Bristol: Whitt Bazemore preview

Matco Tools' Bazemore on course to repeat in Bristol. BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 21, 2003) -- Defending Bristol NHRA Funny Car champion Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, is on a semifinal-round streak...

Matco Tools' Bazemore on course to repeat in Bristol.

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 21, 2003) -- Defending Bristol NHRA Funny Car champion Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, is on a semifinal-round streak this season and is looking to repeat his 2002 victory here at Bristol Dragway this weekend, when the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series hosts the sixth event of the 23-race series.

Bazemore, the two-time U.S. Nationals champion who grew up in nearby Atlanta, defeated Gary Densham in the final last year in Bristol, and that's the same man "Baze" is aiming to knock out of second place in the point standings. He only needs to win one round more than Densham this weekend to move ahead. It's then a straight aim at Tony Pedregon for the No. 1 spot.

Third in the point standings after five races and four straight semifinal-round appearances, including one final, Bazemore is on a beeline for the winner's circle at one of his favorite tracks. "Bristol is exciting because it's a great track," he says. "It's a great facility because Bruton Smith invested quite a bit of money to build a premier drag-racing facility, and for that reason alone we enjoy coming here because it's absolutely first-class. This organization realizes that the racers and the spectators are the people who make the sport what it is, and in that regard they treat us really well.

"But Bristol has been more than that to me," he adds. "It's a place that I've been going to for a long, long time. I remember being a sophomore in high school and on Thursday afternoon, after school, I would shoot up there because it's just a five and a half-hour drive from Atlanta. I've also had success here when Bristol was under IHRA sanction, having set an IHRA national speed record and finishing as runner-up in 1992."

Winning an NHRA Funny Car race is not an easy task. Yes, top-notch equipment, a talented crew and crew chief and outstanding technical resources are required. Bazemore has all that with crew chief Lee Beard and the rest of the Don Schumacher Racing brain trust. But, having little bit of luck never hurts. "To win you need the breaks to go your way," says Bazemore, the 12-time event winner who is still seeking his first victory of the 2003 season. "I'm a firm believer that you make your own luck. At the same time, you do need a little bit of good luck on your side. And, we haven't really had that much good luck this year. The fact that we're still in third place in the championship and contending for race wins at every race is just a matter of pushing ourselves that little extra bit and letting the pieces of the puzzle fall in a different way.

"We're right there. What we need to do is avoid early-round losses. We're qualifying well (he's qualified in the top half of the field in each race, including one pole position), and if we can still win the early rounds consistently then the race victories will come. Losing is not much fun. Unfortunately -- and it's the same for everybody -- you lose a lot more than you win. We're very eager to win a race soon and I think we're in a good position to do so."

Nitro qualifying is scheduled for Friday, April 25, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. ET, and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, April 26. Final eliminations begin at 12 noon ET on Sunday, April 27.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Gary Densham , Don Schumacher