After A Three-Year Retirement, Bernstein Is Back In The Saddle


Stories Of People Who Make A Living In Motorsports

Guest Columnist

Kenny Bernstein owns four NHRA Funny Car championships and a pair of NHRA Top Fuel titles.

It’s great to have an opportunity to address the readers of NSSN. I am a long-time fan of Chris Economaki’s and have always turned to NSSN for the latest motorsports information.

As many of you know, for the years spanning from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, in addition to competing on the NHRA circuit as a driver, I also owned NASCAR and CART teams.

By 1995, I was solely devoted to my Budweiser-backed drag racing team. To this day, I continue to own the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster now driven by my son Brandon. This season, after a three-year hiatus from driving, I’ve returned to competition at the wheel of the Monster Energy/Lucas Oil Funny Car.

We’re excited about the announcement that HD Partners Acquisition Corp. will acquire NHRA’s professional racing assets along with a broad set of rights to commercialize the NHRA brand. Upon consummation of the transaction, the acquired assets will be held in a wholly owned subsidiary of HD Partners named NHRA Pro Racing.

NHRA President Tom Compton and Eddy Hartenstein, Chairman and CEO of HD Partners, have addressed the professional racing owners and drivers and have shared some of their visions with us. I think everybody in the drag racing community recognizes this as a grand opportunity to grow our sport.

We also understand it isn’t going to happen overnight.

Having been involved with other forms of auto sports, I recognize NHRA as the best value. Our sponsorship base is continuing to grow with more mainstream corporate involvement. Monster Energy is a good example. Budweiser, we’re proud to say, has been with us for 28 years. With two more years on our contract, 30 years will mark the longest current sponsor/team association in all of auto sports.

Most people look at NASCAR as the pinnacle of motorsports, and certainly the late Bill France and his family deserve a lot of credit for their vision and the tremendous growth they’ve obtained. However, I’m a firm believer that with the development and execution of a good game plan, NHRA can gain significant ground. We will watch and see what transpires. We are totally dedicated and committed to lending whatever assistance we can to Tom Compton and Eddy Hartenstein.

No matter what form of sport you are involved in or enjoy watching, those of us who are able to make a living doing what we love best are very fortunate.

After retiring from driving in 2002, I found that standing on the starting line watching Brandon drive the Budweiser/Lucas Oil dragster was very foreign to me. I couldn’t find a comfortable place to stand and I was out of sorts spectating. In 2003, eight races into Brandon’s rookie season, he suffered severe back injuries in a racing accident that sidelined him for the remainder of the year. We finished the year substituting for him, and our team was fortunate to win the last four of five races that year.

Three years later an opportunity arose for me to drive again when Monster Energy expressed interest in sponsoring a Funny Car.

It was a perfect tie because many Anheuser-Busch wholesalers across the country distribute Monster Energy drinks. We were pretty quiet about the entire negotiation and surprised the motorsports community at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals a year ago when we announced we would return to active competition driving the Monster Energy/Lucas Oil Funny Car.

We didn’t have the first Mac Tool to put into a Mac Tool box. We had to start from the ground up.

We owe a debt of gratitude to a lot of team members who gave up about four months of time with their families over the holidays and into the month of pre-season testing. And we picked a whale of a time to return.

If you’ve followed NHRA drag racing, you’ve seen the battles, and for the first time in who knows how many years, no one Funny Car driver has qualified for every event. One week you win, the next week you don’t qualify.

At this writing we have two runner-up finishes on the books this year, and I believe we’re on the edge of a victory.

Brandon is doing great this season, we’re getting back in the groove, and the sport of NHRA drag racing is committed to growing our sport. We’re lucky to be driving the dream!

(Original Print Date: September 5, 2007)