POMONA, Calif. --
Thu, 8 Feb 2007, 10:38 PM
Bernstein, Hight and Anderson Lead Thursday Qualifying at Pomona
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2007 Auto Imagery, Inc.
Top Fuel driver Brandon Bernstein opened the 2007 NHRA
POWERade Drag Racing Series season Thursday at Auto Club Raceway at
Pomona with a class-leading 4.494-second pass at 331.61 mph in his
Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster.
Two other racers with title aspirations -- Funny Car's Robert Hight and
Pro Stock's Greg Anderson -- also took early leads in their respective
categories at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals. The $2
million race is the first of 23 events in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing
Bernstein led a trio of Top Fuel drivers in the 4.4-second range. Aside
from his smooth pass, '06 championship runner-up Doug Kalitta went 4.495
at 323.50 mph in his Mac Tools dragster, while Rod Fuller drove to a
4.497 at 329.34 mph in his Valvoline dragster. Four-time NHRA champion
Tony Schumacher, the winner of the last three POWERade titles, just
missed the 4.4-second range with a 4.502 at 324.20 mph in his U.S. Army
dragster, placing him fourth.
"It shook a little about 60 feet out but it cleared up right away and my
vision cleared up and then it just took off," Bernstein said. "We were
going 277 mph at half-track so it was hauling. It's great to be No. 1
but it's obviously very early. We had a lot of momentum at the end of
last year and we're hoping to keep that alive heading into this season."
Rookie Funny Car pilot Ashley Force also made news in her debut, running
4.810 at 281.19 mph in her Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustang to qualify
sixth overall, well ahead of her 14-time champ father John Force, who
was 14th. Whit Bazemore, who crossed over from Funny Car to Top Fuel
this year, posted a 4.533 in his Matco Tools dragster to grab seventh
place, while returning legend Kenny Bernstein will have to wait another
day to make the Funny Car field after shutting off early in his Monster
Energy/Lucas Oil Dodge Charger.
With all eyes on Funny Car newcomer Ashley Force, it ended up being her
teammate Hight earning the spotlight in his Auto Club Ford Mustang with
a class-leading 4.693 at 326.79 mph.
"It's very exciting to see Ashley out here running with us," Hight said.
"I'm really impressed. There's all this pressure on her coming into this
race and with her dad being a little nuts, yet somehow she's able to
block it all out when she's in that car and she went straight down the
track. John wants us to take over for him and it's cool that he's
watching us all grow."
Anderson led Pro Stock in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO by clocking a
6.647 at 208.33 mph.
"We look OK," Anderson said. "We honestly didn't finish these motors and
make the decision to run them here until a week ago. I think we have a
workable product with lots of room for improvement, which is good
because with the way the points deal is now you need to peak at the end
of the year."
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