Dallas: Whit Bazemore preview

Bazemore Has High Hopes for Dallas DALLAS, Texas (Sept. 22, 2004) - Five races still remain in the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, as the Reading, Pa., round was postponed until Oct. 8-10 because of Hurricane Ivan's wrath last weekend....

Bazemore Has High Hopes for Dallas

DALLAS, Texas (Sept. 22, 2004) - Five races still remain in the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, as the Reading, Pa., round was postponed until Oct. 8-10 because of Hurricane Ivan's wrath last weekend. So, the focus remains the same for Whit Bazemore and the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car camp for the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals: win rounds...and races.

With a 227-point deficit to John Force's Funny Car lead and just 21 points behind his teammate Gary Scelzi, third-place Bazemore is well aware of the challenge he's facing to collect his first Funny Car championship after two career runner-up finishes.

"The fact that Reading was postponed has nothing to do with how we'll deal with Dallas. We're approaching Dallas like any other race," said Bazemore, who holds the national elapsed time record of 4.713 seconds and is the fastest Funny Car driver on Earth (333.25 mph). "We're here with the full intention of winning, and the Matco Tools team is capable of winning, so that's the only result that's going to be positive or good for us.

"There are a handful of races left this year," he continued. "It would be tremendous for the Matco Tools team to win one or more of them."

The two-time U.S. Nationals champion holds the Funny Car track record at the Texas Motorplex of 4.753 seconds and, despite the lowering of the nitromethane percentage to 85 percent, Bazemore believes it's possible for the record to be broken this weekend. "I'd say, if the conditions are good here, it will definitely be possible to run a 4.75 or quicker under the new rules. But, in order for that to happen, we have to have the right conditions, with high pressure and coolish temperatures. If we have that, it's very possible that the fans might see the track record broken."

This event is also being held a few weeks earlier in the year than it has in the recent past to avoid conflicts with other Dallas-area sporting events. "It's early fall, it will be nice, and apparently it's going to be easier for the fans to decide what they're going to do this weekend," Bazemore said.

"That should help the attendance, which is always good. Attendance has really been up this year and the crowd at the U.S. Nationals was tremendous. It is very cool when places are sold out, hopefully that will continue at the Motorplex."

The NHRA teams will also arrive at a re-vamped facility following a reported multi-million-dollar renovation project commissioned by track owner Billy Meyer. "It's good," said Bazemore. "Billy Meyer is a former racer. He approaches that race track from a racer's perspective, which is refreshing for us. He's a racer at heart, so he built a great track back in the '80s and now he's upgraded it to be more on a level with our current super tracks, such as Chicago, Vegas, Bristol, etc. It's great to have a track owner who that takes pride in his facility and runs it like a true business.

"Billy set the standard. He built the first true super track and I think the sport will always appreciate him for that."

SCHEDULE: On Friday, Sept. 24, professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 25, pro qualifying continues at noon and 2:30 p.m., with final eliminations set to begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26.

TELEVISION: On Saturday, Sept. 25, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, Sept. 26, ESPN2 will televise two hours of final eliminations at 11 p.m. (ET).


* Two-time U.S. Nationals champion, 1997 and 2001

* Quickest and fastest Funny Car driver in NHRA history: 4.713-second ET (national record) at 333.25 mph

* Qualified No. 5 at 2003 O'Reilly NHRA Nationals, lost second round to Del Worsham

* Has not won at Texas Motorplex, but qualified No. 1 in 2001

* Has qualified in the top two in nine events so far in 2004

* No. 3 in NHRA Funny Car points after 18 races, with two wins, five final rounds

* First Funny Car driver to break 325-mph barrier (U.S. Nationals 2001)

* 2003 Funny Car points runner-up

* Won three times in 2003, runner-up five times

* Has 17 career Funny Car event wins

* Took the 2003 championship chase to penultimate race in Las Vegas in an exciting final round against eventual champion Tony Pedregon

* Was also second in the NHRA Funny Car championship in 2001, third in 1997 and '99 and has finished in the top five six times and 11 times in the top 10 since 1992

* Age 41, born in New York City, an avid cyclist, lives in Indianapolis with wife Michelle, a semi-pro cyclist

* 2004 is his fourth season with Don Schumacher Racing


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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher