Commerce: Funny Car drivers aiming for victory

COMMERCE, Ga. - In the first six races of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, there have been five different winners in the Funny Car category. Only points leader Del Worsham has earned two victories. Whit Bazemore drives the Matco Tools...

COMMERCE, Ga. - In the first six races of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing season, there have been five different winners in the Funny Car category. Only points leader Del Worsham has earned two victories.

Whit Bazemore drives the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus and is winless in two final round appearances so far this season. He is headed to him home track, Atlanta Dragway, and looking for his first victory of the season.

"The competition is really close," Bazemore, winner of the 2002 Atlanta event, said. "There are a lot of good, consistent race cars in our field. It is going to take a consistent car, consistent preparation and consistent driving to win races. If you are off just a little bit, chances are that you are going to get beat."

Bazemore and the rest of the Funny Car category will be vying for the chance to gain more points and the victory at the 24th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals presented by Pontiac at Atlanta Dragway, May 13-16. Larry Dixon, Tony Pedregon, Warren Johnson and Geno Scali are the defending winners in their respective categories for the $1.4 million race, the seventh of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. It is the third of 15 events for the Pro Stock Bike class.

Bazemore said this year has been tougher than most in terms of winning a race.

"In the past you could make a mistake in the first round or even the second round, and still manage to get through and get the win light," Bazemore said. "This year you can't make a mistake even in the first round. Every car that qualifies is capable of winning the race."

Pedregon earned his first victory in Funny Car at Atlanta in 1996. One of the crew members of that team was Eric Medlen. When Pedregon left John Force Racing at the end of the 2003 season, Medlen was chosen to replace Pedregon in the seat of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Medlen is hoping for similar results when he makes his first trip to Commerce.

"I'm really excited about going to Atlanta for the first time as a driver," Medlen said. "Atlanta is the place where Tony Pedregon got his first win when he beat John Force in the final. Who knows? Maybe I can face John in my first final too."

Medlen has been to three semifinals in the first six events. He has two first round losses, but is looking to make up for the early exits.

"I'm learning something every time I go down the race track," Medlen said. "We've had a couple of runs that weren't great, but we know what gave us problems and we will fix it."

Ron Capps, like Medlen and Bazemore, is also aiming for his first victory of the 2004 season. While Capps has lost in the first round five times, he said the Skoal Racing Chevy Monte Carlo team is making vast improvements.

"The results don't show yet, but we are getting there," Capps said. "It just so happens that when we have run real well in eliminations day, we still have been out-run. But we are getting down the track and I think we are going in the right direction. I'm happy with the way the car has been running. I'm looking forward to racing at Atlanta Dragway because it is one of those tracks where the crew chief has to do their job, but a driver really has to be on their game too."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Geno Scali , Eric Medlen