Denver: Whit Bazemore preview

Bazemore gets high on Bandimere DENVER, Colo. (July 14, 2003) - While many Funny Car teams head into the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals with trepidation, as the altitude and thin air can play havoc with the performance of their ...

Bazemore gets high on Bandimere

DENVER, Colo. (July 14, 2003) - While many Funny Car teams head into the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals with trepidation, as the altitude and thin air can play havoc with the performance of their supercharged 6000-plus-horsepower motors, Whit Bazemore and his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus team -- which will introduce the Mopar 'Bling Bling' Dodge Stratus.paint scheme here -- are high on Bandimere Speedway.

"Bandimere is a great track," says the two-time Denver winner, in 1997 and 2000, and runner-up in 1999. "It's a very hard race due to the altitude. There are great great fans here. It's one of those races that you really look forward to because of the tremendous facility, the city and the fans."

"In the early days of my career when I had my own team and we were on a very very tight budget, I dreaded going to Denver because it was so different," he adds. "We had to change the car so much that it was kind of a crapshoot and it's really easy to blow stuff up here. I was always really nervous that we were going to blow the car up and if we had only one supercharger in the trailer we were going to be done. It ended up that we never really had big problems, and a lot of other people had. As time went on we became more competitive and we started having good results here."

Bazemore, who is second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Funny Car point standings, just 143 points behind Tony Pedregon, remembers his 1997 victory at Bandimere:

"My favorite moment was in 1997 when we beat Chuck Etchells in a tire-smoking final round. Chuck is someone I consider to be one of the masters of getting down 'bad' race tracks and we beat him. That was really rewarding."

Another career highlight came at this track in 2000, when Bazemore recorded the first four-second Funny Car pass ever made at Bandimere Speedway while winning his second event at the facility. "That was very cool," he recalls.

The Dodge Stratus body should have an advantage here, adds Bazemore. "It's a track where aerodynamics plays a more important role than ever because of the altitude. Our Dodge Stratuses are very aerodynamically efficient so that will definitely help. If we have a good result here it will be in large part due to the body and the effort of the Dodge engineers."

Bazemore is in contention for his first NHRA Funny Car driver's championship this season, having reached the semifinal round in nine of the 12 events so far and winning two titles after advancing to five finals. As the season is now in its second-half stretch, his goal to take over the No. 1 spot from John Force's team driver Pedregon is even stronger. "We're continuously trying to improve the car and we've got a great team," he says, "so we expect to win more races and be a little stronger in the championship. We're still chasing the No. 1 team and John Force's second car. For overall performance they're the class of the field right now. We're not far behind. We're trying to get to that level and we know we can. That's what we're trying to do."

Crew Chief Lee Beard a Colorado native

Whit Bazemore's Matco Tools Dodge crew chief Lee Beard arrived in Colorado a week early to "do some fly-fishing" and visit friends and family in Pueblo, Colorado, where he was born. Beard graduated from Central High School in Pueblo, about 100 miles South of Denver. He went on to earn an Industrial Arts degree from the University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo before leaving in 1975 to pursue his drag-racing career. Beard, who now lives in Indianapolis, worked for Kenny Bernstein (Sept. 1997-2000), Bruce Sarver (1997), Joe Gibbs Racing (1995-1996), Larry Minor Motorsports (1992-1994), Gary Ormsby (1983-1991), Jim Barnard (1982) and Jerry Ruth Racing (1976-1981). He joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2001. Beard also drove Top Fuel dragsters and Funny Cars in the early 1970s.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Don Schumacher
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing