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Pomona's latest winner, Bernstein, is dreaming of a repeat performance


POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 11) - There is nothing that Brandon Bernstein and the Top Fuel dragster team would love more than to start the 2013 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series exactly where they left off in 2012.

Bernstein had one of the most consistent cars during last year's Countdown to the Championship and capped the season with a big victory at the same Pomona racetrack as this weekend's O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals.

"We really feel like we can get right back to where we left off," Bernstein said. "The way we tested in West Palm Beach (Fla.) gave us a lot of confidence. We're also coming back to Pomona with the exact same setup we left there with back in November.

"We're looking forward to running some nice 3.70s (elapsed times) and ringing up some round wins to see if we can't get another trophy at the end of the weekend."

Last year was Bernstein's first with Morgan Lucas Racing and a first for crew chief Joe Barlam as the top mechanic. Their initial few races together were spent getting everyone on the same page. Now, Bernstein, Barlam and crew can hit the ground running from the first race.

"Ending the year the way we did has us very confident," Bernstein said. "I kept preaching to the team last year just how close we were. To finally get that monkey off our back made a big difference for the team. We know we can do more than just run with the best; we proved we can beat the best, too.

"The mood on the team is really high because we can't wait to get back to the track and see what damage we can do."

Bernstein added that it's never too early to start thinking about points position for when the Countdown starts later this season.

"Our goal this year is to be in good position headed into the Countdown," he said. "We don't want to be so far back when it all starts. We were consistent in the Countdown, and if we were higher in the points to start out, we would have been a stronger title contender.

"The first step toward winning that championship is taken this weekend."

Qualifying for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals will get under way at 2 p.m. PST on Thursday with a single session. There will be another single session with the same start time on Friday. Two qualifying sessions are on tap for Saturday beginning at noon. Eliminations are Sunday with opening ceremonies at 10 a.m. and racing at 11 a.m. ESPN2 will air the qualifying show at 10 p.m. EST on Saturday and the eliminations show at 8 p.m. Sunday.