Commerce: Mopar eliminations summary

Commerce, Ga. (May 4, 2003) -- NHRA Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore led the Mopar contingent to the semifinal round during today's 23rd Annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Bazemore piloted his Matco Tools Iron...

Commerce, Ga. (May 4, 2003) -- NHRA Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore led the Mopar contingent to the semifinal round during today's 23rd Annual Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.

Bazemore piloted his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T to the semifinals this afternoon, but fell to on-track rival Tony Pedregon. Bazemore posted a reaction time of .058 seconds compared to Pedregon's .064-second light. The advantage was short lived as Bazemore's Funny Car shook its tires within the first 60 feet of the 1,320-foot contest. The Dodge passed the finish line in 7.114 seconds at 167.53 mph. Those numbers would not compare to Pedregon's pass of 5.102 seconds at 275.96 mph.

"We're not really satisfied with just going to the semifinals," Bazemore said. "It's a tough loss because basically he (Tony Pedregon) gave it to me and I couldn't take advantage of it. If they went out and ran a 70 in the heat, then hats off (to them) and it wasn't our destiny. Don (Schumacher), Lee (Beard, crew chief) and I just had a very good conversation to take address that part of the race track with our Matco Tools Dodge and we think the changes we make will post good times and make the car a little more consistent as opposed to smoking the tires like we have done a lot lately at that point on the race track. We did it again today in that last round. If God is smiling on you, then you can run a 5.80 (seconds), if not, you'll just struggle to hook the car back up for the rest of the run -- like I did. You just can't win races like that."

Powerplant woes plagued the rest of the Mopar stable as Funny Car shoe Gary Scelzi fell to Johnny Gray in the first round after a cylinder dropped mid-way through the quarter-mile run. The 42-year-old California resident posted a time of 4.972 seconds that translated to a speed of 301.00 mph. That pass was not enough to displace Gray's 4,864-second, 313.47 mph run.

"We thought we had this thing pretty much sorted out," Scelzi said. "We have this new supercharger that will go 12 to 14 runs. We stayed in Bristol and tested and have our clutch set up back and pretty much everything back to our beginning-of-the-year baseline. I went up against Johnny Gray in the first round and he jumped in the stage, whether on purpose or not, and I rushed myself into the stage. I didn't stage as deep as I normally do and all that does is help your reaction time, it doesn't do anything for the elapsed time of the car. We had our best 60-foot time and reaction time of the weekend. The bottom line was that 100 feet into the run, we dropped a cylinder and lost 750 horsepower. Why it did that, we don't know. Right now my crew chief is trying to figure out why our cylinder temperatures are so far apart when they should be closer. They're examining the supercharger to see what happened because it's not doing the same thing that (Whit) Bazemore's car (Schumacher teammate). The manufacturer does everything it can to make the superchargers consistent and we've had it on a blower dyno earlier in the season.

"We switched to these supercharger a few months ago and we're still chasing gremlins. It's disheartening because it will show us signs of promise, then it won't do what it's supposed to do," Scelzi continued. "You know, you just have to keep beating that rock with a hammer and soon enough, it will break into small pieces. That's what we're doing right now. The important thing is to keep everyone up and not let the guys get discouraged because this stuff will wear you thin. You'll have more bad days than good days in this business, but we're trying to change that. We'll get this together and make everyone at Dodge and Mopar happy and try to put a smile on Don Schumacher's face."

The Mopar Pro Stock racers were not able to advance to the quarterfinals this afternoon as engine troubles crushed all three drivers' efforts. Allen Johnson was the first Mopar to the line and his pass of 8.384 seconds/114.28 mph reflected the loss of horsepower when the engine dropped a cylinder midway through the run. Mark Pawuk advanced on the strength of a 200.92 mph run in just 6.862 seconds.

"This was very disappointing," Johnson noted. "About halfway through the run a cylinder dropped and destroyed the engine. I was looking forward to moving through the rounds and defending last year's win. It was just disappointing all around. We've got three or four other engines to work with and we'll get this team ready for Englishtown."

Darrell Alderman didn't fare any better with a new engine that was placed in his Hemi mount Sunday morning. Alderman logged a run of 6.853 seconds at 201.88 mph, which was his best pass of the weekend. However, it was not enough to beat Kurt Johnson's 6.825 second/202.94 mph effort.

"We had the best run of our weekend, but it just wasn't enough," Alderman said. " I thought we might have hurt the motor a little yesterday afternoon, and it proved out today to be hurt. So, we pulled it out this morning and put another bullet in and we made a better run all the way around. It's just a shame that we didn't do that in qualifying, because then we wouldn't have faced the guy who has been winning so much lately (Kurt Johnson). We'll just regroup and focus our efforts on Englishtown."

Greg Stanfield lined up against 2002 category champion Jeg Coughlin Jr., in the first round and posted a run of 6.894 seconds at 200.80 mph. Stanfield was not able to overcome Coughlin's showing of 6.829 seconds at 201.37 mph.

"I don't think the air here likes Hemis," Stanfield said. "We hurt the motor and I know that Allen Johnson how some problems, too. The motor was an issue and we didn't really get the combination for this track either. We started out O.K., but then things went downhill after the last qualifying run. We're going to regroup, get this car back together and get to the next race with smiles on our faces."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Greg Stanfield , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray , Don Schumacher