Gainesville: Whit Bazemore preview

Track Speed Record Holder Bazemore Says New Record A Longshot GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2004) - Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, went out on a limb last year and predicted that the 330-mph Funny...

Track Speed Record Holder Bazemore Says New Record A Longshot

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2004) - Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, went out on a limb last year and predicted that the 330-mph Funny Car barrier would be broken at the Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway following re-paving of the track.

His prediction proved wrong, as the cars were barely able to reach 300 mph, let alone 330. On the plus side, this enabled Bazemore to maintain the track top-speed record he established in 2003, of 324.32 mph. Since last year's event here, the 330-mph barrier been demolished, first by Bazemore's teammate Gary Scelzi (330.15 mph), then by Tony Pedregon (331.28 mph) and Bazemore himself (333.25 mph) - all at Route 66 Raceway in May 2004. The fastest NHRA Funny Car speed now stands at 333.58 mph, set by John Force at Route 66 Raceway in Oct. 2004.

So, with a year of seasoning, will Gainesville Raceway regain its reputation as one of the fastest quarter-miles on the NHRA schedule? After all, it's where the first 260-, 270- and 300-mph Top Fuel runs were made.

"The track should be better than it was last year," says Bazemore, whose career-best numbers are now 4.713 ET, 333.25 mph, "but NHRA recently lost Chad Head to the IRL who was in charge of preparing the track and he did a great job.

"I don't know if Chad is going to be in Gainesville or not. If he is, the track should definitely be better than it was last year when it received new pavement. If he isn't there then it's very likely the surface itself and the condition of the race track are going to be a question mark as far as we're concerned. It's hard to say."

Setting records, however, is not Bazemore's priority, as he enters the third race of the season fifth in points, following a semifinal finish at at the season-opener in Pomona, Calif., and a first-round win in Phoenix. Winning is atop his list.

"Speaking about our Matco Tools Dodge team and our own car," he says, "we definitely found a major problem that we've had that's been affecting our performance all year. Lee (Beard, crew chief) and the boys found the problem and fixed it and went out and tested the car on Monday after Phoenix and it ran a lot better. With that situation corrected I think our team stands a really good chance of performing better than we have so far this year, which has me excited."

Bazemore has 17 national events to his credit but has never won at Gainesville in his 16-year pro career. "It's a good race, it's a big race, and it's a race that we dearly would love to win. We're very motivated. But that's kind of the normal attitude for us. It doesn't matter if it's Gainesville, or East Podunk, we still want to win the race."

SCHEDULE: On Friday, March 18, pro qualifying sessions are at 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. On Saturday, March 19, pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. On Sunday, March 20, final eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION: On Sunday, March 20, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 12:30 a.m. (ET).Also, on Sunday, March 20, ESPN2 will telecast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET). And, again on Sunday, March 20, ESPN2 will televise two hours of final eliminations at 5 p.m. (ET).

WHIT BAZEMORE QUICK FACTS:

* Two-time U.S. Nationals champion, 1997 and 2001

* Fifth in 2005 Funny Car point standings after two events

* Qualified No. 2 at 2004 Gatornationals, lost first round to Cory Lee

* Qualified in the top two in nine events in 2004, four times in No. 1

* No. 6 in 2004 Funny Car points, with two wins, five final rounds

* First Funny Car driver to break 325-mph barrier (U.S. Nationals 2001)

* Career quickest ET is 4.713 seconds, career fastest speed is 333.25 mph, both set at Route 66 Raceway in 2004 in what was at the time the quickest and fastest speed in Funny Car history

* Won three times in 2003, runner-up five times

* Has 17 career Funny Car event wins

* Took the 2003 championship chase to penultimate race in Las Vegas in an exciting final round against eventual champion Tony Pedregon

* Was second twice in the Funny Car championship in 2001 and 2003, third in 1997 and '99 and has finished in the top five six times and 12 times in the top 10 since 1992

* Age 41, born in New York City, an avid cyclist, lives in Indianapolis with wife Michelle, a competitive amateur cyclist, and son Dashiell Aidan, born March 12, 2005

* 2005 is his fifth season with Don Schumacher Racing

-dsr-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cory Lee , Don Schumacher , Chad Head