Whit Bazemore Leads Funny Car Field Into Sunday Eliminator ENNIS, Tex., Oct. 20, 2001 - Consider Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird race ready. With a track-record elapsed time of 4.753 seconds, the 37-year-old Indianapolis Funny Car...
Whit Bazemore Leads Funny Car Field Into Sunday Eliminator
ENNIS, Tex., Oct. 20, 2001 - Consider Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird race ready. With a track-record elapsed time of 4.753 seconds, the 37-year-old Indianapolis Funny Car veteran captured his seventh No. 1 qualifying spot of the season today at the 16th annual O'Reilly Nationals at Texas Motorplex. The track-record top speed of 325.37 mph was just icing on the cake.
"It's exciting for us just because we're competitive every time we pull up to the starting line," said Bazemore. "To win this race though we can't make any mistakes. We ran well this afternoon in the heat with low e.t. in the final session so that bodes well for us. Lee (Beard) has proven that he's able to tune our Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird very well depending on the conditions that are presented to us.
"We have to adjust our car the best way we can and try to get it down the track as quick as possible without smoking the tires. A lot of times it comes down to not making a mistake. When you have the performance that we have, there's a very fine line that you can't cross that's always right there."
Since July, Bazemore has been on a roll winning Funny Car pole positions at seven of the last 10 events. Beginning with the 50th anniversary NHRA race at Pomona, the Matco Tools Pontiac driver has won 25 rounds of eliminations with three national-event victories in five final rounds.
"The car felt strong all the way down track," said Bazemore. "This surface is really smooth and because it's so good, the run felt a little slower than what it actually was. The Texas Motorplex is one of the best tracks we race on all year and that has the effect of slowing the car down in your mind. Your vision is better, the ride is smoother and the car stays planted and goes straight all the way down. It felt good and strong, but at the same time it felt nice and easy.
"Our team has really come together and we've got a great bunch of guys who get the job done. We'll continue to give it our all this year but everyone's really excited about next season as well. Our job over the winter is to make small increases to our performance and try to keep our program on track."
John Force was the No. 2 qualifier, Ron Capps was third in a Camaro, Tony Pedregon was fourth and Tommy Johnson Jr. was fifth.
Splitfire/Peak Pontiac driver Jim Yates led the Grand Am attack in Pro Stock improving to the No. 2 qualifying position with an elapsed time of 6.877 seconds at 200.62 mph. Yates is currently second in the Winston standings, 134 points behind No. 8 qualifier Warren Johnson.
"Our Grand Am is running great," said Yates. "Personally, I feel a lot better - I've been getting a lot of exercise and getting back up to speed. I visited the cardiologist last Monday and he helped me with my medication, so I feel a lot better and getting back to my normal form. I'm doing a better job of driving the car and I'm more cognizant of everything that's going on around me. These last couple of weeks I've been on autopilot, getting the car down the track but not reacting as quickly as I probably should.
"The car's making excellent runs and it wasn't when we got here. We just have to worry about first round tomorrow. We're foolish to think we can look beyond that. I need to focus as hard as I can and hopefully get that part of my game back in place."
Mike Edwards is the No. 1 qualifier in a Chevy Cavalier with a 6.872 e.t. at 200.62 mph. Bruce Allen is qualified third in a Grand Am, Hurley Blakeney is fourth and Tom Hammonds is fifth.