Bazemore, Dunn Phoenix test notes

Bazemore and Dunn drive Matco Tools Dodge in Phoenix testing CHANDLER, ARIZ. (Jan. 30, 2005) - Pre-season testing for the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continued at Firebird International Raceway this weekend, located just south of ...

Bazemore and Dunn drive Matco Tools Dodge in Phoenix testing

CHANDLER, ARIZ. (Jan. 30, 2005) - Pre-season testing for the 2005 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continued at Firebird International Raceway this weekend, located just south of Phoenix, following tests held at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend.

Whit Bazemore, driving the new purple Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car, posted a 4.835-second pass at 323.34 mph on Saturday before rain and cool temperatures interrupted and closed down the sessions for the day. With Bazemore committed to a Matco Tools appearance in Nashville, Tenn., on Sunday and Monday, Bazemore's cycling buddy Mike Dunn, a winning Funny Car and Top Fuel racer and ESPN analyst for the NHRA event broadcasts, was put in the driver's seat for Sunday's runs.

Before he left for Nashville, Bazemore wrapped up his two days of testing a new chassis: "We ran well. We went out and ran an .83, which was a good, easy run. The Matco Tools Dodge is doing pretty much everything Lee (Beard, crew chief) is asking it to do and I've learned how to drive it, because it is quite a bit different from what we've had the last couple of years.

"The team is doing great, the car is running well, the car is responsive, and we are ready.

"I'm coming back Monday night and we're going to run the car on Tuesday and Wednesday here. We have things that we're working on, but our baseline combination is good and we're ready for Pomona."

Dunn, who has won 10 events in Funny Car and 12 in Top Fuel, last drove a Funny Car in 1991, but it was clear by the third pass that he hadn't lost his touch. Following an "introductory" first lap, in the second run he rattled the tires early, coasting to a 10.99/98.18 pass.

"We'd feel better if it went farther," he said after that run. "The first one was OK. It went pretty smooth. It got a little aggressive out there a little ways and it got loose. It was fine. But then in the second run I made a mistake in aiming it and when it went off the line it moved to the center right off the bat, and shook the tires at 40 ft. That wasn't too good. That was kind of a wasted run.

"It's all about just trying to get used to seeing out of the Funny Cars. It's not hard, it's just different - where you pick up your reference points and such - and I've got to just figure that out again because it's been a while since I drove one. Obviously, it's fun doing the burnouts and backing up, having the smoke in the cockpit and stuff. I haven't had that in 13 years and that's pretty cool."

In the third run Dunn was back in control, posting a strong, straight pass of 5.609/172.56 after shutting down early, at the direction of crew chief Lee Beard. His reaction time of .059 and a 243.85 mph register at half-track gave Beard the confidence he needed to up the ante for Monday.

"We hadn't planned on running it anywhere past half track," said Beard. "It appears that Mike is adapting to driving the car very well. He had an exceptional light, an .059. So, I think we're starting to feel comfortable with him driving it, and he's feeling better about driving it, so maybe tomorrow we will turn it up and see what it can do.

"I wish that we didn't have to change drivers and actually spend a couple of runs getting another driver used to driving the car," added Beard. "If we had had Whit here I think we could've come out here and certainly improved on the 4.83 that we ran and be in the 4.70s like the rest of these guys are, similar to where we were in Vegas. That wasn't an option so we had to do what we had to do."

As for Dunn's desire to get back into NHRA pro competition: "No more so than ever," he said. "I have never officially announced my retirement. If the right opportunity came up and all the stars were all lined up, it might be a possibility. TV treats me pretty good; I like doing the television show, but you never know."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Dunn , Whit Bazemore