Las Vegas: Whit Bazemore final summary

Bazemore powers to final round in Vegas LAS VEGAS (April 4, 2004) - Whit Bazemore turned around his NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season today at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by powering to the Funny Car final round, defeating the ...

Bazemore powers to final round in Vegas

LAS VEGAS (April 4, 2004) - Whit Bazemore turned around his NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season today at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway by powering to the Funny Car final round, defeating the Funny Car points leader and a pair of John Force drivers along the way. He was on a freight train to his first Funny Car victory of 2004 and at The Strip, but a mechanical glitch in the final round brought his trip to a screeching halt, resulting in a loss to Phil Burkart Jr.

It was not a disappointing day, however, for the 2003 Funny Car championship runner-up, as he jumped from eighth into fourth in the point standings.

The driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car and No. 10 qualifier proved his and his team's mettle by first disposing of two-time season winner and points leader Del Worsham in the first round with a 4.841-second pass at 319.52 mph to Worsham's 5.676/194.63.

In the second round he faced his first John Force Team driver, Gary Densham, handily disposing of him with a 4.836/319.22 lap to Densham's 4.884/315.71.

The semifinal round found him head-to-head with rookie Eric Medlen, also of Force's team. Bazemore nailed him at the starting lights with his best reaction time of the day, a .065 to Medlen's .127. Medlen crossed the finish line with a quicker and faster 4.864/317.42, but it was Bazemore first across the stripe with a slower 4.882/316.15 lap, garnering the win on a holeshot advantage.

After sending Del Worsham and the Force drivers packing, Bazemore next met Worsham's teammate Burkart in the final round. Crew chief Lee Beard, Bazemore and the rest of the Matco Tools team were ready for a challenge. It was looking good for the team to collect their first victory of the year as the pair launched nearly identically. Bazemore was inches ahead of Burkart until the 1000-ft. mark, when the Matco Tools Dodge began to drop cylinders, then exploded in a fireball as it crossed the finish line. Bazemore came out the loser with a 5.452/189.50 versus Burkart's winning 5.029/264.03.

"Once the disappointment of losing in the final wears off," said Bazemore, the two-time U.S. Nationals champion, "I think we'll realize that, all in all, we had a good weekend and we made a lot of progress. Lee and the Matco Tools team proved to themselves and to everybody that we're starting to get our new combination dialed in and when we get it dialed in it's going to go right down the race track and be very consistent.

"As far as the final round goes," he added, "we had a freak breakage that made the car drop a bunch of cylinders and then finally kicked some rods out. It was a freak thing, but the car was repeating every round. That's what is the most encouraging. We have a race car again and we'll be excited when we get to Houston." This was Bazemore's best result so far this season.

As for moving into fourth in the point standings, he said, "That's good, but it doesn't matter where we are in points right now. What matters is that if we're not first we're not too far out of first. Being able to beat Worsham in the first round today was important to everybody...except him. They've done a tremendous job this year, they've been on a tear, but it's the nature of this beast, anything can happen any time. We certainly didn't want them to go out and win three in a row and put us all way behind the 8-ball.

"All in all, that was a key victory for us and, I tell you what, the third round (holeshot win against Eric Medlen) was key for us as well. It sends a message and it's good. We had a good day.

"The Force team is a great team. That's why we exist, to beat them. It was a race that we had in our back pocket and we had something freaky happen and you're going to have those. That's why it's racing. We'll go to Houston and hopefully be able to repeat."

Crew chief Lee Beard was not displeased with the results. "We're tickled to death to get to the final round," he remarked. "The car ran great all day long. We had low E.T. of the second round, low E.T. of the third round and just had a freak deal happen here in the final round where the car had some component fail. We don't know what it is yet, we haven't got the thing apart. Any time you get to the final round in one of these races you have to feel good about it."

Round 5 coming up is the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway April 16-18.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Densham , Phil Burkart , Eric Medlen