Brandon Bernstein continued the momentum from his win at last year’s season finale by racing to the qualifying lead in Top Fuel Thursday at the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries.
Gary Densham (Funny Car) and V. Gaines (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the 2013 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season opener at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
Bernstein drove his Protect the Harvest/MavTV dragster to the provisional No. 1 spot with a 3.761-second pass at 325.22 mph in the Top Fuel class. If the performance holds, it will be the 15th No. 1 of his career.
“The Protect the Harvest/MavTV car came out of the gates real good,” Bernstein said. “It felt like a really good run. It’s nice to be in that No. 1 right now. There’s a lot of racing left. That win at the end of the year gave us a tremendous boost of confidence. The competition is so tight. This weekend is going to be even tougher.”
Also in Top Fuel, seven-time world champion Tony Schumacher is in the second spot with a 3.777 at 326.08 in his U.S Army dragster, and Clay Millican sits third with a 3.799 at 325.77 in his Parts Plus dragster.
Veteran Funny Car driver Densham powered his Densham Motorsports Dodge Charger to the qualifying lead with a performance of 4.053 at 307.09.
“We have been very fortunate to qualify at every race and have a lot of fun doing it,” said Densham. “It was a good run. I feel I've got the best team in drag racing. They do more with less than anybody out here, and I think we’ve proved that every time we come out here. We’ll carry on the best we can. It’s gonna be a great weekend.”
Last season’s top rookie, Courtney Force, is proving to be a sophomore sensation by taking the second spot in Funny Car with a 4.071 at 311.49 in her Traxxas Ford Mustang. Johnny Gray is third in his Pitch Energy Dodge Charger with a 4.087 at 308.78.
In Pro Stock, Gaines secured the qualifying lead with a 6.538 pass at 211.49 mph in his Kendall Oil Dodge Avenger.
“We had a really good end of last year and made a lot of progress,” Gaines said. “We’ve got a hot car and a fantastic engine program. We are looking forward to this year. For a single-car team to do what we’re doing, I think it is phenomenal. It’s extremely gratifying when you’re doing it all yourself.”
Jason Line was second in Pro Stock with a 6.541 at 212.43 in his Summit Racing Chevy Camaro, followed by Mike Edwards, who posted a 6.545 at 212.26 in his Interstate Batteries/I am Second Pontiac GXP.
Qualifying continues Friday at 2 p.m. followed by the final two qualifying sessions Saturday at noon and 2 p.m. Eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.