Bristol: Whit Bazemore preview

STRATEGY, TALENT, LUCK KEEP BAZEMORE IN POINTS LEAD HEADING INTO BRISTOL BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 26, 2005) - Sometimes it takes more than just having the fastest and quickest car on the POWERade Drag Racing Series circuit to win races. Strategy,...

STRATEGY, TALENT, LUCK KEEP BAZEMORE IN POINTS LEAD HEADING INTO BRISTOL

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 26, 2005) - Sometimes it takes more than just having the fastest and quickest car on the POWERade Drag Racing Series circuit to win races. Strategy, talent and luck can play a huge part. And Whit Bazemore and crew chief Lee Beard have proved that all of the above, plus grit, determination and a meeting of the minds can work quite well.

The Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car team members say they've been struggling all season with a finicky car and tricky race tracks, but, surprise, Bazemore is leading the Funny Car point standings and enjoys a 61-point cushion over 13-time Funny Car champion John Force.

As the Funny Car teams head to Bristol Dragway this weekend for the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals, Bazemore is the only driver in five races to have won twice, coming from behind at The Strip in Las Vegas two weeks ago to claim victory without the benefit of lane choice in any round, and after qualifying for the event in only the final session.

Can Bazemore and Beard keep up the momentum? "We can try," says Bazemore, who is still seeking his first Funny Car championship after two runner-up finishes in his 16-year pro career. "We're in a good position. We're kind of surprised where we are, but at the same time, come Sunday the car has gone down the race track. Lee and the team have prepared a car that can go rounds and we've been able to take advantage of that for the most part and go rounds."

In the first five races, Bazemore has won 12 of 20 rounds, and has qualified eighth and 12th twice and 14th once.

He's lost in the second round twice, in Phoenix and Houston. "Looking at the season so far," he says, "Phoenix really hurt us when that ignition problem cost us a certain second-round victory. All in all, it's been a really good season, even though we haven't had the performance with the race car that we want. But we're working on that."

Bristol Dragway is a favorite for Bazemore. It's where he won in 2002, qualified No. 1 in 2004, was runner-up to John Force that year, and was also runner-up in 2003. "We're going to Bristol with high hopes," he adds. "It's a track we really like and we've had success here in the past. If we could match our previous results here then it will have been a really productive weekend. That's what we're looking to do."

Tricky race tracks have been an issue this season, including one of NHRA's gems, The Strip at Las Vegas. "NHRA has had some personnel changes so the track prep has taken a turn," says the two-time U.S. Nationals champion. "I know the team owners and crew chiefs are very concerned about it. They've addressed it with the people who make those decisions at NHRA. We'll see. We're not really that concerned about it. Vegas was really a challenge for everybody and we came out on top. It doesn't bother us.

"It's really a lot of fun to drive a car that can go 4.70 seconds at 330 mph, but I don't know if we're in a position to do that right now, so it doesn't matter," says Bazemore, who won in Gainesville with a 4.897 and in Vegas with a 4.976 ET. His quickest ET of the year so far is a 4.780 in the season-opener in Pomona, Calif.

"The Matco Tools Dodge team is really strong. We've just had some good luck come our way on race day, that's all. In the past there have been times when we've had a really quick race car and we haven't been able to put it all together. The shoe is kind of on the other foot, so to speak. It feels good. It's a long, long year. Honestly, we're just trying to go out there and win races. We have struggled in qualifying and we've come close to not qualifying a couple of times. That would have been a disaster.

"The whole team is working hard and we're trying to improve our performance to that of our teammates (Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps) and to some of the other cars out there."

SCHEDULE: On Friday, April 29, professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, April 30 -- pro qualifying sessions are at noon and 3 p.m. On Sunday, May 1, Pre-race ceremonies begin at 11 a.m. Final eliminations begin at noon.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi