BAZEMORE'S COLUMBUS CHARGE SNAGGED IN SEMI-FINALS Kirkersville, Ohio, June 14, 1999 - Whit Bazemore had to feel pretty good following the second round of eliminations at this past weekend's Pontiac Excitement Nationals. After all, he had just...
BAZEMORE'S COLUMBUS CHARGE SNAGGED IN SEMI-FINALS
Kirkersville, Ohio, June 14, 1999 - Whit Bazemore had to feel pretty good following the second round of eliminations at this past weekend's Pontiac Excitement Nationals. After all, he had just bested rival and number one qualifier Tony Pedregon in a thrilling race. Bazemore's six-thousandths of a second quicker reaction time had proven to be the difference as both cars had recorded identical 5.028-second elapsed times, which were the third quickest Funny Car runs of the weekend. This gave the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 pilot lane choice over Tim Wilkerson for the semi-finals by almost a tenth of a second. On paper, Bazemore seemed poised to advance to his second final round of the season, and a good bet to capture his first win of the year.
But, as the saying goes, races are not run on paper, and the Etchells team's chances suddenly took a turn for the worse. Towards the end of a routine between-round engine change, a time-consuming task under the best of circumstances, a mechanical problem arose. This forced a second disassembly of one side of the motor to replace the failed part. Battling the ninety-minute time limit, the Etchells crew worked furiously in the afternoon heat. The job was completed with just barely enough time to answer the call for the semi-finals. In a show of sportsmanship, Wilkerson's team and the NHRA worked with team owner Etchells obtaining valuable time to ensure the race would not be forfeited. Bazemore saved crucial moments by donning his firesuit and strapping himself into his racecar before even leaving the pit area.
But despite their valiant efforts, the team knew their chances for success were hampered by not having the opportunity to warm up the car prior to racing. In a sport of precision, their set-up would have to be a guess. Their worst fears became reality almost immediately when, after gaining a five hundredths of a second advantage at the start, Bazemore's mount lost traction, the massive rear tires billowing smoke. Repeated attempts to regain control and hunt down his rival went for naught, ending the hopes that had shone so brightly two hours before.
"It was one of those times where fate intervened," stated a disappointed Bazemore afterwards. "In this case, we had a problem after the motor was back together where we had to take half of it back apart. We couldn't warm it, so we weren't able to do our normal routine with the clutch, and it was a new motor. There are so many things you do that you take care of when you warm the car up in the pits. If your routine is based on this, as ours is, it's a critical part of running the car.
We didn't get to warm it up, so it went out and smoked the tires. I couldn't get it to recover until it was too late and when it finally did hook back up, it dropped a bunch of cylinders, which is probably why it recovered, and I didn't have the power to run him down.
I feel really bad for this Kendall Camaro team, because they gave it their best shot. We were all fairly confident with the way the day was going. It seemed that just when we had our eyes focused firmly on the trophy, it got yanked . That's a part of racing - you've never won until you win. We all know that, and you're going to have problems like we did today from time to time, but it was still a hard loss."
But with the disappointment came the realization that this had been another strong showing for the Etchells organization.
"We still had a lot of good come out of this weekend," said Bazemore. "I was really impressed with the job this Kendall Camaro team did in the second round, not beating ourselves against the John Force team car. When John went out and ran that .92 in the first round, it was just incredible. To do that in the first round under these conditions was unbelievable. You have to know that they were able to plug that technology into Tony's (Pedregon) car and make him capable of running the same number. But this Etchells team gave me a great car, and we were able to take advantage of it, making our best run in the heat of the day. That alone is something we can build on heading into St. Louis."
In Sunday's surprising final round, Phil Burkhart upset Tim Wilkerson to score his first career Nitro Funny Car win. The Etchells Racing team will be in action again next week, participating in the largest match race in the United States in Norwalk, Ohio, while the NHRA takes a weekend off before heading to Madison, Illinois for the Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway June 10-13.
Funny Car Points Standings (As of 6/14/99): 1. J. Force - 1052, 2. T.Pedregon - 789, 3. Whit Bazemore - 611, 4. C. Pedregon - 542, 5. T. Wilkerson - 525, 6. D. Skuza - 495, 7. F. Pedregon - 461, 8. D. Worsham - 423, 9. C. Lee - 418, 10. J. Epler - 364.
Big Bud Shootout Points (As of 6/14/99): 1. J. Force - 2,605, 2. Whit Bazemore - 2,340, 3. T. Pedregon - 2.265, 3. C. Pedregon - 2,090, 5. R. Capps - 1,960, 6. T. Wilkerson - 1,885, 7. D. Skuza - 1,805, 8. A. Hofmann - 1,750.