It's The Norm
November 22-28, 2001 ARCHIVES
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by Norm Johnson
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When one goes out on the limb and makes a prediction about a certain individual or event, the person making that prediction is usually guessing a lot. Of course he has an instinct and perhaps a lot of inside information. But when it comes to predicting the future of a particular racecar driver or two a lot can come into play to thwart the prediction. I got real lucky! At the first of the year I made two predictions involving the legendary Kenny Bernstein and his quest in the NHRA and local driver Brendan Gaughan and his defense of the Winston West championship.

Needless to say I had a certain feeling about both of those men, especially the great Bud King Top Fuel racer who was going for his second championship in that particular class. We were lucky enough to sit down and have lunch with this five time NHRA champion (at that time) prior to the drag meet in April at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and The Strip. I felt, right then, this was a man who was going to go for broke! He has all the right equipment and a top sponsor Budweiser Beer. The biggest thing he had going for him was desire. Well, as you know he won the Top Fuel title at the April drags and went on to win a few more events on his way to the final race of the season in Pomona, California. He had only a scant lead in points going into the final event. The "foam always rises to the top" dragster cinched his sixth NHRA championship on the third run and went on to make it official by taking the meet title. Now all he needs to do is gather in his seventh championship in 2002 before he turns to wheel over to his son for the 2003 season. That would be a fitting finish to a tremendous career by one of the nice guys in racing.

My other prediction was about the former off-road racing champion and son of Michael Gaughan, himself an off-road champion, Brendan Gaughan. The 26-year-old charger had won the NASCAR Winston West Series (WWS) title in 2000. He had a major sponsor in NAPA for 2001 and The Orleans Racing Team shop (located at the speedway) was busy building a series of new Chevrolet's for this budding star of NASCAR racing. He was determined to finish the year as a repeat champion and I agreed. I also predicted that he would announce his movement into the NASCAR Craftsmen Truck series as a fulltime driver in 2002. Well, that particular one was really quite easy to predict. Repeating as the WWS championship would come down to the last race of the season at the 1/2 mile Irwindale Speedway in California. The track, incidentally, just happens to be one of Brendan's favorites. He had a 40-point lead over Mark Reed who had dogged him all year. He led 171 of the 250 laps and won going away to repeat as champion. Now he will gear up for his rookie season on the Craftsmen tour. One man has to be pretty damn proud of his protg. Walker Evans, one of the all-time greats in off-road racing, was Brendan's mentor. I would say he did a fine job of mentoring a young man towards a tough goal.

Congratulations to both Kenny Bernstein on his sixth NHRA Championship and to Brendan Gaughan and his Orleans Racing Team for their repeat championship. Couldn't happen to two nicer men!

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