Denver: Bazemore qualifies infirst

Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Motor Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 Racing Team were under a lot of pressure as they came to the line for the final qualifying session at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. After all, they had struggled...

Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Motor Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 Racing Team were under a lot of pressure as they came to the line for the final qualifying session at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals. After all, they had struggled throughout the weekend to get a handle on a tricky Bandimere Speedway racing surface, and their best effort of 5.771 seconds found them outside the top sixteen required to make Sunday's final eliminations. Finally, as the first car to make attempt in the final session, their time would have to be quick enough to guarantee they would not be bumped out. All fears were quickly allayed, however, as Bazemore blasted down the Colorado quarter-mile in a track record 5.026 seconds with a top speed of 302.82 mph (the first 300 mph pass under new crew chief Terry Manzer). This gave Bazemore his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season and seventh of his career. This also marked Terry Manzer's second consecutive pole position at this event, having tuned Tim Wilkerson to the top spot here in 1999. Ironically, Bazemore's first round opponent will be Wilkerson, whom Bazemore defeated in their last encounter in Brainerd, MN a year ago.

"We were actually pretty nervous going into the final session because of all the problems we had experienced during the weekend. Our car really hadn't handled well and kept blowing the tires off. I knew if it smoked the tires anyway before half-track it was going to be really hard to run anything better than a 5.50, which would not have gotten us in. But it's a credit to the entire Kendall/Matco team that we were able to pull together. Terry (crew chief Manzer) made the right call on the tune-up, the overcast skies helped to lower the temperature and cool the track, which gave us more traction, and we were able to rip off an '.02.

"On one hand, that run was a surprise, but then again, we had good numbers in the early part of all our runs this weekend. We all knew that if we could get our Camaro to the finish line, the odds would be very good that we'd be competitive, and in essence that's what happened.

"But tomorrow - race day - is really critical. There's as much pressure on us tomorrow, if not more than we had today, simply because we've had a tough season. Everyone on this Etchells Racing team knows how to win, and to a certain extent, expect to win. We just haven't gotten the job done yet this year. We have to go out and make sure not to make mistakes, whether it's with the car or the driver. If we can get the car to go down the racetrack, we're going to be fine. If we can win a couple rounds, we can win a couple more. We've won here before and like this place. I'd like nothing more than to turn our year around right now."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Tim Wilkerson