- Bill Stephens
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When the rain-shortened qualifying procedure at the 25th Mopar Mile High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway near Denver had been wrapped up on Saturday, the 16-racer fields for the four professional classes had been set. The results reflected several clear-cut examples of drivers and teams who had enjoyed an upbeat kickoff to this year's Western Swing, and those who had fared much less successfully.
Here's a subjective list of the winners and losers from Denver qualifying on the eve of Sunday's final eliminations.
TOP FUEL: WINNER
Brandon Bernstein's 4.677/308.43 run in Saturday's final session gave him the No. 1 qualifying spot in his first Top Fuel appearance at Bandimere. The fact that he made the run with reigning POWERade champion Larry Dixon in the other lane only made it sweeter.
TOP FUEL: LOSER
Tony Schumacher failed to make a run in the day's first session when his U.S. Army dragster suffered a fuel leak at the starting line and he was forced to shut off. In his second run, his car shook the tires and lost its grip, giving him a 4.917/298.40 timeslip, placing him 10th in the field.
FUNNY CAR: WINNER
Whit Bazemore made two spectacular passes on Saturday after losing the points lead to John Force three weeks ago in St. Louis. Whit's Matco Tools Dodge shot to a 4.897/311.92 pass in the opening session, giving him the No. 1 spot, only to go even quicker and faster in the evening round with a 4.842/312.50 encore.
FUNNY CAR: LOSER
Ron Capps went into the second qualifying session on Saturday clinging to the No. 15 spot. But in the final session, his Skoal Monte Carlo labored down the track due to the failure of his team to remove his throttle stop after his burnout. Ron eventually missed the field, his first DNQ since Brainerd, MN last year.
PRO STOCK: WINNER
Greg Anderson, the reigning Pro Stock POWERade champion, continues to exert a stranglehold on the category. Driving a newly completed Pontiac Grand Am wearing the colors of new sponsor, Summit Racing, Anderson's track record 7.159/192.47 run late Saturday afternoon gave him his 10th No. 1 qualifying start of 2004 out of 13 events.
PRO STOCK: LOSER
Allen Johnson began the weekend learning that his teammate, three-time champion Darrell Alderman, was leaving the team due to a reoccurring back problem. Mike Corvo, who had run a part-time schedule at NHRA national events over the past few seasons, was named to replace Alderman for the weekend. At their sponsors race, neither Allen nor Corvo qualified.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: WINNER
After being reduced to bit players in St. Louis after the NHRA mandated a 40-pound increase in their ready-to-race trim, the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and GT Tonglet rebounded in Denver by taking two of the top three spots in the PSB field. Andrew's 7.509/185.66 in Saturday's final session gave him the No. 1 spot while GT's 7.551/176.53 was good enough for No. 3.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: LOSER
Karen Stoffer came into Denver with a freshly rebuilt engine -- the same one that had taken her to victory earlier this year in Houston. On her first qualifying pass, she blew that engine nearing the finish line, forcing the team to bring out its backup piece. Karen qualified No. 7 on her second run but must now face the risk of damaging her only remaining engine on raceday.
Bill Stephens covers the NHRA for ESPN and ESPN.com.