Pomona: Whit Bazemore preview

Bazemore Looks To Keep Up 2003 Momentum at Pomona Opener INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 17, 2004) - Whit Bazemore enjoyed his most competitive NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car season in 2003, taking the battle for the championship down to the ...

Bazemore Looks To Keep Up 2003 Momentum at Pomona Opener

INDIANAPOLIS (Feb. 17, 2004) - Whit Bazemore enjoyed his most competitive NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car season in 2003, taking the battle for the championship down to the penultimate race of the year and claiming the runner-up spot for the second time in his 16-year pro NHRA career.

He came oh so close to snagging his first Funny Car title in his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, and his goal for the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals this weekend at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway is to keep up that same momentum as he chases the 2004 Funny Car championship.

"It's very important to start the season strongly," said the two-time U.S. Nationals champion. "It's easy at this point of the year to fall into the trap that if you have a bad race, you say, 'Well, there are 22 more or 19 more or whatever.' That's a luxury that no one can afford to have. Every race is just as important as every other race.

"Pomona is important not only because it's the first race, but because it's the Winternationals and it's a race with a strong legacy and a lot of history. It's one of the granddaddy races that we'd like to have under our belts. We want to go there and win," added Bazemore, who has claimed 15 event victories in his career, but has yet to win at Pomona.

"I'm excited about starting the season because we have the chance to pick up where we left off last year," he said. "It's a big challenge, but hopefully that's what we can do, and if we can we're going to have a really strong team."

Bazemore's Matco Tools team, led by crew chief Lee Beard, has stayed virtually intact for 2004, which Bazemore considers a valuable asset. "We have a great team," he said. "We haven't changed the makeup of the team at all. All the key players are here and they've been here for two or three years now. To me that's very, very important. I think that we've got a great opportunity this year. We just have to make the most of it."

The recent pre-season testing at The Strip in Las Vegas and at Firebird Raceway in Chandler, Ariz., also helped prepare the team for the 2004 championship challenge. "Testing was good," said Bazemore, who was quickest and fastest at the Feb. 6-8 test session at Firebird with a 4.929/309.98. "We have a whole new engine combination that Lee and the team have developed over the winter. It's something that in time is going to prove to have a lot of potential and ultimately make our team and our race car a lot more competitive.

"The testing for us was all about developing a baseline for the new engine combination. Considering we did that, testing was successful. The elapsed times didn't matter. What mattered was getting the car to run properly, get the fuel curve right, and the air/fuel ratio right, getting the motor happy. That's what's important. We made a lot of progress there."

The first qualifying session at Pomona Raceway will be held on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. Another qualifying session is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20, at 3 p.m., followed by the final two qualifying rounds on Saturday, Feb. 21, beginning at noon. Final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22.

WHIT BAZEMORE QUICK FACTS:


* Qualified second at 2003 Winternationals, 4.766/325.69, lost to Tommy Johnson in second round
* Won three times in 2003, runner-up five times
* Took the 2003 championship chase to penultimate race in Las Vegas in an exciting final round against eventual champion Tony Pedregon
* Was also second in the NHRA Funny Car championship in 2001, third in 1997 and '99 and has finished in the top five six times and 11 times in the top 10 since 1992
* Age 40, born in New York City, an avid cyclist, lives in Indianapolis with wife Michelle, a semi-pro cyclist
* 2004 is his fourth season with Don Schumacher Racing

-dsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Don Schumacher