Brandon Bernstein walks around Firebird International Raceway like he owns the place. That's because the Top Fuel driver has never lost in his career at Firebird, winning in 2003 and 2004.
"You have a little bit of confidence but you know it is just another race," said Bernstein on Friday during first-day qualifying. "You can't come into a race and think 'oh, we have won it the last two years and this is gonna be easy and we are just gonna win this one too.' It is not like that at all."
The Budweiser Top Fuel driver made his fastest pass during the afternoon session, running 4.595 seconds at 326.16 mph.
Bernstein, who is the son of drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein, would become the winningest driver at Firebird if he won Sunday. Brandon currently shares the two-win mark with seven other drivers, including his father.
"We have to work hard at it and make sure we are consistent on race day," said Brandon, who is only the second driver to win two straight Top Fuel titles at Firebird. Dick LaHaie won in 1986 and 1987.
Brandon's win in 2003 was his career-first in the Top Fuel division and his 2004 win came after he returned from a crushed vertebrae in his upper back after his car smacked the guard wall and flipped over it during a first-round run in May 2003 at Englishtown, N.J.
With all that behind him, Brandon believes this can be his season to win the Top Fuel world championship. "I think we are capable of winning the championship this year," said Bernstein, who finished third in the points standings in 2004 after winning three events. "We wanted to win the championship last season too but this year I think we are little more focused and a little more ready to make consistent runs in 2005."
Bernstein is not the only Budweiser driver having success in the Valley of the Sun. His sponsor teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. will also be gunning for his third straight NASCAR Nextel Cup victory at Phoenix International Raceway this April.
"That would be pretty cool if we could win and get our three-peat and he can get his third," Bernstein said. "We would have to exchange cell phone calls if that happens."