St. Petersburg Times Online: Sports
TampaBay.com
Place an Ad Calendars Classified Forums Sports Weather
tampabay.com

printer version

NHRA

Brand new Bernstein

photo
[AP photo: 2001]
Kenny Bernstein, left, and son Brandon are staying on the same team, but in different roles. Brandon, once part of his father’s crew, takes over behind the wheel for Kenny, who retired from driving after last season.

By GREG AUMAN, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 14, 2003


The son of NHRA legend Kenny has toiled to get his father's Top Fuel seat. But can Brandon start at the top?

It was only during testing, but it didn't take long for Brandon Bernstein to get frustrated.

Dragsters ideally run in straight lines and, though the car's alignment was fine, his drifted toward the centerline every time. After one such run, he checked off what he was doing with his father, newly retired NHRA racer Kenny Bernstein.

The son, it seems, was focusing on the orange cones at the center of the finish line, and the father explained that the problem wasn't in the car, but its driver.

"I couldn't figure out why it was doing it, and he told me I need to look at the front of the nose," Brandon recalled about one of countless lessons he'd receive in the months leading to his rookie season driving in NHRA's Top Fuel class. "He said if you look at the cones, that's where you'll go, but if you look at the nose, you'll see the cones in the corner of your eye when you need to."

Bernstein, 30, has the difficult task of living up to a name his father has made famous, but he'll do so this season with his father's wisdom helping him.

"The greatest part of this has been the wealth of information he brings," Brandon said as he prepared for his first race last week in Ponoma, Calif. "He can tell me all the things that are happening to me because he's already experienced all those things."

One Bernstein's retirement from driving after nearly four decades coincides with another Bernstein's emergence, and Kenny's six NHRA championships will set the bar high, even for Brandon's first season in Top Fuel.

"We're gunning for the championship," said the younger Bernstein, who took a season off from driving last year to work on his father's crew. "It's pretty high expectations for a rookie year, but we know the car can perform to that level. I'm ready to see how we can do, and I'm just excited to get started. I'm stoked."

Bernstein fared well in his season debut in Pomona, posting the fastest qualifying time at one point and finishing fourth in qualifying at 323.89 mph. He lost in the first round of eliminations against eventual runner-up Cory McClenathan but held his own against the event's best. In the last round of qualifying, he edged champ Larry Dixon by 0.006 seconds.

This rookie season in Top Fuel is the culmination of a decade of hard work for Brandon, who aspired to follow in his father's footsteps in high school and got his start racing during summers as he earned a degree in kinesiology from Texas A&M. He later spent three years on his father's NHRA team before taking his own ride in 2001 in NHRA's Alcohol Dragster series, where he won five races as a rookie to earn series driver of the year honors.

And while he'll continue to benefit from his father's guidance, both drivers take pride in the fact that Brandon worked his way to where he is by building a reputation of his own.

"After college, he worked on the team, starting at the bottom, just cleaning," Kenny said. "We wanted him to learn and earn his way into the driver's seat. We hope to be able to help him through the learning curve quicker . . . we have every reason to believe that we'll be very competitive."

For now, if you try to visit brandonbernstein.com, you're redirected to his father's site, kennybernstein.com, where the main image has father smiling in the background and son now at the center of attention. With each week, Brandon will have more of his father's greatest asset, experience, but the early indications show he could share in the family success as well.

"Back in high school, I realized this is what I want to do with my life," Brandon said. "There was never a question after that. I knew it wasn't going to be easy. Now, every time down the track, there's always something new, but I get that knowledge each time."

Back to Sports
Back to Top

© 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111
Contact the Times | Privacy Policy
Standard of Accuracy | Terms, Conditions & Copyright
 

From the Times sports desk

Golf
  • Nicklaus on Augusta fence
  • A sloppy return for Woods

  • Motorsports
  • Junior's driving scared
  • CART sues Road America track over payments
  • Busch and jackman go flying on pit stop

  • In brief
  • NBC will return boxing to network television

  • Internet
  • Daytona 500's popularity thrives on NASCAR.com

  • Baseball
  • Jeter hurt by shot at integrity

  • College football
  • Another charge for McPherson

  • NHL
  • Trailing by 3, Flyers defeat Blues in OT

  • College basketball
  • Deacons put end to Duke's mastery
  • Gender barrier falls in Tennessee State loss
  • Florida battles back but can't conquer record skid
  • Salukis watch

  • Sailing
  • Rivalry spices up Cup final

  • TV/Radio
  • Mr. Webster has nothing on DW

  • NBA
  • Streaking Pistons top Magic

  • Preps
  • Albury accepts UT offer
  • Zettel turns offensive in leading Brandon
  • Panthers stay unbeaten
  • Bulls avoid trap, coast to 4-1 win
  • Durant gets physical to get by Sickles
  • Gaither gets by Tornadoes
  • 'Canes, Pirates have seasons end
  • Springstead slips by Jenkins on Emmerman goal
  • Rams win wild one on late PK
  • Hudson edges Lecanto
  • Wildcats dump Crystal River
  • Wildcats pull off upset against Leto
  • Chargers chip in for playoff trip
  • Land O'Lakes surprises Tarpon Springs 41-40
  • Big 2nd quarter puts Bears in final
  • Spartans come alive with second-half run
  • Dragons pose no problem
  • PHU gets past St. Petersburg

  • Outdoors
  • Daily fishing report: Patience required in cold
  • TV schedule
  • 2003 Florida calendar

  • Winston Cup
  • Winning, and winning fans over
  • International Race of Champions
  • Rolex Sports Car Series
  • Track Directory

  • Craftsman Trucks
  • Rapid rise to big tracks

  • Winston Cup
  • Pride of Ownership

  • Winston Cup
  • Fast Facts

  • Winston Cup
  • Driver Capsules

  • Busch Grand National
  • Making his biggest jump
  • A racing dictionary
  • American Le Mans series
  • Trans-am series
  • Area tracks

  • NHRA
  • Brand new Bernstein

  • Formula One
  • Diminished dominance?

  • Indy Racing League
  • Heading over, then out

  • CART
  • Spirit is lone U.S. hope

  • CART
  • St. Petersburg Grand Prix

  • TV / Radio
  • Fox on the fly with new camera for pits

  • Rays
  • Arms shortage spring's top obstacle
  • Draw must be wins, not Lou
  • Gary Shelton: Lou has hope. Well, that's one

  • Bucs
  • Keyshawn Johnson denies Serena rumor

  • Lightning
  • Three-game suspension starts tonight for Roy


  • From the wire

    From the state sports wire
  • Jacksonville's Spicer placed on IR after leg surgery
  • FIU-Western Kentucky game postponed because of Jeanne
  • Brown anxious to face old team for first time
  • Dolphins' desperate defense readies for Roethlisberger
  • Former Sarasota lineman sheds tough-guy image with Michigan
  • Rothstein rejoins Heat as assistant
  • No. 16 Florida has history on its side against Kentucky
  • FSU and Clemson QBs both off to slow starts