BAZEMORE FOCUSED ON RETURN TO WINNER'S CIRCLE IN PHOENIX CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 22, 2006) - Although he's never won an NHRA Funny Car event at Firebird International Raceway, Whit Bazemore has had his share of victories won and records set during...
BAZEMORE FOCUSED ON RETURN TO WINNER'S CIRCLE IN PHOENIX
CHANDLER, Ariz. (Feb. 22, 2006) - Although he's never won an NHRA Funny Car event at Firebird International Raceway, Whit Bazemore has had his share of victories won and records set during his dynamic POWERade Drag Racing Series career.
He's a two-time U.S. Nationals champion, the first to reach 325 mph in a Funny Car, was second twice in the Funny Car championship in 2001 and 2003, third in 1997 and '99, has finished in the top five six times and 13 times in the top 10 since 1992, and has 19 national event wins to his credit.
The outspoken driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing has endured heart-wrenching, emotionally-draining seasons where he's come oh-so-close to winning his first championship only to have it snatched from his grasp at the end.
The 2005 season was a heartbreaker. Bazemore came on strong at the start, led the point standings early, won two events and looked like he was headed to another year-end battle among the usual Funny Car players for the crown. But midway through the series the team began to struggle. A crew chief change was made and the team regrouped to end the season ninth in the point standings.
A new tuner was brought on board for 2006, and Brian Corradi and assistant crew chief Todd Okuhara have already demonstrated the team's renaissance at the season-opening event in Pomona, Calif., where they produced a series of solid quick and fast passes to qualify No. 6. They're striving to return the team to the winner's circle by earning Bazemore a 20th career victory this weekend at the Checker Schuck's Kragen Nationals en route to a serious challenge for the Funny Car championship.
"We are feeling good," said Bazemore, despite going out in the first round in Pomona. "Pomona didn't go the way we intended, but it's still a positive experience for the team, despite the results.
"I'm excited about going to Phoenix and working with the Matco Tools team and having the opportunity again for us to show what we are made of.
"It's a decent track, we have done a lot of testing here, so I think we'll be all right.
"Our potential here is tremendous. Phoenix is one of 22 remaining races where we have to have a good result to end up being competitive for the championship. I look at every race as being equally important as the other one, even though it may not have the history and prestige of Pomona's Winternationals. But it still pays the same money and the same points. And we come to the race to win.
"For me to have fun doing my job I have to win. We give a 100-percent effort toward winning. We did that in Pomona and came up short and we're going to do that in Phoenix and we're going to keep doing it. And at some point we're going to get this Matco Tools team back in the winner's circle, where it's been a lot in the past.
"We've never won in Phoenix, but we've been in the semis a few times. It's a track we need to conquer."