Joliet II: Pontiac final qualifying

JOLIET, Ill., September 29, 2001 - Whit Bazemore drove the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to an elapsed time of 4.774 seconds today during the third round of qualifying for the Inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. That run fell well ...

JOLIET, Ill., September 29, 2001 - Whit Bazemore drove the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to an elapsed time of 4.774 seconds today during the third round of qualifying for the Inaugural NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. That run fell well within the one-percent margin of last night's qualifying pass of 4.750 seconds giving the 38-year-old Bazemore the new national Funny Car e.t. record and the No. 1 qualifying spot.

"I really don't think it's sunk in yet," said Bazemore. "The national record is a goal that a competitive person in this sport has from day one. You always want to be the baddest guy, and have the baddest car, and the best team, and to finally set the e.t. record after all these years is a dream come true. Anytime you accomplish a goal like that it's really rewarding.

"There's always some doubt in your mind, but we knew where we were with the tune-up, and that we could run a high 4.70 - and that's what this Firebird did. It's a real tribute to the team and Lee Beard. It's a sign that you've got a good team when you can do that. The track and weather were big factors. The track was smooth, and with the cool weather and the sun out, it made the track easier to negotiate."

For the sixth time this season, and in six out of the last eight races, Bazemore's Matco Tools Pontiac enters Sunday eliminations qualified in the No. 1 qualifying position. He is currently in second place in the NHRA Funny Car standings behind John Force.

"If it holds up we'll get 20 points and that's 20 points closer to Force," said Bazemore. "The championship hunt isn't over. Every point counts. I'll be disappointed if we don't get the win this weekend, but tomorrow is a different day and we'll have to go out and do our job. Every day is a challenge, but I'm happy that we conquered one today."

Levi Ray & Shoup Pontiac Firebird driver Tim Wilkerson once again ran his career-best e.t. at 4.817 seconds. That puts the Springfield, Ill., native in the No. 4 qualifying spot. CSK Pontiac Firebird driver Frank Pedregon finished time trials qualified fifth.

Jerry Toliver qualified seventh, Johnny Gray is eighth, Scotty Cannon is ninth, Bruce Sarver is 10th, and Del Worsham is 11th - all in Pontiac Firebirds. John Force is the No. 2 qualifier and Tony Pedregon is third.

Jim Yates has the quickest running Grand Am this weekend driving the Splitfire/Peak Pontiac to the No. 3 qualifying spot in Pro Stock with a 6.805 e.t. at 201.37 mph. Yates is currently in second place in the Winston standings 76 points behind first-place Warren Johnson. Johnson qualified the GM Goodwrench Service Plus Pontiac fourth with his final-session pass of 6.808 seconds at 201.64 mph.

"The record was definitely within in our grasp this morning," said Yates. "We weren't trying to set the record because we were trying to get our Splitfire/Peak Pontiac back in the field. We wanted to get back in safely and make a good solid run. We were a little aggressive, which is what we wanted to do and we left a hundredth on the table. Being as far back as we were, we just wanted to make a solid run and we definitely did that. Tomorrow morning during the first round of eliminations it's going to be fast. We should be able to make a pretty good run.

"When the championship race is as close as it is, you have to get every point that you can. It's a long season and we just want to stay close, gain a point here, gain a point there, and hopefully, when it's all said and done, we'll be ahead."

ACDelco Chevy Cavalier driver Kurt Johnson leads all Pro Stock qualifiers after setting both ends of the national record with a run of 6.801 seconds at 202.70 mph. Mark Osborne is qualified second and Jeg's Mail Order Chevy Cavalier driver Troy Coughlin is fifth. Tom Martino is qualified sixth, Bruce Allen is eighth, Brad Jeter is 12th and George Marnell is 15th - all driving Grand Ams. No. 16 qualifier Tom Hammonds rounds out the quickest Pro Stock field in NHRA history with a performance mark of 6.844 seconds at 201.49 mph.

In Top Fuel, Mike Dunn captured his fourth No. 1 qualifying spot of the season. Dunn drove the Gwynn/Steinbrenner Yankee dragster to a 4.511 e.t. at 3267.95 mph. Kenny Bernstein is qualified second, Larry Dixon is third, Doug Kalitta is fourth and Doug Herbert is fifth.

-GM Racing-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Bruce Sarver , Troy Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Brad Jeter , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Scotty Cannon , Bruce Allen , Tom Hammonds , Tom Martino , Tim Wilkerson , George Marnell , Johnny Gray , Jerry Toliver