Bristol: Whit Bazemore Saturday qualifying

Bazemore is Low Qualifier for First Time in 2004, Claims his 25th Career NO. 1 BRISTOL, Tenn. (May 1, 2004) - Whit Bazemore captured his first No. 1 Funny Car qualifying position of the year, the 25th of his career, here at Bristol Dragway, one...

Bazemore is Low Qualifier for First Time in 2004, Claims his 25th Career NO. 1

BRISTOL, Tenn. (May 1, 2004) - Whit Bazemore captured his first No. 1 Funny Car qualifying position of the year, the 25th of his career, here at Bristol Dragway, one of his favorite tracks on the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series circuit.

The driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, who had No. 1 snatched from him twice this year and ended up No. 2, held on as low qualifier through every qualifying session. He bettered his 4.862/318.09 from the first session with a stellar 4.770/321.27 pass last night, which stood to the finish.

Today's two rounds saw a tire-smoking 20.244/72.44 followed by a strong 4.851/316.60 (third quickest E.T. of the round) under sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy skies.

"We are getting more consistent," he said during post-qualifying interviews. "Last night was important; .77 was a really good run. For our team today and where we are, I think the run we made this afternoon was actually more important because, it's not like the sun was out, but the track was considerably hotter than it was last night and this is the kind of track we're going to race on tomorrow and the conditions we're going to race in, most likely. It was important, especially after we smoked the tires this morning, that we were able to go down the race track. And we did."

Bazemore, who grew up in Atlanta, visited Bristol Dragway as a teenager and raced here under IHRA sanction, has grown fond of this track. He won the NHRA Funny Car event here in 2002 and was runner-up in 2003. Today's record crowd impressed him.

"It's a tremendous crowd. It's really great to see because the investment and the commitment that Bruton (Smith), his company and (Bristol Motor Speedway President) Jeff Byrd and everybody made to this sport and this facility, is second to none. To see it start to pay off is tremendous," he said.

"This is now the fourth year for this event, and the crowd has gotten bigger every time. If we keep going at the rate we're going in five more years they're going to tear that place down (pointing to Bristol Motor Speedway's oval across the way) and make a parking lot for the dragstrip," he laughed. "It's great, it's great to see."

There's no happier team member when the driver scores a No. 1 than the crew chief. Lee Beard, who has 48 national event wins to his record, would like to see Bazemore in the winner's circle tomorrow, which would bring him closer to rounding out this statistic to 50.

"Obviously we are tickled to death for our first No. 1 of the year," he said. "Two times we were No. 2 qualifier and had our pockets picked right there in the last session. That's step one. The game plan was to come here and win the race. To qualify No. 1 is always just a little bit of bonus for us."

Bazemore will face Bob Gilbertson in the first round of eliminations tomorrow, which begin at noon.

-wbr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Whit Bazemore