IT'S A SPECIAL RACE, SAYS TWO-TIME U.S. NATIONALS CHAMP BAZEMORE CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 29, 2006) - The U.S. Nationals is a special race, says Whit Bazemore, who has won this prestigious event twice in his career in the Funny Car class, in 1997...
IT'S A SPECIAL RACE, SAYS TWO-TIME U.S. NATIONALS CHAMP BAZEMORE
CLERMONT, Ind. (Aug. 29, 2006) - The U.S. Nationals is a special race, says Whit Bazemore, who has won this prestigious event twice in his career in the Funny Car class, in 1997 and 2001. He was also runner-up in 2000 and No. 1 qualifier in 2001.
This weekend's 52nd annual running of the event at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis also comes at a time in the 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season when Indianapolis resident Bazemore and the Matco Tools Funny Car team are seeing a strong resurgence in performance following early-season mixed results.
The car has been one of the quickest in the field in the last four events, despite a rare DNQ in Brainerd, Minn. Bazemore has also won once, reached the semis and the quarterfinals once in those events and stands eighth in points.
"We're very focused," says Bazemore, who will drive a special-bodied "Tales of the Rat Fink" Funny Car this weekend for Matco Tools. "We've had an up-and-down year, but the team has shown the ability to have really good performance and to win races. So we know that we're capable of having a tremendous weekend. It's just a matter of everybody focusing and being pointed in the same direction, and we are.
"I'm in race mode already. We don't want to waste the opportunity. Testing (last week at ORP) went very, very well. We didn't make a full pass, because we didn't have to. A lot of other teams got the headlines, but the facts are that we pretty much had one of the very quickest cars in almost every session.
"We're fired up and we're ready to go to Indy and throw it down. Our team is a step behind (points leader) John Force's team, obviously. They've had the performance for most of the year, and they seem to have momentum. I think the Matco Tools team is plenty capable of challenging anyone at the race track, and that's exciting.
"The U.S. Nationals is really special. Anytime you go to a race track where you've had great success it gives you a special feeling," Bazemore added, "so I definitely get that feeling going to that track. We've also had great disappointment and some very difficult times, with the struggles in 1990, then not being able to race in 1995 (due to budgetary concerns, despite qualifying for the event), not qualifying in 1994 and '02, but we also won there in 1997 and '01. It's a place of great emotion and you have to be really level-headed going there and not get caught up in all the hoopla.
"I'm in a great frame of mind. things are going very well, and we feel good about everything."
Bazemore is the final qualifier for the $100,000 Skoal Showdown bonus event, in No. 8, and will face No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the first round of an event he's never won.
"We squeaked into that," he said. "It's a race we haven't won. It's a special race and we appreciate what Skoal does for the sport, and it's one we definitely want to win.
"For me, the real focus is on the U.S. Nationals, and if we happen to win the Skoal Showdown, it will be a nice bonus."