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Sat, 27 Sep 2008, 07:20 PM

Ellis Takes Top Spot on Hot Saturday
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2008 Auto Imagery, Inc.

Bernstein, A. Force, Johnson Remain No.1 at Memphis Motorsports Park


Chip Ellis
Pro Stock Motorcycle rider Chip Ellis rode to his second consecutive No. 1 qualifier in Memphis on a day when it seemed all Friday night times would rule.

Brandon Bernstein, Ashley Force and Allen Johnson kept their No. 1 qualifying positions in their categories following strong runs Friday night at the 21st annual O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals presented by Pennzoil, the third of six events in the NHRA Countdown to 1 playoffs.

Ellis rode his Schumacher Electric Suzuki to a blistering 6.910 seconds at 191.10 mph during Saturday's late-morning session. It's Ellis' first No. 1 qualifier of the season and the 13th of his career.

"I was pretty surprised, as was everyone else," Ellis said. "Usually the smooth runs don't always feel fast. That's probably the best lap I've made all year as far as doing everything exactly right. We didn't leave anything on the table with that run."

Brandon Bernstein
Bernstein's Friday night run of 3.825 at 313.88 in his Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster stayed the quickest run in Top Fuel. It's Bernstein's second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 13th of his career.

"We've preformed this weekend so far and tomorrow we just need to go some rounds," Bernstein said. "We had a great car in Dallas last weekend and really felt like coming into this week that if we kept running in the low 80's and 90's that we could have a really consistent race car for the conditions they have here at Memphis."

Funny Car didn't see much change either as Force's 4.079-second pass at 298.87 mph in her Castrol GTX Ford Mustang stayed strong through Saturday. It's Force's third No. 1 qualifier of the season and of her career.

Ashley Force
"In qualifying you're just trying to run as best as you can. At the end of the day is when you finally stop and realize how the ladder pairs up and sometimes that can be everything," Force said. "There's some big match-ups tomorrow that may change this whole championship path. (Jack) Beckman and Tony (Pedregon), what are the chances that the two guys who are running for the championship that are both doing great happen to be pared up first round? Someone's got to win. I think we're going to start seeing that as it gets closer to the end of the season."

Allen Johnson
Johnson's Friday night run held as the quickest time in the Pro Stock category. His run in the Team Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus of a 6.591 at 208.52 was a new track E.T. record. It's Johnson's third No. 1 qualifier of the season and sixth of his career.

"Every point we can get right here is great, we just need to take it and do something with it tomorrow," Johnson said. "You know it'd be huge (to win a championship) for Mopar, for my family, for my dad, everybody, our whole crew. That's what we started this thing doing 12 years ago, to get one. We're close enough now, if we can just get a break and I can do my job, I think we can tighten it up a little bit tomorrow."

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