Commerce: Whit Bazemore interview

Q&A with defending Atlanta Funny Car Champion Whit Bazemore. * Defending Atlanta Funny Car champion (defeated John Force in 2002) * Second to Tony Pedregon in 2003 POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings * Reached semifinal...

Q&A with defending Atlanta Funny Car Champion Whit Bazemore.

* Defending Atlanta Funny Car champion (defeated John Force in 2002)

* Second to Tony Pedregon in 2003 POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings

* Reached semifinal round in the last five of six events; advanced to final twice; two-time runner-up

* Born in New York City, raised in Atlanta, father Chuck still lives in Atlanta with Bazemore's stepmother Kathy

TALK ABOUT YOUR SEASON SO FAR: "The Matco Tools Dodge team is in a good position. We've been to the semifinals five out of six times this season. And we've been to two finals. Our car's been a consistent, good performer. We're in the best position we could possibly be in to try to defend our title in Atlanta. And that's the most important thing -- to try to win each and every race and especially our first race of the year, and in particular the race in Atlanta, which is the place where being successful means a lot to me."

TALK ABOUT GROWING UP IN ATLANTA AND VISITING ATLANTA DRAGWAY: "I first went to Commerce back in 1977, as a sixth or seventh grader. My best friend was a car nut too, so our mothers let us out of school on Friday and took us up there. That was just tremendous. A couple of years later my parents would take me up on Friday and come pick me up on Sunday. I would walk to a hotel room not far from the track there at the intersection. Obviously, it's a place that has a lot of memories for me. I consider it a place where I grew up in a way. And I had goals to one day race there. And to achieve those goals and to ultimately win the race there is a dream come true."

TALK ABOUT THE CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE: "The championship is our ultimate goal and after we defeated (points leader) Tony Pedregon in the third round at Bristol last Sunday, for the first time I really feel that the championship is definitely attainable. We just have to stay very, very focused and continue to improve our car and make it happen. This is the earliest in the season I've ever been second and we have some good momentum. It's going to be a long year. It's going to be a tough, tough summer and fall, but we're in a good position and we have to keep grinding away."

WHAT'S THE PLAN? "For now and for the rest of the year, we're just going to concentrate on each run at a time, and we'll try to first qualify. It's no different in each race. We have to qualify first and then try to win the first round, then the second, just take it one run at a time."

YOU ARE AHEAD OF YOUR RIVAL JOHN FORCE: "History shows that you can't count Force out, certainly. We've built up a little cushion and it's good because I think at some point they're going to come back awfully strong and that's the kind of team that can easily go out and win four, five, six, seven races in a row. And they've done that many, many times. You can never count them out, and we're certainly not. This championship is going to be a very hard fought battle. My only hope is that we remain in the thick of it for the rest of the season. And whether we win it or not remains to be seen. But the fact that we can fight for it and contend for it -- that's really the goal -- is what means a lot."

YOUR TEAMMATES GARY SCELZI AND SCOTTY CANNON ARE STRUGGLING: "Our Matco Tools team has had a lot of success this year and my teammates haven't. It's frustrating for everyone on the team to see those guys struggle. They have unlimited potential -- Scotty and Gary both. When those guys turn the corner it's going to make our team even more competitive and it's going to help us. But more than that, I've become friends last year with Scotty and then this year with Gary, so I'd like to see those guys enjoy some of the success that we're having. Not that we've had a ton; we're still looking for our first win. But we're up there in the championship and I think it would be very cool if at the end of the year they're way up there in the championship too."

Nitro qualifying at Atlanta Dragway is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 2. Qualifying continues on Saturday, May 3, at 12 noon and 3:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 4.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force