Columbus: Whit Bazemore final summary

OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS AND INTO THE FINAL FOR BAZEMORE IN COLUMBUS HEBRON, Ohio (May 21, 2006) - Whit Bazemore came out of the doldrums and into the Funny Car final round today at the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail ...

OUT OF THE DOLDRUMS AND INTO THE FINAL FOR BAZEMORE IN COLUMBUS

HEBRON, Ohio (May 21, 2006) - Whit Bazemore came out of the doldrums and into the Funny Car final round today at the Pontiac Performance NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

After struggling all season to get the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger R/T back into contention, Bazemore and the Matco Tools team are beginning to see the light, as the two-time U.S. Nationals champion reached the final round today in fine style.

He reveled in the car's strong performance today and endured some mechanical problems as well, but Bazemore came close to winning his first race since his last victory at the 2005 Las Vegas 1 event. That was also the last final round he had reached.

In the final, Bazemore took off first at the starting lights, with a solid .063 reaction time (.000 is perfect) to Pedregon's .081, but a parts failure before half-track slowed him to a 6.368/146.34, while Pedregon cruised to a 4.923/313.66 win.

Having the luxury of lane choice in every round today (No. 4 qualifier), the Indianapolis resident disposed of Bob Gilbertson in the opener with a 4.792-second elapsed time at 328.14 mph (his fastest speed of the year), then sent Del Worsham packing in the quarterfinal with a 4.799/326.08.

The semifinal round caused some drama, as Bazemore's car went on fire at the end of his 4.801/300.13 winning run over Eric Medlen. Don Schumacher Racing came together to help the Matco Tools team get the car ready for the final round, a testimony to the solidarity of effort among all nine teams.

"We had the best car each round today," said Bazemore, "and after the first round I could smell the win. I could just taste it; it was going to happen. Unfortunately, there was an electrical gremlin in the box (that holds the timers that activates the clutch) in the final round and nothing worked. The clutch didn't set itself off or anything. It wasn't going to run a 4.94 or 4.95 with our (reaction-time) advantage. That's what we would have had to run to beat his 4.92.

"I'm really excited about the car and the team. We had guys over here after the semis when we really had a mad thrash. We had the Brut guys, the Oakley guys, the Army guys, some of Melanie's (Troxel) guys. So, it was really a big team effort. In light of the stuff that happened recently, it was really refreshing and nice and deeply appreciated. To have the whole team come together like that was very, very cool, I thought.

"I wanted to win it for all those guys; they made a hell of an effort. We didn't. The fact is we're in a good position now and I feel really good.

"In the semifinal a head stud pulled out and torched the head gasket and then the boost went sky high. It basically just burned itself up and slung some rods out. It looked like a big fire inside to me. It was on fire and full of smoke. At least in the old days when you were on fire everybody knew it and they gave you a medal for being brave. Nowadays, it's nothing (from the outside). But you still can't breathe or see.

"There was a fair amount of damage, in the electronics, pneumatic lines, etc. It was a big thrash, but they did an outstanding job.

"The part that failed in the final wasn't even a part of the fire. That was what was discouraging. It was the little connection deep inside the box, not even remotely being damaged from the run before.

"It's a huge effort and it's fun. We're having fun. I'm having fun. The car is so perfect. We had to fight it a little bit going down the track, but I love it."

Bazemore jumped into eighth into the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings.

Next up is the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals in Topeka, Kan., May 25-28.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Eric Medlen , Don Schumacher