Topeka: Whit Bazemore Saturday summary

Bazemore collects second No. 1 of season in Topeka JOLIET, Ill. (May 29, 2004) - Whit Bazemore held on to the No. 1 qualifying spot he earned in last night's Funny Car qualifying session (4.792/323.19) through two more rounds today, collecting...

Bazemore collects second No. 1 of season in Topeka

JOLIET, Ill. (May 29, 2004) - Whit Bazemore held on to the No. 1 qualifying spot he earned in last night's Funny Car qualifying session (4.792/323.19) through two more rounds today, collecting his second No. 1 of the year and the 26th of his career at the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka.

Bazemore and his Lee Beard-led Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car continue to shine on hot racing surfaces, as the Funny Car points leader posted the fastest and quickest pass in today's third qualifying session in the heat of the day, of 4.829/321.12. In the final session he pulled out another strong pass of 4.848/321.58 for the fourth quickest ET and fastest speed of that round.

"We've been to four finals in the last five races," he said of the turn-around the team has made since the Bristol, Tenn., race in May. "The car is running really strongly and the team is preparing it perfectly. It's a dream right now. It's just fantastic. We had low ET this morning and then we were competitive this afternoon.

"The key to these races is going down the track, being near the front in every session in every condition, and that's where we are right now. Based on that, we're looking good for tomorrow, but of course it's a drag race. We've got to go out and earn every round.

"The Matco Tools team is doing a perfect job. Tomorrow it's up to me. We have a very tight team right now. It could not be better. The HEMI Oakley Dodge team (of teammate Gary Scelzi) showed how good they are this afternoon. They had a mechanical problem in the pits, changed the motor, came back out in that last session and ran 4.83 in the heat. The whole team is really working well together, and it's all good."

This unquestionably is one of the high points of Bazemore's 16-year Funny Car career, but he's realistic, knowing anything can happen at any time. "The better you do the harder it is," he said, "because the more expectations you have the more you expect out of yourself. And, quite honestly, when you're in this situation the only thing you can do is lose the race.

"That's the nature of our sport. That's the kind of pressure you have to learn to deal with. We've experienced it. It's a good place to be, though. Leading the championship, being low qualifier, having a good competitive race car. This is what you strive for your entire career."

Bazemore, who set the national Funny Car ET record last week in Joliet, of 4.713 seconds, and produced the fastest speed in Funny Car history of 333.25 mph, will face Tony Bartone in the first round of eliminations tomorrow, which begin at 11 a.m.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Bartone , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi