O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals
Second-generation Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein surged into the POWERade championship points lead with his third win of the season and sixth of his 17-race career to highlight the action at the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals presented by Castrol GTX at Heartland Park Topeka. Bernstein used a 4.72 at 294 mph to dismiss Doug Kalitta's 4.87 at 291 mph.
Whit Bazemore, who assumed the No. 1 spot in Funny Car one week ago in Chicago, padded his points lead with a big win over rookie first-time finalist Eric Medlen. Greg Anderson pushed his total winnings for the weekend to $100,000 with his seventh victory of the first nine events, this one over Kurt Johnson
Bernstein was challenged for the first half of the racetrack until Kalitta began hazing his giant Goodyear tires. The same affliction struck Bernstein further down the track, but by that point it was too late for Kalitta to catch him and Bernstein won with a 4.729 at 294.43 mph to Kalitta's 4.874 at 291.95 mph. Bernstein and Kalitta have met in three finals this year with Bernstein now holding a 2-1 edge.
The victory moved Bernstein 20 points, or one round of action, ahead of U.S. Army racer Tony Schumacher, who had led the points since the start of the season. Bernstein started the race 43 points behind Schumacher, who has four wins in 2004. Kalitta's runner-up finish has him 84 points off the lead.
"It's great to be back in the points lead," said Bernstein, who held the led for one race in 2003. "This time we'd like to keep it a little longer. But you know Schumacher will be right there and so will Doug Kalitta. We're fortunate that Shoe stumbled a little in Round 2. It opened the door for us.
"The tires started hazing around 1,000 feet but it didn't stop pulling. It wasn't one of those deals where your head hits the dashboard, but I did feel it slow a little. It was nice to get a little payback against Doug after he beat us in the final last week.
"The crew did a great job. It was nice and cool early on and then it got hot later, which really says a lot about [crew chief] Tim Richards and his ability. He has a great tune-up for hot tracks and he's just as good when it's cold. It's great to win races any time and I'm still just as excited about this one as I was about the first. It's an awesome feeling to go through the field and run like we did today."
Bernstein and his Budweiser crew were virtually unchallenged until the final, posting a 4.53 against Scott Palmer's 8.72, a 4.49 opposite Larry Dixon's 7.62, and a 4.55 versus Doug Herbert's 6.38. Bernstein's first-round speed of 330.55 mph set a Heartland Park record. This was Bernstein's seventh career final and his fourth of the season.
After being slightly off-pace in qualifying and starting the day in ninth place, Kalitta's Mac Tools team finally came to life in the quarterfinals when he posted a track-record elapsed time of 4.487 seconds to dismiss low qualifier Cory McClenathan. He then beat his cousin Scott in the semifinals with a 4.549 as the sun came out to reach his 36th career final round. The only hiccup on the day leading into the final was the 5.16 he used to beat John Smith in Round 1. Smith was lost in smoke at half-track. Top Fuel results
Funny Car leader Bazemore padded his POWERade championship lead to 76 points with a dubious win over first-time finalist Eric Medlen. After running strong all weekend, Bazemore was there for the taking in the final, limping through the finish line timers in 5.168 seconds at 269.94 mph. But Medlen was in no position to catch Bazemore as he blazed his tires at 300 feet and basically surrendered the run.
Bazemore has now been to five finals in the last six races, including his win in Atlanta two weeks ago. He has 17 career wins. Medlen did improve to fourth place Sunday, 107 points behind Bazemore.
"It was a perfect afternoon, a perfect weekend, really," Bazemore said. "The car was virtually flawless until the final, but no one's perfect I guess. The car was actually in trouble earlier than it appeared. It started spinning the tires early on just a little bit and I thought about doing something about it but I didn't see him so I stayed with it to see if it would recover on its own. It wasn't until half-track when I had to pedal. I still didn't see him then, so I figured he was having problems.
"Topeka is great. I got my first win here in 1997. I remember that race well, against Randy Anderson. We got there on different paths but I remember thinking I didn't want to give it away in the final. To come back now as the POWERade points leader and win the race and increase my lead is great. I've never been out front like this early in the season."
Team Matco Tools continues to provide Bazemore with an extremely competitive racecar. His Dodge Stratus R/T carried him to impressive wins over Tony Bartone, who broke at the line, Gary Densham, and championship challenger Del Worsham, before the final-round win over Medlen. Overall, Bazemore has raced for the trophy 41 times.
Driving the same Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang Tony Pedregon drove to the 2003 championship, Rookie of the Year candidate Medlen reached his first trophy round with victories over Bob Gilbertson, his boss John Force, and Pedregon himself. Medlen needed a track-record 4.739 to beat Force. Funny Car results
Anderson once again avenged one of his two elimination-round losses of the season by beating Kurt Johnson in the Pro Stock final. In Phoenix, Johnson knocked out Anderson in the semifinals, making it the only race of the year where Anderson didn't reach the final round.
Aside from the $100,000 he won this weekend $50,000 for the King Demon Crown, $25,000 for the race, and a $25,000 "Double-Up" bonus from the NHRA Anderson has pushed his POWERade points total to 998, which he's collected in just nine races, an astounding 111 points-per-race average.
K.J. made it close, leaving with a slight .007-second advantage, but Anderson was simply too strong, winning with a 6.833 at 202.30 mph, the fastest pass of the weekend, to Johnson's 6.845 at 201.31 mph.
"This is more money then I ever thought I could win at a drag race," Anderson said. "To come out on top and win all this money without outdriving people feels almost better than when you crush them. Every race I won this weekend it seemed like you couldn't tell who won when you went through the lights. We saw a lot of teams step it up.
"I have to get out of [the pressroom] quick because [the tech department] wants to tear my car down again. I'm happy to do it. Last week when I won in Chicago they tore it all the way down and weighed every individual part. Obviously, they didn't find anything wrong, but they still want to do it all over again and I'll be glad to help. Maybe this will finally quiet the naysayers.
"The truth is when you race this hard and do this well you'd like your peers to pat you on the back once in awhile. That really hasn't happened because there's been this cloud of suspicion hanging over us. Maybe these repeated teardowns will get us to that point where everyone can clearly see we're not cheating."
Anderson's Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am carried him to a 6.832-second win over Mike Edwards, and consecutive 6.816-second decisions over JR Carr and Allen Johnson, before running the 6.833 in the finale. Anderson has now raced to 35 national event finals, including eight in nine races this year. He has seven wins on the year and 23 overall.
Johnson's 53rd money round and third of the season came after wins over Bruce Allen, Ken Koretsky, and low qualifier Steve Johnson, whom he beat with a .019 to .058-scond holeshot with a slower 6.861 to Johns' 6.827-second attempt. Pro Stock results
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