughlin's 6.833 at 202.02 mph.
"I've seen so many people over the years who win the championship during a race and then lose the next round," Anderson said. "It kinda takes the party out of it. You want to go out and win it all to prove one more time that you're the best driver in the class. We'd be partying either way but now we'll stay sky-high.
"We want to go out in a blaze. I want people worrying about us over the winter. The mind games are a big part of this deal and I want people thinking about us so much that they might screw up. It's already working. The iceman, Jeg Coughlin, just red-lighted against us and I think it was because the pressure got to him a little bit. The intimidation factor we've earned is already paying off."
The Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am carried Anderson to his 13th final of the season and 25th of his career with steady victories over Mark "Cowboy" Pawuk, Gene Wilson, and Allen Johnson. It was Anderson's win over Wilson in the quarterfinals that clinched his first title as a driver. He won four titles as a crew chief for Warren Johnson.
Coughlin's Jeg's Mail Order Chevrolet Cavalier posted wins against Scott Geoffrion, Larry Morgan, and first-time semifinalist Dave Connolly. The win over Morgan came when Morgan was timed out at the starting line, which means Morgan took more than seven seconds to stage after Coughlin was completely in the beams. Coughlin, who gave up his title to Anderson Sunday, falls to 2-5 in final rounds this year. Pro Stock results
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