Kenny Bernstein broke the 300-mph barrier in Gainesville in 1992.
The “King of Speed,” Kenny Bernstein, has done a lot during his decades of involvement with NHRA, but his most notable accomplishment occurred the day that he earned his nickname by breaking the 300-mph barrier in Top Fuel 20 years ago.
Bernstein will be honored at this weekend’s Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville, where that historic pass took place two decades ago. Del Worsham (Top Fuel), Mike Neff (Funny Car), Jason Line (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the 2011 winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event that will be telecast on ESPN2HD.
Not only was Bernstein a six-time NHRA world champion, record-breaking driver, and team owner, but he was also a successful team owner in NASCAR and IndyCar. Even with all of his involvement and achievements in other forms of racing, NHRA will always be his favorite.
“The NHRA Drag Racing side, the 300-mph feat, the things we got to accomplish in drag racing will be forefront always,” Bernstein said. “It's always really the NHRA Drag Racing side because I got to be the driver there. That's the one thing that I have always enjoyed the most of any of these racing endeavors. An owner is fine, but there's nothing like driving, winning, and competing, being at the top of your game on a certain day.”
He earned the title “King of Speed” during qualifying in Gainesville in 1992 with his Budweiser Top Fuel dragster. The 301.70-mph run surprised him and his team as much as it stunned the entire crowd at the East Coast opener.
Bernstein and crew accepted a $50,000 award for the feat.
“It was pretty much ideal conditions,” Bernstein said. “We hadn’t even said that this was a 300-mile-an-hour run. We didn’t talk much about getting to 300 other than we wanted to; it wasn't like it was preplanned this was going to be the one.”
NHRA will honor the 20th anniversary of that great moment Saturday, March 10, at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville with a special ceremony that will include the original Budweiser dragster, Bernstein, his wife, Sheryl, and some of the original members of his crew followed by an autograph session at the Darrell Gwynn Foundation display.
Bernstein retired from NHRA at the end of 2011, but his son, Brandon, still competes in Top Fuel but for the first time in his nine-year career is not racing for his father’s team. Brandon joined Morgan Lucas Racing as the driver of the MavTV/Lucas Oil dragster and sits ninth in the points standings.
* SCHEDULE: NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series qualifying sessions are scheduled for 1:30 and 4 p.m. on Friday, March 9, and 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 10. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 11.
* TICKETS: For tickets for the 43rd annual Tire Kingdom NHRA Gatornationals presented by NAPAFilters.com, call the NHRA Ticket Center, 800-884-NHRA (6472), or log on to NHRATix.com.
* ON TV: ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 4 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 11, with a re-air of the qualifying show following later that day at 5 p.m. ET. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage at 6 p.m. ET, also on Sunday, March 11.