Morgan Lucas Racing

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Bernstein gets in the hot seat and elects to fight another day

PHOENIX – The high winds, dusty air and cool temperatures were the perfect formula for some strange racing Sunday at the NHRA Arizona Nationals, and unfortunately for Brandon Bernstein and the Top Fuel team, they were on the wrong end of one of the strangest battles of the weekend in the first round.

“It was a little different out here this weekend,” Bernstein said. “The conditions changed so much overnight that it became a tuner’s nightmare. It’s disappointing for the team because we had a decent car.”

Cars in all NHRA classes had trouble making pulls down Firebird International Raceway and Bernstein and opponent Larry Dixon were no exception.

Bernstein actually got off the starting line cleanly while Dixon went up in a cloud of tire smoke at the hit. Bernstein then got into trouble and pedaled the throttle but his engine lost fire and the car coasted toward the finish line.

“It left and was good for a little bit but then it shook hard,” Bernstein said. “I pedaled it once and the engine tried to throw a gasket out. A bunch of fire came up into the cockpit. As a driver, your natural instinct is to lift when you see fire.”

In the meantime, Dixon recovered from his tire shake, pedaled and got the car hooked back up. He crossed the line under power and drove around Bernstein for the win.

In the end, Dixon crossed the finish line in 4.942 seconds at 283.13 mph, while Bernstein recorded a 4.991 at 168.66 mph.

“He blew right by me at the finish line,” Bernstein said. “If I would have stayed in it, maybe it would have made it but you can’t second-guess yourself. You look at it and see the singed material on the side of my firesuit and you can only guess what might have happened. It wasn’t like we weren’t on fire.”

It was a frustrating end to a weekend that started full of promise; however, because it was such an odd ending, Bernstein said it won’t take very long to put the disappointment in the rearview mirror.

“It was a situation where we had to shut it off and live to fight another day,” Bernstein said. “We’ll be ready for Gainesville (Fla.). We need to be a little more consistent but (crew chief) Joe Barlam has a really good handle on it and we’ll be ready to take all these guys down.”

Up next for the Top Fuel team is the NHRA Gatornationals, which will be held March 15-17 at Auto-Plus Raceway in Gainesville.


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