Indianapolis2: Whit Bazemore Saturday summary

Bazemore qualifies no. 3, loses to force in shootout semis INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 6, 2003) - Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, had a busy day today. He continued to qualify for the U.S. Nationals, which were rained...

Bazemore qualifies no. 3, loses to force in shootout semis

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 6, 2003) - Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, had a busy day today. He continued to qualify for the U.S. Nationals, which were rained out last weekend, and competed in his 10th Budweiser Shootout at Indianapolis after qualifying third for this annual special event.

The two-time U.S. Nationals champion claimed the No. 3 position for tomorrow's final eliminations, with the 4.767-second pass he posted last week at 323.74 mph, the second fastest speed of the event next to his teammate Gary Scelzi.

In the Shootout, Bazemore, of Indianapolis, defeated Tommy Johnson Jr. on a holeshot advantage in the first round to advance to the semifinals against his perennial rival John Force. Force and Baze launched at nearly identical reaction times (.072 for Force, .082 for Bazemore), but Force took the win with a 4.824/321.12 to Bazemore's 4.909/291.32.

The fifth and final qualifying session, which took place under clear, warm skies, Bazemore established the second-fastest elapsed time of that round, 4.811-seconds at 320.43 mph.

"4.81 is good. Running the second low e.t. of the round is good. We're pretty satisfied," he said. "We wish we had it in the round before (the Shootout), but we didn't. The guys did a tremendous job today. It was a frustrating day, but there's a big day ahead of us tomorrow, the U.S. Nationals, and we're in a pretty good position. We'll be ready to rock and roll tomorrow."

By qualifying ahead of his rival Tony Pedregon for the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car crown, Bazemore is now just 57 points behind first place. "We've got to gain points every opportunity that we have, so whether it's one point or 20 points it doesn't matter as long as we're going in the right direction," he added. "That's all we're really concerned about right now. Honeslty, we're not going to be thinking about points tonight or tomorrow or at anytime. We're just here to win this race and go out there and do the very best we can possibly do in the moroning in the first round and take it one round at a time and see where we end up."

Cruz Pedregon is Bazemore's first-round opponent in tomorrow's final eliminations.

As for the Budweiser Shootout, not having won it in 10 attempts is disappointing to Bazemore, but his primary focus this week and this season has been on winning his third U.S. Nationals and his first Funny Car championship, he said.

"We didn't have our car setup to run what we needed to," he said following his loss to Force. "That's why they ran. They soundly beat us."

"Honestly, like I said before the race even started - so I don't sound like a sore loser - I wasn't focused on this race at all this year. It's a great event, Budweiser has done a tremendous job promoting it and creating a good mystique and tradition around this Budweiser Shootout at Indianapolis, but the only thing that we're really concentrating on over here right now is trying to win the U.S. Nationals and being very, very competitive now and the rest of the season."

"We were competitive today. We lost a race to a team that ran better than we did. That's the bottom line. We were somewhat fortunate to even get to the second round. We'll take it and we'll learn for tomorrow and focus on tomorrow."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Tommy Johnson Jr.