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BAZEMORE SET TO DEFEND FUNNY CAR TITLE AT FRAM ROUTE 66 NATIONALS JOLIET, Ill. -- The last time Whit Bazemore won a Funny Car race he clinched his trophy tight and said he wanted to just hold onto it and really savor the feeling. ...

BAZEMORE SET TO DEFEND FUNNY CAR TITLE AT FRAM ROUTE 66 NATIONALS JOLIET, Ill. -- The last time Whit Bazemore won a Funny Car race he clinched his trophy tight and said he wanted to just hold onto it and really savor the feeling. He didn't want to let go. That special moment took place nearly one year ago in the Route 66 Raceway media center following eliminations for the inaugural NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series event at the track located just south of Chicago. Bazemore had just added a fifth career victory to his resume by defeating Del Worsham. Bazemore, from Indianapolis, has been working hard this season to earn another NHRA national event trophy. But like every driver in his category, he has found the going tough to get past one very big obstacle obstructing the path to victory -- John Force. The outspoken driver of Chuck Etchell's Kendal Oil Chevrolet Camaro hopes to become a two-time winner at the second annual FRAM Route 66 Nationals, June 3-6, at state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway. The $1.8 million race is the ninth of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. That is, if he can somehow find a way to beat Force. Eight-time NHRA Winston Funny Car champion Force, a winner six times in eight races, is having one of the finest seasons in his career. His teammate, Tony Pedregon, has won the other two events. Force has set records for elapsed time (4.788 seconds) and speed (324.05 mph) and earned four No. 1 qualifying positions. "To beat John Force, you have to be absolutely perfect -- a perfect driver and a perfect car," Bazemore said. "We just have a little bit of work to do on both accounts to get to that level. We'll just keep chipping away at it." Even though the two drivers have developed a heated rivalry over the years, they had not met in a final round until the recent event in Atlanta. In a photo finish, Bazemore nearly gave Force his first final round loss of the year. "I honestly thought I had won, because I never saw him," Bazemore said. "Usually when you get beat, especially by John Force, you can see your opponent out in front of you. Since I didn't, I thought maybe he had smoked the tires earlier, and that we'd gotten lucky. But he didn't, so I guess it was very, very close." The true margin of victory was about a thousandth of a second, or less than an eyelash. Bazemore says the next time he faces Force, or any other driver in the category, he'll be ready. "This is an outstanding team, and I know we can win," Bazemore said. "There are a lot of good cars out here besides Force, so we just have to stay focused and committed to doing well and winning races. We have to work on improving every time we run the car. If we do that, we'll be the ones getting the trophy."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force