FORMIDABLE TANDEM OF ETCHELLS & BAZEMORE LOOK TO TAME TOPEKA Putnam, Connecticut, September 23, 1999 - The 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season produced one of the most unlikely pairings in the sport's history when Chuck Etchells hired Whit ...
FORMIDABLE TANDEM OF ETCHELLS & BAZEMORE LOOK TO TAME TOPEKA
Putnam, Connecticut, September 23, 1999 - The 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season produced one of the most unlikely pairings in the sport's history when Chuck Etchells hired Whit Bazemore to drive his Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Funny Car. In many respects, these two resemble the Felix Unger and Oscar Madison characters from "The Odd Couple".
For example, Etchells is the consummate businessman, constantly tending to the needs of not only his race team, but his wall-covering business as well. Etchells' day, whether at the track or not, is filled with meetings with sponsors and customers, paying attention to every detail. In fact, in the 1999 Kendall press kit, Etchells lists "business" as one of his hobbies.
On the other hand, Whit Bazemore is, by his own admission, more of a free spirit, and relishes his current role as the "hired gun" for the Kendall Camaro. When not racing, Bazemore spends his days at home in Indianapolis working on his computer managing his stock portfolio. In addition, he follows a strict physical regimen that includes running and mountain biking.
"Chuck is first and foremost a businessman," explained Bazemore. "He has his other business besides the race team, and is on the go all the time. He never relaxes, and travels constantly. I'm a race car driver who likes living the life of one. I need to get home and recharge. That's not to say I'm not involved in business. I also work on sponsorship issues, and follow my own investments. As a hired gun, I try to do things during the week to make me a better racer. I see fitness as an important part of that, and work on it during the week as well.
"It's simply two ways of pursuing the same goal, just as we differ about racing. My approach is that I'm going to win, no matter what the car does. Chuck, on the other hand, looks at the big picture, feeling that if the car is competitive, we have a good chance of winning. There's no right or wrong here, because we've obviously both been successful."
But despite their contrasting styles, the same desire and intense passion for winning burns in both. There also exists a healthy dose of mutual respect. The bottom line is that this duo has combined to form one of the most feared combinations in Funny Car. After struggling to fine-tune the new mechanical combination, the true potential has started to surface, as evidenced by the four-week stretch which saw the Etchells crew dominate in Sonoma and appear in four consecutive final rounds. As they arrive in Topeka for the Advance Auto Parts Nationals, these two hope their off-Broadway production will again garner rave reviews.
"As has been well documented, we were able to put this deal together at the last minute," stated Bazemore. Now that it's been almost a full season, I believe we can say that despite any external differences, it's been a strong and successful pairing. I hope I've been able to contribute to the Etchells Racing team on and off the track, with what I've brought to the table making the team stronger.
"When he was still driving,, Chuck was the one I was closest to among all my competitors. I knew you couldn't make many mistakes against him, because he wouldn't. And if you get into a tire-smoking contest he's as good as they come. You might not see it on the outside, but Chuck's intensity is as fierce as anyone's'. We both feel that on Sunday night we should be holding the winner's trophy, and aren't happy unless we do. But one thing I've learned this year with Chuck is to appreciate whatever successes we may have."
Bazemore and Etchells also share an affinity for the Heartland Park facility. Throughout their respective careers, the Kansas quarter-mile has been the scene of numerous successes for both. In 1993, Etchells permanently engraved his name in the NHRA history books by being the first to make a four-second run in a Funny Car at HPT, and completed the weekend "sweep" when he won the event. For his part, Bazemore topped making his first 300 mile-per-hour pass here in 1995 by recording the first national event victory of his career in Topeka two years later. This weekend, the Etchells team looks to benefit from this combined history as they look to score their second win of the season and renew their pursuit of second place.
"I enjoy returning to Topeka, because I first ran 300 and got my first win there" said Bazemore. "Obviously, Chuck has also done well there, being the first in the fours in '93, winning and being the top qualifier several times so we're confident heading into this race. As a team, we know the importance of catching Tony (Pedregon), and will burn the candles at both ends to make it happen.
Hopefully, the track will be in good condition. If the weather cooperates, you could see some incredible numbers put up. We ran well in the last two months of summer, but have struggled a little recently. However, I know Tim (crew chief Richards) and the crew are working hard to put their finger on the problem, so our Kendall Camaro will be as strong as it can be from here on out. If conditions are right, Topeka could be our first opportunity in quite a while to rotate the earth. Tim has the knowledge to extract every bit of performance from our car, and I believe it has a lot of potential. As a driver, that's exciting, because then it's a matter of hanging on for the ride. There's nothing more enjoyable than being pinned to your seat by running well over 300 miles-per-hour. The only thing that makes it better is a win light, which we plan to provide!" - more-
BAZEMORE BANTER: This will be Whit's ninth appearance at Heartland Park Topeka, where he looks to duplicate his winning performance from 1997....Bazemore is looking to score his second win as driver of the Kendall Camaro.....Bazemore is also seeking to reach a career-best sixth final round of the season.....Bazemore continues his dogged pursuit of second place Tony Pedregon.
WHAT 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals, the eighteenth event on the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.
WHEN: September 30 - October 3, 1999
WHERE: Heartland Park Topeka, Topeka, Kansas
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start with two sessions on Friday, October 1 at 3:00 & 7:00 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, October 2 with two rounds at 12 noon and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, October 3.
TV: Speedvision will provide two hours of qualifying highlights on Saturday, October 2 from 8 - 9 p.m., with two hours of first round coverage from 2-4 p.m. on Sunday, October 3. In addition, Fox Sports will broadcast two hours of final round coverage from 5-7 p.m. on Sunday, October 3. (All times Eastern) As always, please check your local listings