<pre> JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'BIG RED MACHINE' CAMARO Z28, produced two good runs today in the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout special event, first to defeat RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28 with a 5.053-second elapsed time, then to...
<pre> JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'BIG RED MACHINE' CAMARO Z28, produced two good runs today in the $100,000 Budweiser Shootout special event, first to defeat RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28 with a 5.053-second elapsed time, then to eliminate Dean Skuza with a 5.084-second pass. But in the round that counted, the final, against John Force, Epler's Camaro smoked the tires, slowing him to an 8.075 at 105.05 mph to Force's 4.996/307.72. It was a disappointment to Epler for several reasons.
EPLER: "It's just disappointing because we went to the final against Force at the last race in Brainerd and smoked the tires, and then we smoked the tires here. We go to the final round, and not only do we not cash in, but we lose to Force, and that makes it doubly bad. It's a Mustang, and you always want to beat a Mustang. Force has been tough lately and we haven't run well when we should against him. So we put a new blower on it thinking we would step it up. I think it came down to lane choice. If it works out tomorrow we will get him in the second round and we have an opportunity to take him out there. That would be ideal. I had a tough year against him in '93 and it's even worse now. The best part of the whole year so far is WWF has made a legitimate run on Force and his dominance in Funny Car. Lately he's been really tough and we haven't been up to the task. We're not giving up; I'm going out there tomorrow and do my best to get by Scotty Cannon (in first round) and see if we can do it again in the second round. There are only two Fords out there. Maybe we can get rid of them early and make the points difference a little better. In my case if Jerry (Toliver, his WWF teammate) takes out Tony (Pedregon), that will help us and if we take out John Force that will help Jerry. As far as the points are concerned, tomorrow is a very important day."
FUNNY CAR QUALIFYING: CAPPS STAYS IN THIRD
RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, holds on to third place, 4.968/300.53; SCOTTY CANNON, MAD SCIENTIST CAMARO Z28, qualified seventh, 5.002/297.61; JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'BIG RED MACHINE' CAMARO Z28, is No. 10, 5.046/298.47; BOB GILBERTSON, TRICK TANK CAMARO Z28, takes 14th spot, 5.063/300.80.
The two highlights of the day were, first, WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, squeaking into the field in the final round with a 5.084-second elapsed time to place him in the 16th and final position. As Whit was on the return road he stopped to watch the only man who could bump him out of the field, Dean Skuza, make his final pass And, second, CRISTEN POWELL, in Whit's BAZEMORE RACING NITRO-FISH CAMARO Z28, wowing the crowd with her 4.981-second pass at 304.60 mph, placing her solidly in fifth. Cristen opted not to run the final qualifying session.
BAZEMORE: "We're extremely fortunate that Skuza didn't get down the track. They're probably in the same position we were in. If they got down the track they would have run better than an .08 and been in. That's the nature of the business. I'd like to think that we are making some progress here with this combination. In each run now we are going in the right direction. I feel good. We have a good ladder. T.J. (Tommy Johnson Jr., whom Whit will face in the first round) struggled in the heat. I think we definitely have the momentum going in our direction. They can't take us lightly." WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU WATCHED SKUZA MAKE HIS FINAL PASS? "It's totally out of your control; you have no emotions. You can't do anything, you have already done what you can do. We were at half-track (returning) and I stopped and got out of the car and watched. You say a prayer and cross your fingers. We were fortunate that they had a bad run." WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO QUALIFY FOR THE U.S. NATIONALS? "It means everything because it would have been devastating to not qualify for the U.S. Nationals. I think it was back in '91 when we didn't get in until the last run. It was such an important thing to qualify and I've struggled here before, in '95. So it's been a tough race for me at times, but it's also been very good. We have had a lot of good times here and a lot of bad times; it's that kind of place." ON CRISTEN'S OUTSTANDING PASS: "It's really unbelievable how well that team has done in qualifying. I'm really proud of everybody over there. It's a feeling that I kind of lost. It's a good balance for me: while we struggle over here and they do well over there; it made me feel good at night. It levels out. She did an outstanding job. She just did a perfect job, in the run yesterday and the one today. Her Camaro goes straight down the middle of the lane. She looks really, really good and I'm happy for her. There's some magic over there. It's good to be involved; I like it."
POWELL: "So many wonderful things have happened. First, Whit Bazemore hires me to drive his car, and we come out here and nothing breaks. Not only did we qualify fifth, but we had four great runs and felt that we could sit out the fifth session and not really worry about it. We only got bumped one spot, and now we're all set for tomorrow. We run Cruz (Pedregon) in the first round, and I have no bad vibes with him, so I'm going to see it as just another race. I hope we go some rounds tomorrow, because I can only imagine what it would be like to win Indy. I would be awestruck."