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FUNNY CAR: EPLER WINS SECOND RACE OF YEAR IN WWF RACING CAMARO Z28 The final round of the Funny Car category saw only the fourth ever all-Camaro final round in NHRA history, as Jim Epler and Whit Bazemore faced off to win the most prestigious...


The final round of the Funny Car category saw only the fourth ever all-Camaro final round in NHRA history, as Jim Epler and Whit Bazemore faced off to win the most prestigious event on the NHRA circuit.

JIM EPLER, WWF RACING 'BIG RED MACHINE' CAMARO Z28, enjoyed redemption, not because he won the final round against WHIT BAZEMORE, KENDALL OIL/MATCO TOOLS CAMARO Z28, to claim his second title win of the season, but because he trounced his and his teammate Jerry Toliver's fiercest rival for the championship, John Force, in the second round with a 4.986-second elapsed time at 295.79 mph to Force's 5.048/314.90. This was Epler's first U.S. Nationals title win. He was runner-up here last year.

Epler defeated Bazemore with a 5.017-second pass at 285.41 mph, as Bazemore's Camaro smoked its tires at half-track, slowing Whit to a 5.968/197.19 pass. This was Epler's fourth Funny Car win of his career, and the second of the season (he won in Las Vegas). Epler's record against Bazemore now stands 4 to 6. The last time the pair duked it out was in Englishtown in 1999.

EPLER: "After losing to Force in the Shootout out yesterday, I knew that the only thing that would make me feel better was to take him out today. That was so big. I had a lot of fun in this race today." YOU WERE ONE ROUND SHORT LAST YEAR AND NOW YOU'VE WON: "I've had to think about that all year. This is my anniversary with Toliver Racing and WWF. I came here for my first race with them. We had an outstanding race. We had put the whole team together in about two weeks, came out here and had a runner-up. I went out there and I rattled. I have been sick about that ever since. I have always been dreaming about winning Indy. That was huge, especially after yesterday. I was sick about that, losing that final round to Force. But we came out here to earn points. The money ($100,000 for the Shootout win) is nice, but to win this race has been career-building for me." ON WINNING THIS RACE FOR WWF: "This is the one race that everyone dreams of winning. When I started in Funny Car in '93 we had a decent budget, we did OK. We had the first ever 300 mph run, won a race. In '93 I sold my business and decided to do this full-time. I had to make a living with this. It's tough, (good) budgets make you win. I used to go to races to try to build sponsorship money and to win every race. The support we get from WWF is not just financial. It's a great sponsorship; the entertainment value is second to none. We are going to play this up big. The NHRA gets a lot of exposure on the WWF (T.V.) program. It's good for all of us in the sport to be associated with WWF and to make the most of this U.S. Nationals win." ON THIS U.S. NATIONALS WEEK: "We had 10 runs here; it's been grueling. This is a tough deal; it's been a week long. Our guys did an outstanding job. We really didn't hurt a part, the Camaro has been flawless every run. The last run should have been a .92, but a breather hose came off and it started smoking at the (finish) lights. I didn't see Baze; I didn't look over. At the U.S. Nationals you don't do that."

BAZEMORE: "It's tremendously disappointing because it's the U.S. Nationals. You only have so many chances at this race and you get so close you can virtually taste it, but then it slips away. The key came yesterday when we got down the track without smoking the tires on the Camaro. We were able to tickle it for this morning and improve on our 5.08 (qualifying time) in the first round. After that, we adjusted it some more and ran the 4.95, which was a tremendous effort by the Etchells Racing team and Terry (crew chief Manzer). Then the track got a little better and we didn't catch it. We're still not totally on top of the car, so in the semis against Cruz (Pedregon) I had to pedal it, and we were lucky, because it looked like I was a tick behind him, and we weren't catching him. We were definitely going to get beat, but he had a problem downtrack and we passed him and won. We tuned the car up a little bit for the final to fix that problem, and just didn't get it done."

RON CAPPS, U.S. TOBACCO CO. CAMARO Z28, advanced to the semifinal round after defeating BOB GILBERTSON, TRICK TANK CAMARO Z28, and Bruce Sarver, before meeting up with JIM EPLER in the semifinal round. Ron had the edge with a .515 reaction time to Epler's .527, but it was Epler at the finish as Capps faltered to a 5.058-second pass at 293.97 mph to Epler's winning 4.923/305/98. In the second round against Sarver Ron posted the quickest lap of the weekend, a 4.903.

CAPPS: "We really felt confident, even though we lost that first round in the Shootout. We knew how good the Camaro was running, so we were very confident about today. To show up at at the track and to see how overcast and how cool it would be really played into our hands. We ran a 4.99 in the first round; we were just one of two cars to run under five seconds. But that run was very soft. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) told me how soft that run was and that he was going to get after it. I wasn't surprised it ran the 4.90 (in the next round); I expected it. When conditions are cool we have a good race car. We showed that when we ran a 4.88 when it was overcast and cool in Dallas and that's how it was here. It gave us lane choice against Epler. Unfortunately, we had a slide valve (in the fuel system) that malfunctioned in that run, so it decided to give up and run only a 5.05. My hat's off to Epler's team for stepping up and running a 4.92. We expected to run a mid or high .80; I'm disappointed. We had a good chance to win that race. But the good news is that we gained some points on (Jerry) Toliver, on (John) Force and Tony (Pedregon). That's the bright side. We know we've got to run Epler in the first round at Englishtown (the rescheduled rained-out event where the qualifying field is already set). We owe them a couple."

CRISTEN POWELL, BAZEMORE RACING NITROFISH CAMARO Z28, was eliminated in the first round by Cruz Pedregon: 5.573/179.21 for Powell; 5.123/277.72 for Pedregon.

POWELL: It's always a letdown, but we all know it was on an awesome pass. We were estimating a low .90, which would have been awesome. It was the blower belt, and there's only so much control we have over that. But I think that everyone knows it was on a good run, and we had a chance to win this race. But to go out and debut like we did and qualify fifth and have four really, really decent runs, we couldn't be happier."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Sarver , Jim Epler , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Cruz Pedregon , Jerry Toliver