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Keeping Pace


Brandon Bernstein sits atop the qualifying ladder for Top Fuel dragsters on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series stop in Brainerd, MN.

Courtesy: NHRA Media Relations

BRAINERD, Minn. – Former Auto Club Road to the Future winner Brandon Bernstein is in position to collect his first No. 1 of 2010 after Friday’s first qualifying session at the 29th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals.


The other provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 17th of 23 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Series season – and final race in the Countdown to 10 regular season – were Ashley Force Hood (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).


The surging Bernstein, who has been to the semifinals and finals at the last two races, paced the Top Fuel field with a 3.846-second pass at 309.27 mph in his Copart dragster. It would be only his first No. 1 of 2010, and the 14th of his career.


“This is a great race for us to come on strong,” Bernstein said. “We’ve been right there the last four to six races and to be peaking right now is perfect, right before Indy and the countdown and then charge right on. We hope this is an indication that we’re going to be up there at the top and run for the championship.”


Because there were two rain delays, there was only a single qualifying session Friday, but that was sufficient for Force Hood to earn the provisional pole in Funny Car with her pace-setting pass of 4.102-second pass at 302.55 mph in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.


“With all of the delays, and not knowing we were going to run, there was no time for me to talk to my crew chiefs about what we were going to run,” Force Hood said. “Suddenly we are going to run, and I didn’t want to bother the crew chiefs to ask them. I don’t need to know what’s in the tune-up; I just need to react to what the car is doing and get it A to B.”


In Pro Stock, red-hot Allen Johnson led the field with a 6.702 at 206.61. If it holds up, it would be a third straight No. 1 for the driver of the Team Mopar Dodge Avenger and the 12th of his career.


“We made a really, really good run,” said Johnson, who is coming off his first win of the season at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals. “We took our Denver momentum and our engine combination and improving on it a little bit. We’ll take that run and build on it for the next run and hopefully improve even more.”


In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Andrew Hines claimed the provisional pole aboard the Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson with a 6.977-second pass at 191.46 mph.


“It was a nice, clean, straight run; that was a great start to the weekend,” Hines said. “We’ve done a lot of work over the last couple of weeks and completely tore apart every engine we have, so we have a couple of different combinations we can try this weekend. We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeves and think we can go faster.”


Qualifying at the 29th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals concludes on Saturday when the fields will be set for Sunday’s final eliminations.


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Motorsports correspondent Doug Pace keeps up with motorsports news and notes from around the region.

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