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Sat, 27 Oct 2001, 01:01 AM

Bernstein, Bazemore, Edwards and Savoie are Leaders at ACDelco Las Vegas
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

LAS VEGAS - Kenny Bernstein is looking to remain the only Top Fuel driver to hold the No. 1 qualifying spot at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Kenny Bernstein
Bernstein sped down the quarter-mile track in 4.575 seconds at 322.34 mph in his Budweiser King to move to the top of the 16-car order after one day of qualifying Friday at the inaugural ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.

Whit Bazemore, Mike Edwards and Angelle Savoie led their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 23rd of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

In two prior NHRA events at The Strip, Bernstein has swept the No. 1 qualifiers and victories.

"Well, it's No. 1 for now, but I don't think it will hold (Saturday)," Bernstein said. "We lost a cylinder or a head gasket (during the second run) otherwise we would have run a lot quicker."

Bernstein leads the Winston Top Fuel standings, but Larry Dixon is closely behind in second place. Dixon turned in a 4.602 run at 315.93 - good enough for fourth place.

Bazemore set both ends of the track record with a 4.748 run at 323.04 in a Pontiac Firebird to take the early No. 1 qualifying lead in Funny Car.

"We know the track surface was going to be good, we just weren't sure if we would be able to get enough horsepower," Bazemore said. "We are at 2,100 feet and there aren't many trees here. There is not a lot of air. This is a credit to the Matco Tools team."

John Force has already clinched the Winston Funny Car title - his 11th career championship. Force is the No. 2 qualifier with a 4.790 pass at 322.42.

"We are going to finish in second place," Bazemore said. "But right now we are trying to win races, which is exactly what we have been doing all year. It is really important to maintain our momentum going into next season."

Edwards was the quickest in the Pro Stock category with a 6.954 run at a track record speed of 198.41 in his Young Life Chevy Cavalier. Edwards has already claimed five No. 1 qualifying spots this season, including last weekend at Texas Motorplex. Edwards couldn't turn that No. 1 spot into a win as he was ousted in the first round. Edwards has one victory this season, at the June event at Route 66 Raceway.

Savoie set an elapsed time track record with a 7.289 run at 182.35 in Pro Stock Motorcycle on her Team Winston Suzuki. Savoie is first in the Winston season standings and is looking to clinch her second straight Winston Pro Stock Motorcycle title.

Pro qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 3:15 p.m.

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