Joliet II: Whit Bazemore Saturday summary

Bazemore Makes it to No. 12, Problems and All, at Rte. 66 JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 2, 2004) - Debuting the Matco Tools Rat Fink Dodge Stratus body this weekend, Whit Bazemore struggled through two of three qualifying sessions (Friday's second round...

Bazemore Makes it to No. 12, Problems and All, at Rte. 66

JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 2, 2004) - Debuting the Matco Tools Rat Fink Dodge Stratus body this weekend, Whit Bazemore struggled through two of three qualifying sessions (Friday's second round was cancelled because of rain), ending up No. 12 in the field with the 4.847/314.31 pass he posted in today's final qualifying round.

Following the rain, today's track conditions were nearly perfect, with temperatures in the mid-50s under a brilliant sun. Bazemore and crew chief Lee Beard were unable to take advantage of the great weather in the second pass, however, as the engine broke its second connecting rod, resulting in damage to the Rat Fink body, which had survived a small fire the night before.

In the final qualifying session, Bazemore went up to the line not qualified, as his teammate Johnny Gray had just bumped him out of the field, and getting down the track and into the race was the team's No. 1 goal.

Sporting the pin-striped Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge body, Bazemore made a conservative but successful pass down Route 66 Raceway's quarter mile of 4.847/314.31, placing him safely into No. 12.

In this final qualifying round, John Force wowed the crowd and surprised his competitors by setting a track-record elapsed time of 4.697 seconds at 332.75 mph under NHRA's 85-percent nitromethane rule. If Force backs up this time within one percent (4.744 seconds) in eliminations tomorrow, he will take away Bazemore's national ET record of 4.713 seconds, set here in May, under NHRA's 90-percent nitromethane rule.

His speed came awfully close to also surpassing Bazemore's 333.25-mph track-record run he established in May. For Force to break Bazemore's teammate Gary Scelzi's national speed record of 330.55 mph, he will have to back it up within one percent tomorrow (329.42).

"First off, congratulations to Force and his team for being the first to run in the 4.60s," said Bazemore. "It was something that we all wanted to do, quite honestly, and conditions were certainly there for it. For us it's kind of a frustrating that we weren't in a position to contend for that today.

"We had bigger problems and bigger challenges to get our car to go down the race track without hurting itself and go quick enough to qualify.

"The guys on the Matco Tools team did a tremendous job re-building the car after an explosion in today's first round. We were up there and went right down the race track. It was a handful, but we made it and we qualified, and that's the first order of business every weekend."

Bazemore faces Gary Densham in first round of eliminations on Sunday, which begin at 11 a.m.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Johnny Gray