Whit Bazemore had hoped to make his final race in Chuck Etchells' Kendall Motor Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 a memorable one. However, after placing 16th in the rain-abbreviated qualifying, Bazemore knew his path to the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, winner's circle would be a tough one, as he would be paired against 2000 Funny Car champion John Force in the first round, a task made ever more difficult by the fact that, as the lower-qualified car, Bazemore would cede lane choice to his rival.
Unfortunately, the outcome was never really in doubt. Although both cars launched together and powered down track side-by-side, Bazemore once again found himself fighting for traction near mid track, while Force used the second quickest run of the round to gain the win and end Bazemore's season.
"That was certainly not the way I wanted to end the year or my time with Chuck Etchells Racing. It's disappointing, but we struggled with this car all weekend, and you can't make a mistake against Force, because they certainly don't make any. Today, we did, and we got beat.
"The right lane was certainly a little trickier, not only for us, but lots of people. But we're not going to make any excuses. We struggled with our consistency and qualified on the bump. which put us up against Force in the first round. I know this Etchells crew is going to work hard over the winter to straighten this car out, and I expect them to be tough next year.
"This is a really good team, and I really enjoyed my time here. I think the world of Terry Manzer, and I'm glad I was able to work with him, as well as Chuck and Shelley (Etchells) and everyone else on this Kendall/Matco Camaro crew. In that regard, it's hard to end as we did, but we're all going to move on."
Bazemore also took time to briefly look back on his two-year relationship with the Etchells Racing team, which came to a close with today's event.
"When I came to this team in 1998, it was the first time in a long while that I had a real job, having been a team owner for so long. I learned a lot from Chuck, especially about the business side of our sport and how to keep it separate from the driving side, which I found interesting. I also think this relationship benefited both sides. It gave me a little more credibility, which opened some new opportunities for me, and Chuck was able to grow his business, which I hope I contributed to. We had fun, and I'm grateful for the opportunity he gave me. It was exciting to be a part of the growth of his team."
Bazemore's 2000 Season Highlights
* Set a new career elapsed time with his 4.837-second run in Gainesville, Florida in March 17.
* Claimed three No. 1 qualifying position, doing so on consecutive races during the West Coast Swing (Denver, Sonoma, Seattle).
* Appeared in three final rounds, including the U.S. Nationals.
* Won the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in Denver, Colorado in dramatic fashion, coming from outside the field to claim the top qualifying spot and then putting an exclamation point on his seventh career victory by recording the first four-second pass by a Funny Car in the history of Bandimere Speedway.
* Recovered from an early-season slump which saw him fall as low as 11th in the Winston points standings at mid-season to place 7th at season's end, falling just shy of 6th, the seventh Top Ten points finish of his career.
Bazemore's Etchells Racing Highlights
* Started forty-four races in the Etchells Camaro over the course of two seasons.
* Appeared in eight final rounds, winning two races (Sonoma 1999, Denver 2000), setting the track record in each win.
* Qualified No. 1 six times. Compiled a 48-42 eliminations record