The ‘King of Speed’ Kenny Bernstein has done a lot during his decades of involvement with the NHRA, but his most notable accomplishment is the day he earned his nickname by breaking the 300 mph barrier in Top Fuel, 20 years ago. The historic pass took place at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway March 20, 1992 during a Friday qualifying session with the original Budweiser Top Fuel dragster we have in our possession. The 301.70 mph run surprised him and his team as much as it stunned the entire motorsports fraternity.
“The conditions were ideal,” Bernstein said. “We didn’t know this would be ‘the run’ but the race team, headed by crew chief Dale Armstrong, had spent the winter thinking about every part and piece they put into the Budweiser dragster with the 300 mile-per-hour-goal forefront in their thinking process.
“In Gainesville after I made the run and rounded the corner, a member of the Safety Safari was holding up three fingers. I thought he meant we had qualified third, when in fact he was trying to tell me we had just gone 300 miles per hour! Our entire team was ecstatic!
“The 300 mile-per-hour feat will always be what we could consider our greatest performance accomplishment,” said Bernstein. “The 300 mph Budweiser dragster will be on display at the International Motorsports Hall of Fame from March until October 2012 and then will return to its home where it was donated to the Wally Parks NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif. not long after the historic run,” commented Bernstein.
Not only was Bernstein a six-time NHRA world champion, record-breaking driver and team owner in the NHRA, he was also a successful team owner in both NASCAR and IndyCar.
Bernstein retired from the NHRA at the end of 2011, but his son Brandon still competes in the 7,000-horsepower Top Fuel class and for the first time in his nine-year career he’s not racing for his father’s team. Brandon joined Morgan Lucas Racing as the driver of the MAV TV/Lucas Oil dragster.
“We are just ecstatic to have the “King of Speed” Kenny Bernstein’s Budweiser Top Fuel Dragster that was the first to break the 300mph bearer just over 20 years ago”, said Bruce Ramey, IMHOF Operations Manager, “especially at this time as Kenny will be inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame this May.”