Brandon Bernstein raced to the Top Fuel qualifying lead Friday at the Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers at Bristol Dragway.

Bob Tasca (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) also were qualifying leaders at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

The effort was a much needed momentum boost for Bernstein, who hasn’t claimed a No. 1 qualifying position since the 2008 season and has not won since 2009. The second-generation driver claimed the top spot with a performance of 3.859 seconds at 312.50 mph in his Copart dragster.

“We knew that those cars behind us could run as well or better than us, but that was a great run by our Copart Team,” said Bernstein, a two-time winner at Bristol Dragway. “It’s been a long time since we’ve been in this position. We’re working hard just to make four good qualifying runs.  Donnie [Bender, crew chief] does have some success here and any kind of data they have to pull from helps us. We struggled in the beginning of the season, and he’s fine-tuned it. Donnie and Todd [Smith, crew chief] have been working overtime to get this car to where it needs to be. We run good numbers but we just need to get the consistency there.”

Bernstein, whose father Kenny will take part in a track to honor former track president Jeff Byrd on Sunday morning, also talked about the importance of racing in Bristol this weekend.

"Jeff Byrd was such a great friend, not just to my father but to me as well. It's definitely going to be hard and very emotional to come back here and him not be here. But it definitely gives us motivation to win too."

Antron Brown was second with a 3.864 at 317.12 in his Matco Tools dragster, defending world champ Larry Dixon was third with a 3.864 at 310.13 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster and red-hot Spencer Massey, who has won the last two events, was fourth with a 3.866 at 321.73 in his Prestone/FRAM dragster.

In Funny Car, Tasca powered his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang to a run of 4.107 at 308.21 mph to qualify in front of fellow Mustang driver Robert Hight, who posted a 4.110 at 301.33 in his Auto Club Ford. Local favorite Matt Hagan was third with a 4.112 at 303.50 in his DieHard Dodge Charger.

“With night racing, as a driver finding the groove is important,” said Tasca, whose only No. 1 qualifying effort came in 2009 at Gainesville, Fla. “I got out there and it started really moving around. I had my hands full and finally hit the chutes. I didn't think a 4.10 would hold. We're real happy with it. It was a better run than we gave it credit for. I'll tell you, sitting in that car when you hit the throttle at night, you see an orange amber glow, then as the header flames start to lay back the orange disappears. There is nothing like it.”

Two-time Bristol winner Edwards paced the Pro Stock lineup with a leading performance of 6.679 at 206.04 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries Pontiac GXP.

"The track got really good there tonight for sure,” Edwards said. “You never know what's going to happen. We just try to run one session at a time. We made a good run. We're indecisive right now about a couple of things, but we are looking at making a few changes for tomorrow.  The starting line got so much better than (it was during) the first run, and that's why we ran so good. It cooled off, and the starting line gets really good here. We made most of our E.T. early in the run because of it.  I honestly thought several cars would run as good as we did. I was surprised, very surprised. I think we ran what we should have run, but I'm not counting anything yet. Last year, I was No. 1 and some guy named Allen Johnson came along and kicked me."

National record holder Rodger Brogdon was second with a 6.696 at 206.45 in his Racers Edge GXP, while another local favorite, Allen Johnson, who won two weeks ago in Englishtown, N.J., was third in his Team Mopar Dodge Avenger with a 6.696 at 206.70.

Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. for Sunday's noon eliminations.