Smart money is on Bernstein at NHRA Nationals;

Second-generation drag racer looking for third consecutive Top Fuel win



            Brandon Bernstein is perfect for Las Vegas.  Las Vegas loves a winner and Bernstein is on a roll, having won the two most recent NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series events.  His is a tough act to follow and when local sports books post odds for next week's NHRA Nationals at The Strip as Las Vegas Motor Speedway, it would be wise to bet on red -- Bud red.

            Brandon had some big shoes to fill when his father Kenny -- a six-time NHRA Funny Car and Top Fuel Dragster champion and certified drag racing legend -- retired in 2002 and handed him the reins of the red Bud King.  The rookie Top Fuel Dragster pilot is giving early indications that he is fitting nicely into those shoes.  Brandon defeated Larry Dixon in Chandler, Ariz., then outran John Smith in the Top Fuel final at Gainesville, Fla.  Bernstein will come to Las Vegas next week second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings, just 17 behind leader Larry Dixon.

            "These victories are a tribute to Tim (Richards, crew chief) and the team," said Brandon.  "They're awesome.  It's fun to drive when the car just keeps going down Broadway like that."

Brandon and his father, Kenny, made NHRA history two years ago in Las Vegas when they became the first father/son duo in the sanctioning body's 50-year history to win at the same national event when they "doubled" at the NHRA Nationals in April 2001.

"We already have a family history in Las Vegas," said Brandon, who was born in Dallas but now resides in California.  "This is the track where I earned my first victory in the alcohol car (Top Alcohol Dragster), and dad and I were the first father-son in NHRA's 50-year history to win at the same national event.  My grandfather, who lives in Dallas, was at that event, and he's booked a flight and plans to be in (Las Vegas).

"We're really forward to competition at this track.  I have to pinch myself now.  The first win at Phoenix was amazing, and now to win back-to-back, that says a lot for our team.  It¿s a tough deal to win these races, and we're fortunate enough to be there.

"It¿s still a learning curve.  It may look easy as the car's going down there and winning races, but there are little things I need to do to fine-tune my driving skills.  We just try to do the best we can out there.  We just have to stay focused, but we want to ride the wave as long as we can."

The still-young 2003 season marks Brandon's first year in the cockpit of the Budweiser/Lucas Oil Top Fuel Dragster.  Brandon worked part-time for the Budweiser King team during his summers away from Texas A & M University. He worked three years full-time with the Budweiser King team. In 2001, he drove a Top Alcohol Dragster and worked part-time for the Budweiser King team and won the NHRA Division 7 Alcohol Dragster championship. Brandon took a year off from driving and worked as a crew member on his father's team in 2002.  When the elder Bernstein concluded his Forever Red farewell tour last November, Brandon became the driver of the Budweiser King Top Fueler.

Tickets for the fourth annual NHRA Nationals (April 3-6) are available by calling LVMS' ticket office at (702) 644-444 or online at