Bazemore goes to final, moves into 2nd in points in Bristol. BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27, 2003) -- Whit Bazemore had a stellar day today, advancing to the final round for the second time this season after defeating Tim Wilkerson, Tommy Johnson Jr.,...
Bazemore goes to final, moves into 2nd in points in Bristol.
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27, 2003) -- Whit Bazemore had a stellar day today, advancing to the final round for the second time this season after defeating Tim Wilkerson, Tommy Johnson Jr., and finally his nemesis from John Force Racing, Tony Pedregon, in the semifinal.
He moved into second in the point standings after the second round, but a repeat of his Funny Car win here in Bristol in 2002 was not in the cards.
In the final, it was Del Worsham in the opposing lane for their 33rd career match-up, with the win-loss record tied before the final at 16-16. After three consistent runs today (4.975/298.14, 4.958/303.16 and 4.944/309.06), Bazemore's Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T uncharacteristically struck the tires at barely the 60-foot mark, resulting in a pedaling 6.500-second lap at just 194.35 mph to Worsham's winning 4.924/310.41.
When Gary Densham, also from the Force camp, was ousted in the second round and Bazemore won in his quarterfinal, Bazemore passed Densham for second in the point standings and now is just 67 points behind leader Tony Pedregon.
This was Whit's fifth straight semifinal round appearance in six races this season, and it was the first final-round pairing for him and Worsham since Pomona III in 2001, which was won by Worsham.
"We're just not quite there, but we're awfully close," said Bazemore, the two-time U.S. Nationals champion and winner of 12 events in his career who is still looking for his first victory of 2003. "Considering the fact that we have yet to win this year and, believe me, we're not counting because it's something you can't force upon yourself. We're second in the POWERade championship and things are really looking good. The performance is there in our Matco Tools Dodge; it's usually very consistent and that's what it takes to win rounds and win races. We're winning rounds, but we're not winning races. But, as long as we keep winning rounds then the race victories will come and after you get a certain number of race victories, then the championships come and that's how it is. We're doing everything we can do, but at the same time we have to just relax a little bit and let the chips fall the way they fall."
Wrapping up today's eliminations, Bazemore said, "For the team, we had a great day, we had something happen in the final. There's no way our Matco Tools Dodge should smoke the tires there, no way, not even remotely possible, with the tune-up that Lee (Beard, crew chief) and the guys had in it. There's probably a reason why that happened and we'll find it and correct it and go to Atlanta and try to repeat there, like we tried to repeat here."
Defeating his fiercest rival next to John Force, Tony Pedregon, was rewarding. "That team over there, John Medlen (crew chief) and Dickie Venables (co-crew chief) and all those guys, they're a tremendous team," he added. "They've had the best car for quite a while and they lost a championship on a holeshot last year and they're proving that they deserve to win it. They're very, very good. Beating them was tremendous; it was a very important round. We have to just move on to next week. It was good for 10 minutes and then we really had to focus on the final and Worsham, and now we have to focus on next week."
Since the beginning of the season Bazemore has stated that winning rounds was key, and he's demonstrated the value of that goal by moving into second in the point standings without winning a final. "I've never been this high this early," he remarked. "It's too early to count that. Obviously, the POWERade championship is our ultimate goal and we have a good consistent car, and a good consistent team and we're just going to fine-tune ourselves a little bit more and hopefully get just a little tiny bit better and if we keep getting a little bit better every week, things will really start to go our way, I think. they're already going our way."
Bazemore has been with Don Schumacher Racing's Funny Car team since the team's beginning in 2001, and has weathered a number of ups and downs. "Today was really good. It was a key weekend in many respects," he said. "It's my third year with the team and my boss Don Schumacher was there when I needed him last night and helped me. We've started to really understand each other. I know he understands me a lot better and what makes me tick and what I need to perform at may best, so that makes me very gratified that we have a relationship like that. Nothing ever lasts forever, I know that, but while we're here we want to do the very best possible job and it takes a certain environment to thrive in and he's providing that for me and I'm very grateful for that."
Round 7 of the 23-race series is May 1-4 at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.