Topeka: Whit Bazemore final summary

Bazemore Wins His Second Race of 2004, Extends Points Lead TOPEKA, Kan. (May 30, 2004) - Whit Bazemore is on a hot streak in his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus. He reached his fifth Funny Car final round of the last six races today at the...

Bazemore Wins His Second Race of 2004, Extends Points Lead

TOPEKA, Kan. (May 30, 2004) - Whit Bazemore is on a hot streak in his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus. He reached his fifth Funny Car final round of the last six races today at the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals and scored his second win of the season, the 17th of his career, while earning his crew chief Lee Beard his 50th national-event win as a crew chief. He also extended his points lead in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series to 76 over Del Worsham, and 80 over John Force.

It wasn't John Force in the other lane during the final round today, it was rookie Eric Medlen of Force's team, who had ousted his boss in the second round. Needless to say, this was the pair's first meeting and it should have been a barn burner. Both cars experienced loss of traction after launching with nearly identical reaction times (.073 for Bazemore, .072 for Medlen), but it was Medlen who smoked the tires first, while Bazemore smoked them further down the quarter-mile, enabling him to cross the finish stripe first with a 5.168-second elapsed time at 269.94 mph to Medlen's 7.795/112.98.

Bazemore, No. 1 qualifier for the second time this season, 26th of his career, also took home the fastest speed of the event, 326.00 mph, which he established in his second-round win against another John Force team member, Gary Densham. He also defeated Tony Bartone in the first round, and Del Worsham in the semifinal.

"To be here in Heartland Park again and to be here in the winner's circle again is great," said Bazemore, who won his first Funny Car event here in 1997. "It feels good. Some words I never thought I'd say - we extended our points lead. I've never said that. It kind of rolls off the tongue.

"It was a perfect afternoon, a perfect weekend, in fact," he added. "The guys, the whole Matco Tools team led by Lee obviously gave us a perfect race car in qualifying Friday night. Saturday morning it was perfect again. Saturday afternoon it was really good. Today it was flawless until the final. No one is perfect, but we were still better than the opposition, and at the end of the day that's really all that matters.

"Our car was in trouble earlier than when it appeared to be in trouble," he said of the final round. "It was spinning the tire and I thought about doing something about it, but it was too early in the race and I didn't see him (Medlen). And I thought, OK, the longer we go there's a chance it might recover, because we were in the groove but it was fishtailing a little bit. Then it just blew the tires off right about half track. I gave it a little pedal job and it kind of recovered for a moment, then smoked them to the finish line. He wasn't there, so I knew he had probably done the same thing somewhere in his lane.

"We got the win and the thing had a problem right at the finish line. And that's where your heart sinks because even though you're smoking the tires you know your competition is not there but then when the motor quits, that's when you go, Oh, Man. And our win light came on and it was all good."

"It's a great day for the Matco Tools team," said team owner Don Schumacher. "Lee and Whit and all of the guys are doing a great job out here. They've been in five out of the last six finals and won two of them. We have to keep it going now and go to Columbus and try to do the same thing. They've stretched out the points lead and we're going into the hot time of the year, to some of the slipperier race tracks. We've got a good tune-up for that also, so we're really happy, to say the least.

"Congratulations to Lee on his 50th win. In fact, I told him after the win, we're going to Florida to do a little bit of fishing this weekend." Schumacher and Beard are avid fly-fishermen.

"Winning here with Whit is very special," said Beard who was won with Gary Ormsby, Cruz Pedregon, Kenny Bernstein, among others. "To be in the lead of the POWERade Funny Car championship is great, and winning No. 50 for me, hey, that's been in the back of my mind for a while. I didn't know if I was ever going to do it. I'm not exactly the spring chicken out here. Austin Coil (Force's crew chief) has won 118. I guess I'm only about half as good as he is with winning 50, but it was a great day today. I'm very honored to be part of the team."

The Matco Tools team struggled earlier this season and has made a major turn-around in the last six races. "It gets turned around by hard work, dedication and really paying attention to details," said Beard. "All that was really wrong with our cars were just some minor details that were causing it to be inconsistent and that was causing us to chase the tune-up harder than we needed to. This is a sport of thousandths of an inch in measurement, hundredths of a second in time and paying attention to detail is what it takes to be able to cover those nanosecond errors that can be made."

Next up is the Pontiac Excitement NHRA Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, June 11-13.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Eric Medlen , Don Schumacher