Putnam, Connecticut, August 26, 1999 - One would think that coming off four straight final round appearances the last place you would find Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing Team would be at a track testing. With so...
Putnam, Connecticut, August 26, 1999 - One would think that coming off four straight final round appearances the last place you would find Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing Team would be at a track testing. With so little time between races, one would expect to see this veteran crew back at the shop, going over their equipment or perhaps even allowing themselves the luxury of a day off. But no sooner had the finals been completed in Brainerd than the Etchells team packed up and headed to Indianapolis Raceway Park, site of this weekend's NHRA U.S. Nationals, to take advantage of a two-day open test session.
"You always want to test," explained Bazemore. "A team can use all the runs they can get, because you'll have something to try out, whether it be a different method of extracting performance, or something Tim (co-crew chief Richards) had in the back of his mind. You don't often get an opportunity to test things in qualifying, because you usually take what you have and try to make it better. Testing lets you experiment, and unless you're winning every race, or have a two-tenths of a second advantage on the field, you need to constantly work at improving your car.
"The actual test went really well. We made three runs with the Kendall Camaro, and although we smoked the tires on the first one, the next one was outstanding and the third was also very good. We made two one thousand foot passes, and we ran the equivalent of a mid 4.80 and a mid 4.90, so I think the team was really pleased.
"We didn't make full runs, because we really didn't need to. Anytime you run the car to the finish line, you're taking the risk of hurting the car, and possibly even the driver. You only test for what you need to know, and we wouldn't learn anything more going to the finish line."
But this test session took on added significance for a completely different reason. In less than one week, this venerable facility will host the biggest drag race of the season, the U.S. Nationals. Although many will try and tell you that it is just another race, the "Big Go", as this event is affectionately called, is one victory every competitor in every class would like to have on their resume. In addition, on Sunday, Bazemore will participate in the Big Bud Shootout, a high-dollar, single eliminations race pitting the top eight qualifiers from the previous year. With so much on the line, information gathered during this brief pre-race session could prove invaluable to both driver and crew chief, as well as giving them a preview of what to expect next weekend when the numbers will count. As the 1997 U.S. Nationals champion, Bazemore will also have important experience to draw on.
"The runs we made this week should give us a good idea of what qualifying and race conditions will be like," stated Bazemore. "Of course, the weather could change, which would affect both the car and the track, but this information will still help. It gave us baseline numbers as well as different options for tuning the car, which could prove to be very valuable.
"I also believe that my having won here in 1997 is an advantage. As a driver, you try to convince yourself that this race doesn't mean anything more than the other ones, but that isn't true. It's the U.S. Nationals, the most prestigious race in drag racing. If you win any race throughout your career, this is the one you want. Having already won here lets you concentrate on racing.
"The Etchells team is going into Indy this year in a good position to succeed, and we'd like to win it more than anything else. When you have that type of opportunity, you have to take advantage of it. I thought that way going into the final in 1997. You might never be in that position again, so you can't throw it away. As I look at it this year, we have a strong team and our Kendall Camaro is running well, so we have to focus on aggressively pursuing the victory. I'm putting more pressure on myself because it means more. I think we'll do very well."
This will be Bazemore's tenth appearance at Indianapolis Raceway Park and second in a Camaro-bodied Funny Car....In the last four races, Bazemore has accumulated an unmatched 13-3 eliminations record....Bazemore's best U.S. Nationals qualifying effort was in 1997, when he placed 2nd.... Bazemore looks to duplicate his winning performance at this event in 1997.
WHAT: 45th annual U.S. Nationals, the sixteenth event on the twenty-two race Winston Drag Racing schedule.
WHEN: September 1 - 6, 1999
WHERE: Indianapolis Raceway Park, Clermont, Indiana
SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start with one session on Friday, September 3 at 7:30 p.m., two sessions in Saturday, September 4 at noon and 4 p.m. and conclude on Sunday, September 5 with two rounds at 12:00 noon and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Monday, September 6. Eliminations for the Big Bud Shootout will coincide with the first qualifying session on Sunday, with the second round at 2:15 p.m., and the finals at 4:45 p.m.
TV: TNN will air two hours of final-round coverage from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Monday, September 6, and two hours of first-round coverage on Monday, September 6 from noon - 2:00 p.m.. In addition, TNN will air ninety minutes of highlights from the Big Bud Shootout for Funny Cars on Sunday, September 5 from 4:30 - 6:00 p.m.. (All times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.