BAZEMORE MAKES A STATEMENT IN GAINESVILLE Gainesville, Florida, March 21, 1999 - Whit Bazemore was reasonably optimistic when he pulled into Gainesville Raceway for Sunday's final eliminations of the Mac Tools Gatornationals. After all, an ...
BAZEMORE MAKES A STATEMENT IN GAINESVILLE
Gainesville, Florida, March 21, 1999 - Whit Bazemore was reasonably optimistic when he pulled into Gainesville Raceway for Sunday's final eliminations of the Mac Tools Gatornationals. After all, an impressive series of runs in qualifying had resulted in his Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 finishing atop the quickest field in the history of Funny Car. In addition, even though this was only his third event in the Etchells Racing entry, driver and team had developed the rapport so crucial to success that takes other organizations months to cultivate. But despite this confidence, Bazemore knew the path to the winner's circle would not be an easy one, requiring error-free performances on each pass. The day started well when in his first round meeting with Del Worsham, Bazemore was able to overcome a dropped cylinder and record a 5.01-second elapsed time in gaining the win. Unfortunately, his hopes for victory were cut short in the next round when in order to maintain traction, Bazemore was forced to backpedal, negating a starting-line advantage and allowing his opponent to edge by for the win.
"It was just one of those things," stated Bazemore. "It left hard and spun the tires, so I pedaled it. But then it did a wheelstand and I had to pedal it again. All we needed was a 5.01 to advance, and I believe that if I didn't have to backpedal it a second time, we still could have beaten Toliver. But it had the nose pretty high in the air and started to cross the lane, so I had no choice. To top it all off, getting on and off the throttle so many times finally caused us to have an engine problem."
Prior to the encounter with Toliver, the Etchells Team's weekend had gone pretty much as planned. Sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted the world's fastest quarter-milers as they arrived at the Florida facility. The team's confidence was justifiably high based on the results of the first two events, and they were prepared to use their vest experience to tame the lightning-fast racing surface. There was one unknown quantity, however - their racecar, which had undergone an extensive mechanical makeover in the three weeks since the last race in Phoenix. New technology, including different heads and a five-disc clutch system, had been incorporated into the Etchells flopper as the crew worked to remain competitive with the elite of the division. Normally, this would entail an adjustment period as the team learned the performance characteristics of the new set-up. But after the first session, which saw Bazemore shut off early and post a 5.20-second elapsed time, the true potential of this new combination began to surface. After consecutive 4.949-second efforts cemented Bazemore among the Top Five, the long hours spent in the shop paid dividends in Saturday's final time trial, when Bazemore scorched the Gainesville asphalt in 4.856 seconds to claim the fourth No.1 qualifying position of is career, and first since joining Etchells Racing.
"It is a true testament to this team that we were able to make such drastic changes and claim the No. 1 qualifying position," explained Bazemore. "Normally, you would test a new combination before using it at a points race, but this Kendall Team was very confident that we could come to Gainesville and be competitive right away, and it proved to be true. It's still not quite where we want it to be, but I know Tim (Richards) and the rest of the crew will get it straightened out.
It was exciting to be the number one qualifier for the quickest field in history, especially when we beat out (John) Force. But we're chasing them in the points right now, and our goal is to win races. We didn't get it done today, and that's hard to for me to accept knowing how good this Etchells team is. We've made progress at every event, so we'll learn from today and put it behind us, focusing our attention squarely on putting it all together in Houston."
In Sunday's final, John Force defeated surprise finalist Cory Lee to score his second consecutive victory. The next stop on the NHRA circuit will be in Houston, Texas for the 11th annual O'Reilly Nationals April 8-11.
Funny Car Points Standings: 1. J. Force - 332, 2. T. Pedregon - 244, 3. Whit Bazemore - 190, 4. C. Pedregon - 162, 5. J. Toliver - 159, 6. F. Pedregon - 157, 7., C. Lee - 156, 8. G. Densham - 155, 9. D. Skuza - 145, 10. D. Worsham - 118.
Big Bud Shootout Points: 1. J. Force - 1440, 2. Whit Bazemore - 1360, 3. C. Pedregon - 1310, 4. T. Pedregon - 1,235, 5. R. Capps - 1,215, 6. D. Skuza - 1,060, 7. A. Hofmann - 1,050, 8. G. Dam - 955, 9. T. Wilkerson - 920, 10. D. Worsham - 880.