Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals
by Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
Second-generation driver Brandon Bernstein won NHRA's 600th Top Fuel race Sunday at Atlanta Dragway and moved into first place in the POWERade world championship points. The son of legend Kenny Bernstein has now won two races in a row and 14 in his brief career. Bernstein shared the winner's circle at the 27th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals with fellow back-to-back winner Robert Hight, who claimed the Funny Car title over Mike Ashley, Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson, and Karen Stoffer, who won her second race of the year in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Second-generation driver Brandon Bernstein won NHRA's 600th Top Fuel race Sunday at Atlanta Dragway and moved into first place in the POWERade world championship points. The son of legend Kenny Bernstein has now won two races in a row and 14 in his brief career.
Bernstein shared the winner's circle at the 27th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals with fellow back-to-back winner Robert Hight, who claimed the Funny Car title over Mike Ashley, Pro Stock points leader Greg Anderson, and Karen Stoffer, who won her second race of the year in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
"It's huge to grab the points lead heading into Anheuser-Busch's backyard," Bernstein said. "They've been a part of our family for so long, and to be able to go into the race on a two-win streak and with the points lead is quite a feeling. I'd love to make it three in a row, and the way Tim and Kim [Richards, tuners] have this Budweiser car running right now, it could happen.
"My buddy Eric Medlen is looking down on us. I felt his presence today, and this win is every bit as satisfying as the last one for helping us all in our grieving process. I'm proud to win this race in his honor because I still miss him very much and think about him all the time."
Bernstein's only real race of the day was in the final as his other opponents all struggled to get down the track. Against Herbert, Bernstein posted a 4.662 at 305.01 mph to Herbert's 4.714 at 297.02 mph.
The final was a classic battle between the top two qualifiers, with No. 2 Hight taking advantage of some late tire smoke from Ashley, the No. 1 qualifier. The two were side by side most of the way down the track until Ashley's Torco Race Fuels Dodge Charger began spinning its tires around 1,000 feet. That was all Hight needed to take the win in his Auto Club of Southern California Ford Mustang, crossing with a 4.882, 314.61 to Ashley's 5.167, 229.66.
"We've got Eric Medlen and we've got Jimmy Prock, and that's a pretty awesome combination," Hight said. "I think Eric is looking down on all of us out here racing, but he's probably favoring these Ford Mustangs a little more than the others. Winning races sure lifts the spirits of everyone at John Force Racing, and I'm happy to be able to give everyone something else to think about for a little while.
"To win like this under these hot conditions makes me very proud of my team. We all know Jimmy can make this thing fly when it's cool outside, so to see him put forth an effort like this in the heat is encouraging. This is probably what we'll see for the next four, five months."
Hight is now just 45 points out of the Funny Car lead with four final-round showings in five starts this year. All three John Force Racing cars did not attend the
The marquee match of the day was in round one when Ashley Force beat her famous father, John, by a 4.779 to 5.783 margin in the first father-daughter Pro-level race in NHRA history.
"Today I'm a proud father," John said. "I've dreamed of this day for a long time, and it makes me emotional to think it finally came true. She's a great young driver and she's probably gonna whip me a bunch, but I'm okay with it because she's my baby."
The final numbers had Anderson taking his third Atlanta win with a 6.671, 207.62 to W.J.'s 6.719, 205.79. Johnson's first final in 27 races helped him jump from 10th to fifth place in the points.
"We've got some great history here, too, and the time I spent with him here for all those years certainly didn't hurt. I love this place, and winning a race that has your sponsor's name on it is important.
"A big lead in the points won't mean as much this year with the new Countdown deal, and I can't even imagine how much pressure we'll all be under when that deal starts. The best we can do is try to get a big lead now and maybe have time to test some things before it starts in Indy."
The final against red-hot Matt Smith, who is second in the points, was a bit anticlimactic as Smith broke the moment he let the clutch out at the starting line. Smith was standing next to his Torco Buell watching as Stoffer's Geico Motorcycle Suzuki screamed through the top-end timers in 7.063 seconds at 188.65 mph.
"We've been striving for consistency for four years, and it finally feels like we've found it," Stoffer said. "I never expected to be standing here after three races with two wins and the points lead. It's quite a feeling. Kudos to Gary [Stoffer, husband and crew chief] for helping me hit the lights and for setting up the perfect clutch combination.
"Alan Reinhart [NHRA announcer] said in
Former points leader Sampey slipped to third, 48 behind Stoffer. Smith is between the two, 32 points off the lead.
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