POINTS LEADER BAZEMORE SET TO DEFEND HIS 2004 TITLE IN ATLANTA COMMERCE, Ga. (May 11, 2005) - Whit Bazemore is enjoying the limelight as the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader, the only driver to have won twice in that class...
POINTS LEADER BAZEMORE SET TO DEFEND HIS 2004 TITLE IN ATLANTA
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 11, 2005) - Whit Bazemore is enjoying the limelight as the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points leader, the only driver to have won twice in that class this year, and as the defending Funny Car champion coming into the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway this weekend, the seventh of 23 national events in 2005.
The icing on the cake is that he calls this dragstrip in Commerce, Ga., his home track. Growing up in Atlanta, his dad used to drop him off at the track to watch the drag races, then pick him up at the end of the day. As a youngster he dreamed of competing here in a Funny Car. He achieved that goal and has earned two victories here, including 2004, when he beat his teammate Gary Scelzi for the trophy. He also won in 2002 and was runner-up in 1999.
"We've done well here," said the driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing who is seeking his first Funny Car championship crown. "We're excited. We're rolling into Atlanta in the points lead, which is a goal that I've always had and it's a track that has suited our Matco Tools Dodge and we've had good success here. (Crew chief) Lee (Beard) and the guys have a handle on it.
"This year the track prep has been a lot different than it has been in the past, so it may be a different type of race track. We'll just have to see.
"It's my home track and so we always have a lot of friends and family here, and it's always exciting to show off a little bit."
Bazemore held onto the points lead despite a first-round loss at Bristol Dragway two weekends ago, as the other two top contenders for the No. 1 spot also lost in the first round. He holds a 58-point cushion over John Force, a 60-point lead over Cruz Pedregon, is 63 points ahead of his teammate Gary Scelzi and 73 over Robert Hight in fifth.
Admittedly, Bazemore has not won two races this year with the fastest or quickest car. Strategy, driving talent and luck played a huge part. With the points spread between the top five so thin, he knows it will be tough to maintain top-dog status.
"We'll see. We tested in Bristol and we feel good about what we did there," said Bazemore. "We'll see how it goes in Atlanta. I'm not going to predict anything.
"Obviously Bristol worked in our favor a little bit, despite a first-round loss. Force and Hight going out early was key. It's great that our teammate Scelzi came up and won that race. That's a car and team that, quite honestly, should probably be where we are. They're definitely going to be a strong team that we're going to have to face for the rest of the year, I'm sure, but especially this next set of races coming up."
Atlanta begins a three-race back-to-back sweep, followed by a weekend off and another three-race sweep. Bazemore, wife Michelle and new son Dashiell will travel together cross-country in their motor coach.
"To have basically six races in seven weeks is a lot, but it's fun," said Bazemore, who calls Indianapolis his home now. "It's what we do. I love racing. We'll just get the oil changed in the Marathon coach and we'll be on the road.
"It's going to be different traveling with Dashiell, but I'm really excited about it. I'm really looking forward to it. I think it's going to be fun. It's a lot of travel, a lot of races, but it's what we want."
And these back-to-back races are good from a racing standpoint. "It gives you an opportunity, if you're on a roll a little bit, to pick up some good momentum," he added.