Bazemore Goes to No. 1, Sets National ET Record, Becomes Fastest Funny Car Driver on Planet JOLIET, Ill. (May 23, 2004) - With all the hooplah surrounding Gary Scelzi and Tony Pedregon as to which one would walk away with the ET and...
Bazemore Goes to No. 1, Sets National ET Record, Becomes Fastest Funny Car Driver on Planet
JOLIET, Ill. (May 23, 2004) - With all the hooplah surrounding Gary Scelzi and Tony Pedregon as to which one would walk away with the ET and speed records this weekend at the ultra-fast Route 66 Raceway, Whit Bazemore quietly out-performed them both as he set the national Funny Car ET record and became the fastest Funny Car driver on the planet while producing the quickest and fastest Funny Car pass in NHRA history in the semifinal round: 4.713 seconds (backed up by his 4.731 in qualifying) at 333.25 mph.
With that, the driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, moved into No. 1 in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings, earning a bonus 20 points for the national ET record. He was unable to back up the speed for a national record, however, so his teammate Gary Scelzi goes home with that one, set here, of 330.55 mph.
This, of course, did not overshadow Bazemore's route to his fourth final round of the year, third in a row, and his second this season against John Force. After disposing of Ron Capps, Tim Wilkerson and Tony Bartone, Bazemore was once again matched with his longtime nemesis John Force in the final round.
Bazemore snatched an .024 of a second edge at the Christmas Tree over Force, but by the 60-ft. mark crew chief Lee Beard's self-admitted slightly aggressive tune-up took its toll and Bazemore lost traction early, coasting to an 8.034/115.06 pass to Force's winning 4.752/325.30.
"It's disappointing to lose," said the three-time Route 66 Raceway winner and No. 2 qualifier. "No matter how good the rest of the weekend is, you come to win the race. We had a good chance. We proved a lot this weekend. I think Lee (Beard, crew chief) and the team did an outstanding job. The bottom line is we're disappointed.
"What matters is winning the race and beating John Force and it didn't happen. We've gone to four final rounds in five races, so we're doing well, we're excited and we're looking forward to going to Topeka.
"It's good," he said about setting the national record. "I think the more important thing to me is that we won Atlanta (last week) on a hot race track and that's what we're going to be faced with the next three or four months. The national record is fine for your ego and it's cool, but what's more important, I think, right now is being able to go down the track on a hot track and being competitive there, and we proved that last weekend.
"We're not going to see conditions like this for a long time. This is a great, great facility. They re-paved it. I think they proved something to the NHRA that you can actually repave a track and have it be a good race track."
Going 333 mph for the first time in NHRA Funny Car history was a bonus. "We were disappointed Saturday night that that (final qualifying) session got rained out," said Bazemore. "Lee had it pretty tuned up for that session. Actually, today we had a strong crosswind and that cost us a little mile and hour. 333 is great and it's the fastest ever. If it had been a calm day, there is no question it would have been faster. How much faster we'll never know."
Lee Beard missed the opportunity to score his 50th national-event win as a crew chief today, but said he had respect for any barriers being broken. He also felt under the right conditions this weekend, the ET record could have been lowered to a 4.60. "Lee Beard is a swing-for-the-fence kind of guy," he said. "It means a lot to me to break barriers. They're hard to do and hard to come by in your whole entire career. We're going to look back and say, Gee we could have won the race with running a low 4.70. But we're in the points lead, we did set the national record, we do have the quickest and fastest car in the history of the sport, so, all in all, it was a pretty good weekend for us."
Next up is the O'Reilly NHRA Summernationals at Heartland Park Topeka, May 27-30, 2004.