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Tue, 11 Dec 2001, 08:49 AM

Bernstein, Force Earn First Team AARWBA All-America Honors
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

Candidates for Titus Award with Gordon

GLENDORA, Calif. -- Only four votes separate John Force, Kenny Bernstein and Jeff Gordon for the 2001 Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association All-America Auto Racing Team's most prestigious honor.

The three drivers were among first-team selections for the auto racing media organization, and one of them will be revealed as the Jerry Titus Award winner on Jan. 12 at the annual AARWBA banquet in Pomona, Calif. The Titus Award recognizes AARWBA's Driver of the Year.

Bernstein and Force were named first-team selections in the Drag Racing category, while Gordon, along with Kevin Harvick and Tony Stewart, earned first-team honors in the Stock Car category.

Bernstein earned his seventh AARWBA first-team selection, and 11th overall, by producing perhaps his finest season ever. He drove his Budweiser King Top Fuel dragster to eight victories in 12 finals while resetting both world record performance statistics (4.477 seconds, 332.18 mph). He claimed his second NHRA Top Fuel World Championship, and sixth overall (four in Funny Car in the 1980s).

Force, a three-time Titus Award winner (1996, 1999, 2000), is making his 11th AARWBA appearance and 10th as a first-team All-America selection. He powered his CASTROL GTX Ford Mustang to six victories en route to winning his 11th NHRA World Championship, and ninth in a row. He elevated his career win total to a NHRA-record 98, while resetting the world elapsed time record to 4.731 seconds.

Four-time NASCAR Winston Cup champion Gordon claimed six victories and 18 top five finishes to make his eighth appearance as a first-team All-America selection, and ninth overall. Gordon is a two-time winner of the Titus Award (1995, 1998). In addition to Force and Gordon, other past Titus Award winners include: Mario Andretti (1977, 1978, 1984); Mark Donohue (1971, 1973); Johnny Rutherford (1974, 1980); and Al Unser Jr. (1990, 1994).

Warren Johnson and Larry Dixon were selected to the Second-Team in the Drag Racing category. Johnson, a seven-time AARWBA All-America selection, earned his sixth NHRA World Championship in Pro Stock with a gritty season-long effort in his GM Goodwrench Pontiac Grand Am. Dixon, making his first appearance on the All-America team, earned six victories behind the wheel of his Miller Lite dragster, posting a career-best runner-up finish in the NHRA World Championship standings in Top Fuel.

Other first-team selections included: Open Wheel: Gil de Ferran, Sam Hornish; Road Racing: Paul Gentilozzi, James Weaver; Short Track: Dave Darland, Danny Lasoski; and At Large: Townsend Bell, Rob MacCacheren.

Other second-team selections included: Stock Car: Ricky Rudd; Open Wheel: Kenny Brack, Helio Castroneves; Road Racing: Terry Borcheller, Emmanuele Pirro; Short Track: Johnny Sauter, Jack Sprague; and At Large: Doug Goad, Hoover Orsi.

AARWBA members have annually selected an All-America Auto Racing Team since 1970. Drivers selected to the team will be honored at the AARWBA banquet, to be held Jan. 12 at the Sheraton at Fairplex in Pomona. The reception will be held at the adjacent NHRA Motorsports Museum. The banquet is open to the public. For tickets or other information about the AARWBA banquet, call (818) 842-7005 or write to AARWBA, 922 N. Pass Ave., Burbank, CA, 91505.

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