Putnam, Connecticut, November 4, 1999 - One year ago, Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team pulled into Pomona Raceway for the last event of the season in separate trailers under different circumstances. Having...
Putnam, Connecticut, November 4, 1999 - One year ago, Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team pulled into Pomona Raceway for the last event of the season in separate trailers under different circumstances. Having lost his primary sponsor earlier in the year, Bazemore's competitive future was in doubt, and he faced the possibility of watching from the sidelines in 1999. The Etchells team, on the other hand, was in the process of wrapping up their seventh consecutive Top Five points finish and looking forward to the future. By the end of the weekend, which saw team owner Chuck Etchells claim an emotional victory, the seeds had been planted to bring these two entities together. The rest, as they say, is history.
In a well-publicized off-season move, Chuck Etchells decided to step out of the driver's seat and hire Bazemore who brought additional sponsorship with him. The combination proved to be a top contender throughout 1999, claiming one victory in five final round appearances, including an impressive run of four in a row in August. As he arrives in California for this weekend's Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, Bazemore took time to look back on his freshman year at Etchells Racing.
"It's been a good year, especially when you consider where I was last year at this time," explained Bazemore. "Chuck and I have a very good relationship both personally and professionally. He made the sacrifice for his team, and I think it has worked out well for all involved.
"Being able to work with a team of this caliber has been really gratifying. It's been different going from being an owner/driver to being a hired gun for a team with high expectations. In the past, more was expected from my team as a whole than from myself. Coming over here has put the shoe on the other foot, and I like the challenge.
"Looking back on our first season together, there's no question that we had a strong year. We had really high hopes going in, but we also knew it would be a transitional year. Everyone on this Kendall Camaro team has learned how to work with each other. That's important to move forward. So while we're not totally satisfied with third place (which matches Bazemore's career best finish), under the circumstances we're proud of the accomplishment."
This weekend, the Etchells team returns to Pomona Raceway seeking to defend their Finals title with Bazemore at the controls. This veteran crew, led by Tim and Kim Richards, knows that a premium will be placed on high performance, with national and event records again in jeopardy. Therefore, if they are to succeed, they must provide their driver with a consistently fast machine to take advantage of the conditions. For his part, Bazemore knows to keep things in perspective and maximize each opportunity, a lesson reinforced by recent events.
"The last two races have shown how easily things can go wrong," said Bazemore. "In each case, we've qualified well. Although we made it to the semi-finals in Dallas, we were tripped up early in Houston when we thought we had a real shot at the win. So for this last race of the season, we're going to first focus on having a solid outing. Naturally, it would be really nice to end the year with a win like Chuck and the team did last year, and if the opportunity presents itself, trust me we'll go after it. But we'll take it one step at a time to make sure we get the most out of our Kendall Camaro and head into the off-season on a positive note."
This will be Whit's fifteenth appearance at Pomona Raceway, where he looks to duplicate team owner Chuck Etchells' winning performance from a year ago....Bazemore's best qualifying performance at Pomona is 2nd, which he accomplished at the 1997 Winston Finals....Bazemore is looking to score his second win as driver of the Kendall Camaro.....Bazemore is also seeking to reach a career-best sixth final round of the season.
WHAT 35th annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals, the twenty-second and final event on the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.
WHEN: November 11 - 14, 1999
WHERE: Pomona Raceway, Pomona, California
SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start with single sessions on Thursday and Friday, November 11 & 12 at 3:00 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, November 13 with two rounds at 12 noon and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, November 14.
TV: ESPN2 will provide one hour of qualifying highlights from 1:00 - 2:00 a.m. on Saturday November 13. In addition, ESPN2 will air two hours of first round coverage from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. and one hour of final round coverage from 8:30 - 9:30 p.m. on Sunday, November 14. (All times Eastern) As always, please check your local listings