Bazemore No. 5 in E'town Qualifying ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 17, 2003) -- With only two qualifying sessions available this weekend for the Funny Car class, as the first two of four were rained out on Friday, Whit Bazemore and his Matco Tools ...
Bazemore No. 5 in E'town Qualifying
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 17, 2003) -- With only two qualifying sessions available this weekend for the Funny Car class, as the first two of four were rained out on Friday, Whit Bazemore and his Matco Tools Distributor Special Dodge Stratus R/T team were out of the field when they came up for the final qualifying round as a result of a tire-smoking, pedaling pass in today's first session.
Bazemore and crew chief Lee Beard knew they had to do their jobs in this final run to make it into the field. Under cool conditions, Bazemore put together a conservative yet safe pass of 4.836/313.44 to be assured a spot in the field, placing him comfortably in No. 5 position for tomorrow's K&N Filters NHRA SuperNationals final eliminations.
"The situation was that we weren't qualified when we made our last attempt," said Bazemore, second in the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings. "We had to play it very, very safe and go down the race track because we know the Matco Tools Dodge is capable of running a mid-80 fairly effortlessly when we go A to B down the track in these kind of conditions. And that's what we did.
"We had to qualify first and the good news is we qualified, we're in the show and we're going to race tomorrow. When you're in that situation, no matter who you are, you leave yourself open to mechanical problems that can easily happen in this sport and we see them happen quite often. You lose a run and, boom, you're out of the show.
"You can't get nervous," he added. "You've just go do your job and focus and try to do the most perfect job you can. If the car does something out of the ordinary then you have to rely on your experience and your reactions. But, more than anything, you rely on experience to get it down the track. In our case the bump was 5.21 when we ran so I knew that if we smoked the tires past a certain point on the track, if I could get it to recover quickly enough, we could easily run a 5.21 and be qualified.
"As it turned out, the car was set up perfectly and went right down the track. I'd say the real pressure was on Beard and the rest of the guys. Actually, it's on the entire team. Every single person has to not make a mistake in that situation, but especially Lee. He had to give the car a tune-up that would see it go A to B. He's a master at that sort of thing and it showed today."
Going for the pole was not up for discussion, said Beard. "With only two qualifying sessions, there really is no room for error," he commented. "And obviously we made an error in the first qualifying session and smoked the tires. When you're in that position the only thing you can focus on is qualifying. Running for the pole is totally out of the question. Running a 4.83 put us fifth. That's a good shot for us. I wish we would have been in a position to run for the pole because certainly the Matco Tools Dodge is capable of being on the pole; it just wasn't to be today."
Bazemore has qualified in the top half of the field in each of the eight events in 2003, has reached the semifinals in six of the last seven races, as well as two finals, and will face Cruz Pedregon in the first round tomorrow.