Englishtown Chuck Etchells Preview

BAZEMORE, TEAM KENDALL PREPARE FOR ENGLISHTOWN "LAUNCHING PAD" Putnam, Connecticut, May 14, 1999 - In order to make a run capable of breaking one of the National Hot Rod Association's records in the Funny Car division, many factors must be ...

BAZEMORE, TEAM KENDALL PREPARE FOR ENGLISHTOWN "LAUNCHING PAD"

Putnam, Connecticut, May 14, 1999 - In order to make a run capable of breaking one of the National Hot Rod Association's records in the Funny Car division, many factors must be completely aligned. First, the racecar must be in perfect condition, its engine tuned to produce as much horsepower as possible, with the clutch adjusted to take this power and effectively convert it into speed. The driver must do his job as well, with no mistakes, keeping his fuel coupe straight and planted to the ground. In addition, the weather and racetrack must also cooperate. Temperatures must remain cool, with little or no sun to heat the asphalt. Finally, the racing surface must be of the proper texture to give the giant Goodyear racing slicks sufficient traction to create the necessary speed.

Of the many stops on the NHRA's Winston Drag Racing circuit, there are only a few facilities that meet all these requirements. Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, site of this weekend's Mopar Parts Nationals, is such a speedplant, and Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team can hardly wait to get there.

"Englishtown has a really good pavement," stated Bazemore. "When they repaved it several years ago, they used a nice, tight asphalt, which has proven to be the best that we race on. Mid-May in New Jersey is also perfect weather, because it's in the low to mid 70's with the sun out, and it's near sea level, which makes for really good atmospheric conditions. When you combine that with an excellent surface you have the recipe for outstanding performance. Over the last few years Raceway Park has shown that if it isn't the top track we race on, then it's one of the top two or three.

It's a horsepower track, which means you can stand on your car a lot harder and it's tougher to smoke the tires. If you make a mistake, you can get away with it a lot easier than on a marginal track. If you go outside the envelope at those tracks, you're definitely going to have a problem. At Englishtown, you can stretch the envelope more easily, and instead of losing a run, you might find yourself with low E.T.. Anytime you're faced with running your career best is really exciting for me. I'm looking for big things there this weekend."

But before being able to run at Raceway Park, the Etchells team will have had to recover from the race in Atlanta held only four days before. This is the second weekend of consecutive races this season, and unlike their counterparts on the oval tracks, teams cannot simply unload last week's car and replace it with a fresh model made specifically for that facility. Instead, they must compress a week's worth of work into a few days, not including the time necessary to get to the next track. Further complicating this assignment is that all repairs are done on the road, away from their Lansing, Michigan race shop.

"Back-to-back races puts the team under a lot more stress," explained Bazemore. "We may rebuild the car in ninety minutes between rounds on raceday, but during the week there's a lot more to it. Normally, it takes several days to properly service the car and another few days, if we have the parts, to rebuild up to nine motors from the last race. Doing it in less than four days is a strain on the crew and its resources.

But as a driver, I love racing every weekend. These fuel Funny cars are so violent, fast and quick that to really do well in them, you've got to make it feel like a second home. That feeling comes a lot easier if you race every week."

In addition to their natural drive to succeed, the Etchells team has additional motivation for doing well here this weekend. Raceway Park is the "home" track for their primary sponsor, and several dignitaries from Kendall Motor Oil are expected to be in attendance. The Englishtown race is also one the events most steeped in tradition, and along with Indianapolis, Gainesville and Pomona, is among the most cherished victories on tour. The Kendall crew has claimed the win twice here, and now looks to add another with a new driver.

"Our goal is to put ourselves in a position to win," said Bazemore. "In order to do that at Englishtown, we're going to have to run awfully well. We're focused and feel good about what we're doing. This is a strong-minded team, which is rubbing off on me. I have tremendous respect for Tim Richards. This team has done an incredible job of changing this car since Gainesville, and trying to adapt the new combination to different conditions. But it's coming around, and there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel, especially when you compare us to some the other top teams that are going through the same changes. If there's anyone who can upset the team leading the points right now, it's either the Interstate car or the Kendall Camaro. We will have to see if our tune-up is refined enough at Englishtown to go after him. It will take a big effort on our part, but this team looks forward to the challenge."

BAZEMORE BANTER: This will be Whit's 10th appearance at Raceway Park, but 1st in a Camaro, and he looks to improve upon his semi-final finish from 1995 & 1998....Bazemore is looking for his first win as driver of the Kendall Camaro.....Bazemore's best qualifying performance at this event is 5th.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 30th annual Mopar Parts Nationals, the eighth event on the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.

WHEN: May 20-23, 1999

WHERE: Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, New Jersey

SCHEDULE: Pro qualifying sessions start with two sessions on Friday, May 21 at 2:45 & 6:45 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, May 22 with two rounds at 11:15 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 23.

TV: ESPN will air two-hours of same-day final-round coverage from 7-9 p.m. on Sunday, May 16 (Local time). In addition, ESPN2 will have one hour of qualifying highlights from 8-9 p.m. on Saturday, May 15 and two hours of first round coverage from 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, May 16 (All Speedvision times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Chuck Etchells , Tim Richards