Columbus: Whit Bazemore preview

Bazemore and Matco Tools team well-grounded on heels of hot streak COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8, 2004) - As the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series heads into the summer months, beginning another three-race swing at National Trail Raceway this weekend...

Bazemore and Matco Tools team well-grounded on heels of hot streak

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8, 2004) - As the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series heads into the summer months, beginning another three-race swing at National Trail Raceway this weekend for the 10th round of the 23-race series, Funny Car points leader Whit Bazemore and his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus team have their feet firmly planted on Earth.

Following Bazemore's tear through the first nine races of the season, which included reaching five final rounds in the last six races, two wins, setting a Funny Car elapsed time national record of 4.713 seconds, recording the quickest and fastest Funny Car pass in NHRA history, and establishing the fastest ever Funny Car speed of 333.25 mph, the team is settling in for a long, hot summer and not resting on their laurels.

"We're not coming into Columbus on a high, actually," said Bazemore, who leads the Funny Car point standings by 76 over Del Worsham and 80 over John Force. "I think our Matco Tools team is very well-grounded. We went into the last race leading the POWERade points championship. We were able to win the event with new expectations heaped upon us."

"We're confident. We have to work hard, do a perfect job, the car has to be right, and we have to have a little bit of racing luck. If we have all those things I think we can extend our string of final round appearances. That is our goal."

"A good weekend for us is still getting to the semifinals or better. We're not aiming just to do that, we're aiming to go and win and we have a team and car that's capable of it."

"The bottom line is it comes down to us and the decisions we make and the job we do. If we do all that right, we'll be there," added the two-time U.S. Nationals champion who is still seeking his first Funny Car championship after two runner-up finishes in his 16-year pro career.

Bazemore's record at National Trail Raceway includes a runner-up finish in 1997 and a No. 1 qualifying effort in 2002. Last year he qualified seventh, then lost in the second round to his perennial rival John Force. But, as an avid cyclist, he enjoys the locale. "It's a fun city," he said. "Columbus is a good city. And, there's not bad riding right out from the track. We go out the back of the race track. It's pretty much out in the country and there isn't much traffic, so there's good cycling here.

"And with our sponsor Matco Tools being based in Stow, Ohio, I know we'll have a good fan base cheering us on here as well."

Nitro qualifying is scheduled for 4 and 7 p.m. on Friday, June 11; at 12 and 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 12. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 13.

On Saturday, June 12, ESPN will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 7 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, June 13, ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 3 p.m. (ET). Also on Sunday, June 13, ESPN2 will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show at 11:30 a.m. (ET).

WHIT BAZEMORE QUICK FACTS:

Quickest and fastest Funny Car driver in NHRA history: 4.713-second ET (national record) at 333.25 mph

Qualified No. 7 at Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals in 2003, lost in second round to John Force

No. 1 in NHRA Funny Car points after nine races, with two wins, five final rounds

Was runner-up here in Funny Car class in 1997, was No. 1 qualifier in 2002

First Funny Car driver to break 325-mph barrier (U.S. Nationals 2001)

2003 Funny Car points runner-up

Won three times in 2003, runner-up five times

Has 17 career Funny Car event wins

Took the 2003 championship chase to penultimate race in Las Vegas in an exciting final round against eventual champion Tony Pedregon

Was also second in the NHRA Funny Car championship in 2001, third in 1997 and '99 and has finished in the top five six times and 11 times in the top 10 since 1992

Age 41, born in New York City, an avid cyclist, lives in Indianapolis with wife Michelle, a semi-pro cyclist

2004 is his fourth season with Don Schumacher Racing

Two-time U.S. Nationals champion

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Don Schumacher