Brainerd, Minnesota, August 22, 1999 - Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing Team arrived in Minnesota last week as arguably the hottest team on the Winston Drag Racing circuit. It is safe to say that their performance...
Brainerd, Minnesota, August 22, 1999 - Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing Team arrived in Minnesota last week as arguably the hottest team on the Winston Drag Racing circuit. It is safe to say that their performance at this past weekend's The Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals enhanced that reputation even further, as they advanced to their fourth final round in as many races, where Bazemore faced arch-rival John Force. In one of the best side-by-side races of the day, Bazemore gained the advantage at the start, and seemed headed to his second consecutive victory. Unfortunately, despite recording his best speed of the weekend at 305.77 miles-per-hour, his 5.000-second elapsed time was not enough to hold off his opponent, who gained the narrow victory.
"We were definitely having problems throughout the day with our Kendall Camaro," explained Bazemore. "We made a lot of major changes and we thought we knew what we needed to get the job done, but the car just didn't have enough power. Although I think Tim (crew chief Richards) was able to find the problem and fix it just before the final, we basically ran out of runs."
The mechanical gremlins Bazemore refers to are what makes their showing at this event even more remarkable and is a testament to this veteran crew's determination and ability. Unlike the race two weeks before in Sonoma, where despite replacing four motors on race day, the Etchells entry never faltered in its performance, the team struggled through much of qualifying and the first two rounds of eliminations to extract similar numbers in Brainerd. Even so, the on-track success of the last month continued due to a combination of skill and luck.
For example, in Friday night's qualifying session, Bazemore was able to overcome both a dropped cylinder and a sudden rain shower to post a 4.984-second elapsed time, which eventually placed him third on Sunday's eliminations ladder. Although two solid passes were made in Saturday's time trials, there was concern in the Etchells pit, for their "fuel coupe" had developed an electrical problem, which resulted in dropped cylinders and made fine-tuning their Camaro for the conditions virtually impossible. Long after qualifying had concluded and other teams had headed to their hotels, Tim Richards and his crew worked late into the night, checking systems and replacing components.
Race day dawned with a misty drizzle, a preview of things to come. Fortunately, the rain stopped, allowing eliminations to start on time. Although Bazemore was able to drive away from Tim Wilkerson, there were few smiles in the Etchells camp afterward, for their mysterious mechanical ailment remained. Fortunately for the Kendall crew, Lady Luck smiled down on them in the second round, as Al Hofmann was unable to answer the call. This handed the automatic win to Bazemore, who suffered severe tire shake on his solo pass, ceding lane choice in the semi-finals to fellow Chevy chauffeur Ron Capps. However, just as the cars were rolled to the line, the precipitation returned and forced a two-hour delay.
Once the on-track action resumed, it was business as usual for Bazemore, who used his quickest pass of the day at 4.997 seconds despite again having a hole out to easily eliminate Capps, whose Camaro suffered extensive damage following an engine explosion and resultant fire. This propelled Bazemore into his fifth final round of the season, and second against Force. In the end, although disappointed that they fell shy of the overall victory, Bazemore and crew realized that despite their difficulties, the weekend had been most productive, having further narrowed the gap between themselves and second place Tony Pedregon, who fell in round two.
"Today was important, because we made it to the final when we didn't expect to," stated Bazemore. "We were very fortunate. We didn't run nearly as well as we could have, but we still ran well. We were the number three qualifier here on a run that would have been tremendous had the car been perfect. I think the team did an outstanding job, because they were chasing a problem all weekend.
"This whole Kendall Camaro team is really happy to be runner-up again. Naturally, you want to win, but being in four finals in a row feels awfully good. When you're able to get good results when you're struggling, that's a great weekend."
The next stop on the NHRA tour will be in two weeks when Indianapolis Raceway Park hosts drag racing's biggest race, the U.S. Nationals September 2 - 6.
Funny Car Points Standings (As of 8/22/99): 1. J. Force - 1,479, 2. T.Pedregon - 1,157, 3. Whit Bazemore - 1,070, 4. D. Worsham - 706, 5. D. Skuza - 703, 6. F. Pedregon - 670, 7. T. Wilkerson - 630, 8. C. Pedregon - 605, 9. C. Lee - 593, 10. J. Toliver - 573.
Big Bud Shootout Points (As of 8/22/99): 1. J. Force - 3,470, 2. Whit Bazemore - 3,110, 3. T. Pedregon - 2,920, 4. R. Capps - 2,505, 5. D. Skuza - 2,345, 6.. T. Wilkerson - 2,310, 7. C. Pedregon - 2,290, 8. D. Worsham - 2,265.