NHRA Route 66 Nationals
Bernstein sets national speed record
Chicago, Sunday: Brandon Bernstein's race weekend at the NHRA Route 66 Nationals was packed with excitement. Bernstein and the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel team set a national speed record, a track speed record, and they finished runner-up after a thrill ride in the finals that would vie for excitement in any amusement park.
Bernstein qualified third (4.504/329.10) after two qualifying sessions, rather than the customary four. Friday and Saturday thunderstorms caused cancellation of a session each day.
The second generation driver and the Budweiser/Lucas Oil team led off the first round of eliminations with low elapsed time of the round and career best elapsed time for Brandon (4.477 seconds). The team also set a track mph record (333.41) to defeat Bob Vandergriff, who lost a blower belt (6.886/117.22).
"That was a ride," said. Bernstein. "It was a handful. The car made a move for the center line. Good numbers and a great effort by Tim (Richards, crew chief), Kim (Richards) and the team."
Bernstein's speed on that run was a potential national record if he could back it up within the one percent certification required by NHRA guidelines.
Ironically the 4.477-second run was a duplicate of Kenny Bernstein's career-best run at this same track in 2001. That elapsed time became a national record that held until the 2003 Reading, Penn. event.
In the quarterfinals, Bernstein defeated Darrell Russell, 4.527/328.70 vs. Russell's 4.566/329.58.
In a pivotal semifinals match between the first and second place drivers in the NHRA POWERade point standings, it was Bernstein setting yet another career best elapsed time, tripping the win light with a 4.462-second run at 332.26 mph to defeat Tony Schumacher's tire-smoking 4.829/300.80. The speed on this run was fast enough to back-up Bernstein's 333.41 mph run, and the 333.41 now becomes the NHRA national record. Once again, the Budweiser/Lucas Oil team made history at Route 66 Raceway, this time setting the national speed record, keeping the "King of Speed" moniker in the Bernstein family.
In the money round against Doug Kalitta, Bernstein launched well, but his chance to win the event ended with a scary wheelstand at half track, and he charted a runner-up finish.
"It left extremely hard," said Bernstein. "It was marching along and it set the front end down and when it really started to pour it to it, it picked right back up. It picked it up so fast, it just kept going. It wasn't going to go down. There wasn't anything I could do but lift it and try to get it back toward the center. It was a wild ride, but hey, we gained some points this weekend and got the national speed record."
"Now you're the 'King of Speed'," said father Kenny. "Brandon did everything he could do in that final round. He did a good job driving, the team did a good job. We just put a lot of horsepower into the car because we knew it was going to be a tough match."
Like father, like son.
Bernstein maintains second place in POWERade point standings, 43 points out of the lead.
Bernstein hopes to continue winning ways
Chicago, pre-race: Though Brandon Bernstein is in his sophomore season as driver of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster, the eighth stop on the NHRA POWERade tour at the Route 66 Nationals marks his first appearance at this track in his professional driving career.
Brandon shared victory circle here with his legendary father, six-time NHRA champion Kenny Bernstein, in 2001 during his year-long stint behind the wheel of an alcohol dragster. But Brandon's near-tragic accident May 18, 2003 in Englishtown, N.J., sidelined him for the remainder of the season.
Kenny climbed back into the familiar confines of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster to complete the season.
The Kenny Bernstein team, with crew chief Tim Richards making the tune-up decisions, has been in the final round two of the past three years in the spring event at Route 66 Raceway, winning in 2001. The team won the 2003 fall event at this stadium.
"Tim Richards is an awesome crew chief," said Brandon. "Since dad hired Tim and Kim in 2001, our team has won 21 national events. That's a pretty outstanding statistic. Tim always gives us a good horse to ride."
"It would be neat to find the winning combination for this event. It's critical to go rounds and we have to do that to keep the season in check. We don't want anybody running away the points this early."
"Traditionally the temperatures have been cool at this event, and we've seen quick times and fast speeds. It's great entertainment for the crowds and the Route 66 facility really showcases our sport."
Bernstein has won two events this season, the March Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals in Phoenix and the April O'Reilly Spring Nationals in Houston. He also earned his third career No. 1 qualifying spot in Houston, his first this year.
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