Bristol: Whit Bazemore preview

MOST SUCCESSFUL BRISTOL FUNNY CAR DRIVER BAZEMORE SET TO DELIVER AGAIN Will skip usual bicycle ride on Blue Ridge Parkway to return for major October trek BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 26, 2006) - Whit Bazemore, the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge...

MOST SUCCESSFUL BRISTOL FUNNY CAR DRIVER BAZEMORE SET TO DELIVER AGAIN

Will skip usual bicycle ride on Blue Ridge Parkway to return for major October trek

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 26, 2006) - Whit Bazemore, the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger Funny Car team and Bristol Dragway are made for each other. The two-time U.S. Nationals champion has bragging rights as Bristol's most successful Funny Car driver, having reached three of the five final rounds run here, winning once.

Bazemore's victory came in 2002 and his runner-up finishes were earned in 2003 and in 2004 (as low qualifier).

"We like Bristol a lot," says Bazemore. "It's another Bruton Smith track where he's done it right, invested a lot of money in our sport, and made it a showcase.

"We really like coming here. It's a great place for the fans. It's one of the best drag-racing facilities in the country in terms of cleanliness, acoustics, fan-friendliness. It's first-class all the way. It's motivating, because you're proud to be part of it.

"It's very cool to hear that we're the most successful Funny Car racer here. I wish I could say that about every other track we race on."

After struggling in the first four races of the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Bazemore landed in the semifinal round at the last event in Las Vegas. He's confident that testing sessions and continuous development by the Matco Tools team to adapt to the new Goodyear tire have made a difference as he seeks to add to his Bristol record this weekend at the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals.

"Our team is definitely on the upswing," he says. "We've had a pretty difficult start to the season (first-round losses in the first four events), but the last race was good. We went to the semis in Vegas at a track where we typically do well, and Bristol is one of those, too.

"I'm the most confident I've been all year with the performance of the Matco Tools Dodge Charger and the way our team is working. We're coming to Bristol with confidence and with every intention of being in a position to win the race."

NO BLUE RIDGE PARKWAY BIKE RIDE THIS TRIP

An avid cyclist, Whit Bazemore has attacked the hills of the Blue Ridge Parkway in years past en route to Bristol and again the day following the event. He originally planned to do the same this trip, but has since postponed it until October, when he and ESPN broadcaster Mike Dunn will endure a six-day treacherous trek.

"Normally, at Bristol we'll ride on Thursday and Monday," says Bazemore, who rides a Seven Bicycle. "This year I'm just coming in late on Thursday and leaving Sunday night. So, we're not going to ride the Blue Ridge this trip. But, we are going to ride the entire Blue Ridge Parkway in October, which will be a very special trip.

"I want to do it in five days, Dunn wants to do it in seven, so we'll probably settle on six. It's about 500 miles with some 50,000 feet of climbing and elevation change, which is just stupendous. It will be the hardest week of riding a bike you can do without racing the whole week.

"In terms of terrain, it's some of the most challenging in this country for a 500-mile ride. For that length of continuous riding it's very challenging."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Whit Bazemore