Madison: Whit Bazemore preview

Racing at night in St. Louis won't faze Bazemore MADISON, Ill. (June 23, 2004) - When you look at the NHRA record book at Gateway International Raceway, Whit Bazemore's name doesn't pop up in the winner, runner-up or No. 1 qualifier columns. The...

Racing at night in St. Louis won't faze Bazemore

MADISON, Ill. (June 23, 2004) - When you look at the NHRA record book at Gateway International Raceway, Whit Bazemore's name doesn't pop up in the winner, runner-up or No. 1 qualifier columns. The driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car, who established the national elapsed-time record of 4.713 seconds this year at the same time he blasted down the quarter-mile at 333.25 mph - the fastest speed ever recorded by a Funny Car - and led the point standings, is ready to change that.

Bazemore has reached the semifinal round in five of the last eight races, won twice and, despite early-round exits in the last two and a fall to second in points, the Indianapolis resident is confident that he, crew chief Lee Beard and the Matco Tools Funny Car team will return to form in this weekend's 12th round of the 23-event 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

"Sometimes you just have better races than others," the 17-time winner says of his record here. "Whatever. I don't think a track plays into it. You start winning races in your career and then you win more and more and more and hopefully, if you race long enough and you're successful enough, you end up winning everywhere."

Bazemore, who took over the points lead at the eighth event this year and extended it in the next, is now second and is having a see-saw battle for No. 1 with Del Worsham. He is 20 points behind Worsham, a three-time winner, and 22 ahead of John Force, who matches Bazemore in season wins. "It's really tight," he says. And there are five to seven other drivers nipping at their heels.

"Basically we just want to have a good race again in Madison after two less-than-stellar races at Englishtown and Columbus. The goal is to get back on track and try to go some rounds and have a good race."

This weekend's qualifying rounds and eliminations will be held at night, which always presents a challenge, but Bazemore isn't fazed much by it. "The fact that it's at night will be interesting," he says. "It's going to be hard at night. You obviously can't see the groove. It may come down to a driver with more experience who might have a slight advantage than normal at this race.

"But it's never a problem," he continues. "At least with our car it doesn't seem to matter how well-lighted the track is. There is so much clutch dust in the car these days that the lights kind of go out even in the middle of the afternoon," he laughs. "At night it's just doubly hard. You drive more by the seat of the pants. You rely on feel more than your vision.

"It could be disconcerting if you allow it, but because it is what it is you have to convince yourself that you love it. Because that's what the job is. It's like racing when it's really hot out. If you don't like it, then it could affect you, so you learn to love it. You convince yourself the hotter it is the better.

"We're probably going to have heat here and we'll be racing at night time; it will be a lot of fun."

Pro Nitro qualifying at Gateway International Raceway this weekend begins on Friday, June 25, at 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. The same schedule stands for Saturday, June 26, with final eliminations to be held at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, June 27.

On Saturday, June 26, ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 10 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, June 27, ESPN2 will televise three hours of elimination highlights at 9 p.m. (ET).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force