Matco team picks up steam. Bazemore captures NHRA win in Bristol. BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 28, 2002) - Whit Bazemore and the Matco Tools Funny Car team turned in an impressive performance Sunday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol ...
Matco team picks up steam.
Bazemore captures NHRA win in Bristol.
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 28, 2002) - Whit Bazemore and the Matco Tools Funny Car team turned in an impressive performance Sunday at the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.
The Matco Tools Pontiac recorded low elapsed time in each of the four rounds of eliminations, and as a result, Bazemore captured his first national event win of the season and the 11th of his career. He defeated Gary Densham of the John Force stable in the final round. Bazemore posted a 4.936-second run at 310.27 mph to Densham's 6.400 at 141.67.
It was a déjà vu feeling for the Don Schumacher-owned Matco Tools team, which captured three wins and nine No. 1 qualifying positions in the final 12 races of the 2001 season.
"The way we raced today is how we did it during the second half of last year," said Bazemore. "It's a tremendous feeling for the team to get the win. We've been struggling, but this is still the earliest I have ever won a race. That is key because it is difficult to contend for a championship if you don't start winning races until July. Lee (crew chief Lee Beard) and all of the guys did an outstanding job in tuning the Matco Pontiac."
The victory moved Bazemore from ninth to sixth place in the NHRA POWERade point standings. He is only four rounds out of second and six out of first with 17 races remaining in the 23-race schedule.
"We made up 70 points today," said Bazemore. "You can't say that you don't look at the points because we do. (John) Force doesn't go out in the first round often and we took advantage of that. We really needed that. We need to build on this and get ready for Atlanta."
Beard felt the key to the victory came during Saturday's final qualifying session when the Matco car recorded a 4.910-second run, the second quickest pass of that session.
"We found something in the last qualifying session on Saturday and that put us back on track," said Beard, who has now tuned cars to 42 national event victories. "We had a good day, but we're not going to pat ourselves on the back. We're on a mission and there are still plenty of races to go. This was the confidence boost we needed."
The start of the race was delayed for nearly two hours due to rain. But once the event got started, the Matco team immediately sent a strong message when Bazemore laid down a jaw-dropping 4.851-second run in the first round of eliminations to defeat Dale Creasy Jr.
Bazemore went on to defeat Tommy Johnson Jr. in the quarterfinal round and reached the final with a semifinal win over Tim Wilkerson.
After winning only two rounds in the first four races, Bazemore and the Matco team have now won six rounds in the last two races.
The Bristol race was the first of four races in five weekends. The next stop is this weekend - Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals (May 3-5) at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.
Qualified: Sixth, 4.910 seconds at 312.42 mph
First Round: Bazemore, 4.851 at 315.34 def. Dale Creasy Jr., 5.105 at 298.34
Quarterfinal: Bazemore, 4.920 at 311.20 def. Tommy Johnson Jr., 5.024 at 305.98
Semifinal: Bazemore, 4.908 at 309.70 def. Tim Wilkerson, 4.921 at 307.93
Final: Bazemore, 4.936 at 310.27 def. Gary Densham, 6.400 at 141.67