Commerce: Whit Bazemore preview

Winning Atlanta is Bazemore's Main Goal COMMERCE, Ga. (May 11, 2004) - Whit Bazemore is smack in the middle of a tight battle for the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, and he's not going to sweat the past as he heads...

Winning Atlanta is Bazemore's Main Goal

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 11, 2004) - Whit Bazemore is smack in the middle of a tight battle for the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, and he's not going to sweat the past as he heads into the future. And the future for the driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, he hopes, includes winning the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals this weekend at Atlanta Dragway for the second time in his 17-year pro career.

Bazemore, who won here in 2002, has reached the final round two times this season, yet finds himself sixth in points after six races instead of fourth because of oildown penalties incurred at the last race at Bristol Dragway. That's history, he says. The two-time U.S. Nationals title-holder is still in the championship mix and is just 115 points out of first, 73 short of second, and a mere 29 from third.

"We're going to put this oildown situation behind us," he said. "We're not even trying to make up points for that. We're just trying to win races.

"Our car is running well, but for some reason we have a penchant lately for blowing the tires off at the hit of the throttle (which happened in the final round against John Force in Bristol), and that's something that Lee (Beard, crew chief) and the guys are working hard to address. I think when we can rectify that situation, we will end up even more competitive than we are now.

"It looks like we have tremendous potential, and we have a race-winning car and team. We have been to two finals this year. We're still a bit inconsistent and it's part of a new tire that we have and it's part of our new tune-up. It's a lot of new things all at once. When you look at that, honestly, I think the team is doing a great job with the cards that we've dealt ourselves and have been dealt. We're going to go and do the best we can, as we always do, and we should be competitive.

"If we could get to the semis at least then it will be a good weekend. If we can do anything more than that, it will be even better. It would be nice to win Atlanta again. It is my home track."

Bazemore, 41, was born in New York City and spent much of his youth in Atlanta where his father Chuck still resides. "I grew up in Atlanta," he said. "I first went to Atlanta Dragway in 1978 after school on a Friday. I have a lot of memories of being there. It was always my dream to race and to have won the race here in 2002 is really kind of special. We have a lot of family here. My dad brings a lot of his friends out. A lot of my friends come out. It's kind of a fun weekend in that regard."

Winning, however, takes precedence. "We're not here to visit, we're here to race and to win. That's the only thing we really care about, the only thing we're thinking about," said Bazemore, who has been runner-up twice in the Funny Car championship and would like nothing better than to claim his first championship crown this season.

Pro Nitro qualifying is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 14, and again at 12 noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 15. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, May 16.

ESPN2 will air coverage of qualifying on May 15, at 6 p.m. ET, with a repeat airing on May 16 at 3 a.m. ET. Eliminations are scheduled to air at 7 p.m. ET on May 16, and again on May 17 at 2 p.m.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force