Putnam, Connecticut, August 12, 1999 - This weekend, the NHRA travels to the woods of Minnesota, which are the North American home of the timber wolf. Although their population in this country was threatened in recent years, initial efforts to...
Putnam, Connecticut, August 12, 1999 - This weekend, the NHRA travels to the woods of Minnesota, which are the North American home of the timber wolf. Although their population in this country was threatened in recent years, initial efforts to regenerate the species have so far proven successful. Heading into next weekend's The Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals, one can draw a comparison between this proud animal and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team.
While Whit Bazemore and the Etchells Racing Team arrive in the North Star State as one of the hottest teams it was not long ago that many had them out of contention. However, this prognosis quickly changed when they wrapped up a highly successful West Coast swing with their first win of the season in Sonoma. And just like a hungry wolf closing in on its prey, this talented crew has picked up the scent of their primary competitors and looks to narrow the gap even more at Brainerd International Raceway.
"We were so far behind John (Force) and Tony (Pedregon)," explained Bazemore. "It's really good that we were able to make up a tremendous amount of ground on Tony in the last three races, although somewhat unexpected. If the performance of our Kendall Camaro stays where it is now, we have a good chance of catching him (Tony). Besides, we're not going to say we're out of the championship until it's mathematically impossible.
"But we're not even thinking about that. Our goal is to run as well as we can, as quick as we can, and win races, and after the last event in Pomona, we'll see where we are. Hopefully it will be closer to first than we are now."
A review of recent events reveals a litany of Etchells team successes. The combination of the 1999 Camaro Z28 Funny Car body which debuted in Denver and crew chief Tim Richards' changes in the set-up have made this one of the fastest and most consistent "fuel coupes" in the category. In three races, Bazemore and the Kendall crew have compiled one win, three final round appearances, top speed of the meet in Denver and a number one qualifying position and both ends of the track record in Sears Point. This has allowed them to chop over one hundred points off both Force and Pedregon's lead, reducing Bazemore's separation from second place to just over six rounds of eliminations.
"The results we've had in the last few races speak for themselves," detailed Bazemore. "Tim has turned this Kendall Camaro into a real rocketship, and it's been consistent most of the time. Anytime you're in this situation, you can't wait to get to the next race. It's nice to have a weekend off, but I almost wish we were racing."
But this veteran team knows that things change in a hurry in this sport, and maintaining this torrid pace will not be easy. One benefit that carries over from the last few weeks is the renewed team confidence, which is bolstered even more by the site of this weekend's event. With team owner Chuck Etchells having won here in 1993, and Bazemore being the number one qualifier in Brainerd two years ago, both crew and driver have shown the ability to get the job done. Every one in the organization knows their assignment and is committed to succeed.
"Obviously the whole team is very confident right now," stated Bazemore. "As a driver, it comes down to minimizing the mistakes I make on raceday, because it's pretty obvious that this Kendall team has given me a car that's capable of winning any and every race. I know I don't have to worry about what Tim and Kim (co-crew chiefs Richards) and the team are doing. My job is to concentrate on what I have to do as perfectly as I can. That teamwork allowed us to run a 4.87 in the heat of the day in Sonoma, which is unheard of. That's the approach and attitude you have to have as a team and driver. You have to be aggressive and not leave anything on the table.
"The Brainerd event has always been one of my favorites. It's a great area of the country. The racers like going there because it has a good surface and the fans are so enthusiastic - it always pumps you up to see the stands full. The track has been good to me, so naturally, I'm looking forward to getting back there with this Kendall Camaro team."
This will be Bazemore's ninth appearance at Brainerd International Raceway and second in a Camaro-bodied Funny Car....During the recent 3-race West Coast swing, Bazemore accumulated an impressive 10-2 eliminations record....Bazemore looks to match his number one qualifying effort from 1997 and duplicate team owner Chuck Etchells' win at this event in 1993.
WHAT: 12th annual The Colonel's Truck Accessories Nationals, the fifteenth event on the twenty-two race Winston Drag Racing schedule.
WHEN: August 19 - 22, 1999
WHERE: Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, Minnesota
SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start with two sessions on Friday, August 20 at 2:30 & 6:30 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, August 21 with two rounds at 12:00 noon and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 22.
TV: Speedvision will air two hours of final-round coverage from 5:00 - 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 22, and two hours of first-round highlights on Sunday, August 22 from 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.. In addition, Speedvision will air two hours of qualifying highlights on Saturday, August 21 from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m.. (All times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.