As we head into the last race of the season, about the only excitement left is who will be the 2002 Powerade Funny Car champion? With all of the other professional classes settled in Las Vegas, the battle for the top spot, the number three spot and the tenth and final spot on stage at the award’s ceremony are all up for grabs this weekend. Here’s the scenario…
Larry Dixon has a chance to make a little bit of NHRA history this weekend if he can win on Saturday or Sunday. The way I look at it, Larry could become the first Top Fuel driver in history to win $1 million in prize money in a single season if he can get to the winner’s circle either day this weekend. Of course, if Larry, or any other driver, wins the "Budweiser Shootout" and the AAA Club Finals the next day, that’s worth a grand total of $190,000, 100 large for winning the Shootout, 40 more for winning the race and a $50,000 NHRA bonus for doubling up. Now, if you want to know how tough that is, did you know that only once has a Top Fuel driver pulled off the elusive double? Joe Amato, who won the Shootout on Saturday and the Finals on Sunday in 1990, is the only dragster driver to ever complete the Pomona sweep. And, Joe beat Gary Ormsby in both of those finals and his Sunday win gave him the 1990 Top Fuel championship. Now that’s the kind of weekend that most teams can only dream about….Kenny Bernstein, who will complete his driving career at Pomona, also has a couple of things to shoot for this weekend, including the opportunity to pass Don Garlits on the all-time Top Fuel win list. Did you know that both Kenny and "Big" right now have 35 dragster wins and they’re tied for second place behind Joe Amato, who has 52 wins? Larry Dixon, by the way, with his great season, has moved into a 5th place tie on the list with 25 victories. One more win and Larry will establish the single-season mark for wins in a year (he’s now tied with Gary Scelzi with 9) and he already has the record for the most final rounds in one year with 14….Clay Millican, the IHRA champ, will try his hand at NHRA racing again this weekend when he returns to Pomona, the site of two of his best outings. Did you know that, in his last two starts at the Fairplex, Clay has gone to the semi-finals? He lost to Kenny Bernstein at the "Finals" last year and he dropped a semi-final match to Larry Dixon earlier this year.
The Pro Stock point’s chase is over, with Jeg Coughlin winning his second title, but Jeg still has a chance to make a little history this weekend. Did you know that Jeg has been to the final round at four consecutive races, and it’s been five years since a PS driver went to the money round at five races in a row? Yep, Jim Yates was the last guy to do it and that was in 1997, but Jeg can do even more, he can win five races in a row and only two drivers have done that in the 32-year history of the class. Did you know that only Ronnie Sox and Bob Glidden ever won five races in a row in Pro Stock?…Like the FC class, there is a good battle further down the food chain, with George Marnell and Bruce Allen only separated by 4 points. George, who was the point’s leader after winning the Winternationals, is currently in 10th place with 825 points, while Bruce is right behind him, in 11th place, with 821 points. Did you know that 10th place in the Pro Stock class is worth $15,000, and that 11th place is worth zero!! Zip!! Nothing!!…Darrell Alderman, who was in the top ten for most of the season, hopes to finish his year with a qualifying berth, something that he hasn’t had since the Brainerd race. Did you know that Darrell has dropped from 6th to 12th following six, consecutive DNQ’s? And, with the Mopar press conference scheduled for this Wednesday at the SEMA show, it will be interesting to see exactly where Darrell ends up next year. It will also be interesting to see what Mopar’s involvement with NHRA will be in 2003.
Finally, since Kenny is hanging it up after this weekend, I thought I’d finish with a flurry of DYK items about the "King of Speed." Ready? Here goes…
Did you know that Kenny has finished in the NHRA Top 10 for 22 consecutive years…an NHRA record?
Did you know that Kenny has raced 134 different drivers, an NHRA record?
And of those 134, did you know that 62 of them never beat Kenny, not even one round?
Did you know that Kenny is one of only four drivers to have won the U.S. Nationals in BOTH Top Fuel and Funny Car?
Did you know that Kenny’s record against the other members of NHRA’ s Top 10 all-time list (released last year) is 60-44, and that he is 166-108 against all of the drivers in the NHRA Top 50 whom he faced?
Did you know that Kenny’s record against John Force is 13-7, and against Don Prudhomme he is 27-10?
Did you know that Kenny raced six, different father/son combos? Among them, Jim and Mike Dunn, Graeme and Andrew Cowin, Connie and Scott Kalitta, Don and Tony Schumacher, Paul and Mike Smith and Paul and John Smith?
Did you know that Kenny had a winning record in 10 of his 14 seasons in Funny Car, and 11 of his 13 years in Top Fuel?
Did you know that Kenny won races on 22 different tracks and that he has been the #1 qualifier at 22 tracks?
Did you know that he once qualified for 168 races in a row, and that’s fourth best in the fuel classes in NHRA history?
And, well, there’s a whole lot more, but let’s just say that Kenny has been one of the biggest and brightest stars in the NHRA’s 51 year history. The "Forever Red Tour…a Run To Remember," comes to an end this weekend, but there will still be a lot of runs to remember. Thanks, Kenny.
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