Bazemore weeking another second half sharge beginning at Denver MORRISON, Colo. - Whit Bazemore was so impressive in the second half of the 2001 season, many people chose the Indianapolis resident as a serious threat to deny John Force a 10th ...
Bazemore weeking another second half sharge beginning at Denver
MORRISON, Colo. - Whit Bazemore was so impressive in the second half of the 2001 season, many people chose the Indianapolis resident as a serious threat to deny John Force a 10th straight Funny Car championship in 2002.
With 11 races remaining on the schedule, Bazemore finds himself in the No. 5 spot of the standings, 199 points behind Force, who sits atop the standings for the first time since early May after his win at St. Louis. Luckily for Bazemore, the next time he aims for the winner's circle, he'll be in a very comfortable setting.
Bazemore will try to move up in the standings when he competes at the 23rd annual Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals, July 18-21, at picturesque Bandimere Speedway. The $1.8 million race is the 13th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
The 39-year-old Bazemore has three final round appearances (1997, 1999-2000) and has been to the winner's circle twice ('97, '00) at Denver, including a win over his current teammate Scotty Cannon two years ago. He also has scored the No. 1 qualifying spot four times at Bandimere, including the first four-second run in the facilities history in 2000. With the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals being the first of three races on consecutive weekends (Seattle and Sonoma, Calif.), a win at the opening race of what has become known as the 'West Coast Swing' could give Bazemore the momentum needed to challenge rival Force for the title.
"We're at the point of the year where it is vitally important to us to make a strong rebound, and honestly, the West Coast Swing is the best time for us to start that," said Bazemore. "We have done especially well when we head back west and especially in Denver. It's been a great race for me and we have always run well there. It's with tremendous optimism that this Matco Tools team starts off well in Denver."
Bazemore's performance at the beginning of the year was disappointing considering he had qualified his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird No. 1 at nine of the last 12 events in 2001, winning three times and finishing a career-best second in the final Funny Car standings. After the first four races this season, Bazemore lost in the first round three times. Bazemore then qualified No. 1 at Houston and advanced to the semifinals and then scored back-to-back wins at Bristol, Tenn. and Atlanta. He followed his win streak with another semifinal appearance, but then posted three first round losses (two of them to Force) in the next four events giving him six opening round defeats in 12 races. He had three all of last year.
"We have to win two or three of the next seven races starting with Denver," said Bazemore. "We have to consistently go rounds every weekend and if we can do that we will be strong and be able to challenge for the championship. We have way more first round losses than we ever imagined we could have with this team. It's been really up and down, but you can't predict these things. In this business there is absolutely no guarantee of success. You can't buy success, you have to create it."
Prior to the 2002 season, Bazemore's team owner, Don Schumacher, added a second Funny Car to the team to be driven by the eccentric Scotty Cannon. The two-car team has paid dividends in its initial year producing two wins (both by Bazemore) in four final round appearances and the No. 5 and No. 6 spots in the standings for Bazemore and Cannon respectively.
"Don't think that a two-car team is absolutely essential," said Bazemore. "It reflects that all the top level teams are two-car teams. (Don) Prudhomme's team has always been good, Force obviously, our team was good last year and you have the Worsham family, who have run awfully well this year. It is beneficial to have two cars if it is done right. But another part of that, the reason why nine of the top 10 are two-car teams is because they would be the top cars anyway. They would be a top team no matter what."