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									When Joe Amato and Kenny Bernstein broke the 260-mph barrier
at the 1984 Gatornationals, the gates were opened for the most
  explosive era of performance advancement in NHRA history
by John Jodauga                           barrier, speeds increased 40 mph
                                          the next eight years, culminating

       ome NHRA national events           with Bernstein’s historic 301.70-
       have hosted performances so        mph blast at the 1992
       remarkable that decades            Gatornationals.
later people still talk about them,          Amato and Bernstein set the
and among those frequently                stage for their landmark
discussed races is the 1984               achievements with respective
Gatornationals, where Top Fuel’s          speeds of 259.36 and 256.41
Joe Amato and Funny Car’s Kenny           during qualifying before Amato
Bernstein broke the 260-mph               recorded the first 260-mph Top
barrier, the only time in NHRA            Fuel run (260.11) in the semi’s and
history when racers from both             followed with a record 262.39
nitro categories have broken the          blast in his final-round victory over
same performance barrier at a             Gary Beck.
national event.                              Amato and crew chief Tim
   Not only did Amato and                 Richards unveiled a new Top
Bernstein add their names to drag         Fueler at the event that featured a
racing lore with their                    taller, more laid-back wing, a
performances, which were                  component designed by 20-year
accentuated by each driver                Indianapolis 500 competitor Eldon
winning his category, but their           Rasmussen.
feats also triggered the dawn of an          “The wing wasn’t much bigger
accelerated performance era. It           than what was used on the alcohol
took more than eight years for            cars at the time,” said Richards,         When Top Fuel’s Joe Amato and Funny Car’s Kenny Bernstein surpassed the 260-mph
Don Garlits’ Top Fuel national            “but it was taller, which made it         barrier at the 1984 Gatornationals, their performances were commemorated on the cover
speed record of 250.69 mph —              operate in cleaner air, and was           of the event results issue of National DRAGSTER with both cars superimposed in a make-
recorded Oct. 12, 1975, in Ontario,       located farther behind the rear           believe side-by-side scenario.
Calif. — to be surpassed by 10            axle, which enabled you to use the
mph, but after Amato and                  principal of the lever to provide         wing designs were more like an air          Bernstein joined Amato in the
Bernstein broke the 260-mph               more downforce. The previous              foil, which created more drag than          record books with a 260.11-mph
                                                                                    downforce.”                                 run in his final-round score over
                                                                                       By the end of the 1984 season,           John Collins.
                                                                                    every Top Fuel racer had adopted               Bernstein and crew chief Dale
                                                                                    the taller wing.                            Armstrong accomplished the feat
                                                                                       After coming close to the 260-           thanks to innovative modifications,
                                                                                    mph mark during qualifying and
                                                                                    recording speeds of 256, 257, and
                                                                                    256 mph en route to the final,
 When Amato debuted his tall-wing Keystone Automotive/Hurst Special Top Fueler at
 the 1984 Gatornationals, he essentially established the design template for the
 modern class entries used today. As the design of the taller wings improved, the
 front ends were extended, and the wheelbase grew from the 255-inch dimension of
 Amato’s car to today’s maximum of 300 inches.

16 ✦ National DRAGSTER
                                                                 technology. “We
                                                                 all assumed that
                                                                 our clutches were
                                                                 locking up on the
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