Bazemore, Anderson, Drive Pontiac Firebirds To Victory At Indy INDIANAPOLIS, September 3, 2001 - Whit Bazemore and Greg Anderson drove their Pontiac Firebirds into the winner's circle at the 47th annual U.S. Nationals today at Indianapolis...
Bazemore, Anderson, Drive Pontiac Firebirds To Victory At Indy
INDIANAPOLIS, September 3, 2001 - Whit Bazemore and Greg Anderson drove their Pontiac Firebirds into the winner's circle at the 47th annual U.S. Nationals today at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Bazemore defeated Tony Pedregon to claim his second U.S. Nationals Funny Car victory while Greg Anderson knocked off Mark Osborne in the Pro Stock championship.
For Bazemore, it was the culmination of a dominating weekend in which the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird ran the quickest and fastest lap in NHRA Funny Car history on Saturday night with a light-speed pass of 4.756 seconds at 325.69 mph. Although he stumbled slightly Sunday with his runner-up performance to Frank Pedregon in the title round of the Budweiser Shootout, Bazemore entered the Monday eliminator qualified in the No. 1 position and loaded for bear.
The 38-year-old Indy resident defeated Al Hofmann in round one, Del Worsham in round two and Ron Capps in round three before squaring off against Pedregon. For most of the afternoon, Bazemore's Firebird recorded strong, consistent performance numbers including a 4.940 e.t. in round one and a 4.922 e.t. in round two. Against Capps Camaro in round three, Bazemore dodged a bullet when he hazed the tires at halftrack. Capps' tire smoke was more severe allowing the Matco Tools Pontiac to cross the finish line first in 5.099 seconds, but the result gave final-round lane choice to Pedregon.
The title heat was all Bazemore. The Matco Tools Pontiac driver launched first and never gave an inch crossing the finish line in 4.971 seconds at 298.14 mph. Pedregon's Ford followed in 5.123 seconds at 275.06 mph.
"To win Indy is everything," said Bazemore. "The U.S. Nationals is what this sport is all about. You struggle, and you dream and you look at other people ahead of you and you ask, 'what do they have that I don't have?' You just keep plugging away and suddenly you've won Indy - twice! It's an unbelievable thing - you pinch yourself. It's so hard to win any of these races and to win Indy means a lot. In '97 we got to the finals for the first time and I was telling myself how rare these opportunities come - do not throw it away! You can't be defensive though. You have to be really aggressive and that's what I was thinking today."
This weekend's U.S. Nationals was another example of just how strong the Schumacher Racing Funny Car team has been since the beginning of the season's second half in July at Pomona. In the last six races, Bazemore's Firebird has won two national events, raced in four final rounds, won 17 rounds of eliminations, been No. 1 qualifier five times and climbed from sixth place to second place in the Winston points standings. Today's U.S. Nationals victory marked Bazemore's ninth career win.
"This Pontiac Firebird has just been a tremendous racecar," said Bazemore. "Pontiac and GM Racing have done a great job with us, Reynard has helped us and it was a tremendous effort from everyone. To beat those guys, you have to make the same effort that they make and then you have to turn it up a notch. That's the only way you can beat them and that's what we're trying to do. We're racing to win and whether we're second place or fifth place it doesn't matter. What matters is winning the championship and that's what were trying to do."
For Greg Anderson, it was the second time that he'd appeared in a U.S. Nationals final round. He was runner-up to Warren Johnson in '99, but this time he didn't let the opportunity slip away.
Driving one of the '00 Firebirds, Anderson demonstrated during Sunday time trials that he'd be tough to beat. After jumping to the No. 2 spot during qualifying, he defeated Hurley Blakeney, Mike Edwards and Bruce Allen before matching up with Osborne in the finals.
Anderson held lane choice all day running 6.948 seconds in round one, 6.953 second in round two and 6.970 seconds in the semifinals. In the championship stanza, Osborne left the line fine, but Anderson's Pontiac Firebird ran down the Dodge, tripping the timers in 6.958 seconds with a trap speed of 198.58 mph. Osborne tallied a 7.016 e.t. at 198.70 mph. It marked the second time this year, and the second time in his career that the 40-year-old North Carolinian had won a Winston national drag racing event.
"I can't believe it happened," said Anderson. "How in the world did I win Indy? I probably had my worst day of driving but that Pontiac Firebird was awesome. It outran everybody all day long. When it's your day, it's your day I guess. The Big Man upstairs was looking down on us.
"We came here last Tuesday to test and realized we had a pretty good car. The first three runs this weekend were okay, but the fourth run was flawless. We ended up No. 2 and almost ended up on the pole. We knew we had a car that would qualify we just didn't realize how good it was. I can't believe we were that fast - it was just incredible.
"The Pontiac Firebird is not the new style car, so you'd like to think that as soon as we get our new Grand Am we'll really be fast. I got to the finals here two years ago against Warren (Johnson) and that was a storybook deal. I didn't think we'd ever get a chance to get to another finals at Indy, but we did and this time, everything worked out. It's just a fantastic feeling."
In the Sportsman categories, Peter Biondo of Mount Laurel, N.J. won in Super Stock in an '00 Pontiac Firebird.
The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the 17th annual Keystone Nationals on September 13 - 16 at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa.