Gateway Chuck Etchells Racing Preview

BAZEMORE LOOKS TO USE MADISON AS GATEWAY TO MORE THAN FIRST 1999 WIN Putnam, Connecticut, June 16, 1999 - Through the first ten races of the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season, Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team...


Putnam, Connecticut, June 16, 1999 - Through the first ten races of the 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing season, Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team have been consistently among the best in Funny Car. Their number one qualifying effort, two semi-final finishes, runner-up performance in Atlanta and current third place standing in the Winston championship points are the envy of many in their division. However, this record only serves to whet the Etchells crew's competitive appetite. This overwhelming desire can be fully satisfied by just one thing - winning. Therefore, Whit Bazemore sees no better opportunity than this weekend's Sears Craftsman Nationals at Gateway International Raceway to convert this unfulfilled capacity into reality.

"This Kendall Camaro team has tremendous potential," stated Bazemore. "We've certainly had our ups and down this year, but the team is jelling. I feel very confident all the time, and that is reflected in our performances. Tim and Kim (co-crew chiefs Richards) have done a tremendous job of making this car competitive at every event, and we're starting to show the consistency necessary to win. We're definitely a contender, and it's just a matter of finding that last little bit of performance that changes our luck and puts us over the top. I'm pumped up every time I climb into the car."

This weekend's race poses a new challenge for the world's fastest quarter-milers. In the first two years of this event, qualifying and eliminations were held primarily in the day, with teams and fans having to endure the sweltering heat of a Midwestern summer. In a move designed to offer all involved some relief, organizers have shifted the schedule, making this a nighttime affair. Besides the added physical comfort, on-track performance should show a marked improvement in all categories. Lower temperatures lead to more horsepower, which a cooler racing surface will easily handle. The burden will again fall on Etchells' top wrench Tim Richards and all the crew chiefs to interpret what the new conditions will mean to setting up the racecar, as their notes from the first two events will be of little use. Whit Bazemore, however, will be ready to race under any conditions.

"It will definitely be easier running at night," explained Bazemore. "But, honestly, I like the heat as well. I believe that the more fit you are, the better it is to drive when it's hot. When it was hot the last two weekends, I was much more comfortable in the car than outside it. It's all part of the mindset. But, we do love racing at night. This is the first of two night races in a row, and it can't get too dark!"

In addition to the normal desire to win at any NHRA national event, Whit Bazemore has an extra incentive for capturing the victory at the Sears Craftsman Nationals. Following Phil Burkhart's win in Columbus two weeks ago, Bazemore is no longer automatically qualified for the high-dollar Winston Showdown in Bristol, Tennessee. The Madison event represents his last opportunity to guarantee himself a spot in this prestigious race, and Bazemore plans on taking full advantage of it.

"I'm disappointed that we're no longer pre-qualified for the Winston Showdown, because there's a chance I might not get to drive there," said Bazemore. "Chuck (team owner Etchells) is guaranteed a position, so he may race the Kendall Camaro there if I'm not automatically in. But I really want to drive in Bristol, and the only way to ensure that is to go win St. Louis this weekend.

As a driver, being in a must-win situation doesn't add more pressure, because it just makes me more hungry and aggressive. The bigger the burden the better I like it, and the better I perform. You don't want to put yourself in the position that you have to win a race, but in this case we have. But this is a team that expects to win, and we're just going to do whatever it takes to make it happen. I feel good and ready."

BAZEMORE BANTER: This event marks Whit's 1st anniversary of driving a Camaro Z28 Funny Car, as he made his Bow Tie debut here last year....Bazemore is looking for his first win as driver of the Kendall Camaro.....Bazemore looks to improve upon last year's semi-final finish.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 3rd annual Sears Craftsman Nationals, the eleventh event on the 22-race 1999 NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series Schedule.

WHEN: June 24-26, 1999

WHERE: Gateway International Raceway, Madison, Illinois

SCHEDULE: Nitro qualifying sessions start with two sessions on Thursday, June 24 at 5:00 & 9:00 p.m., and conclude on Friday, June 25 with two rounds at 5:00 and 9:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 26.

TV: ABC will air one hour of tape-delayed final-round coverage from 3-4 p.m. on Sunday, July 4. (All times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Chuck Etchells , Tim Richards