FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761 U.S. NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Long time coming: Whit Bazemore obviously achieved a major breakthrough with his first career victory at the Western Auto ...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: NHRA Communications (626) 914-4761
U.S. NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Long time coming: Whit Bazemore obviously achieved a major breakthrough with his first career victory at the Western Auto Nationals presented by Slick 50 in June at Topeka, Kan. But his team made its big step with its first win last October at the Revell Nationals near Dallas. Dale Pulde drove the team's Ford Mustang to the victory as a substitute driver for Bazemore, who was in a Winston-Salem, N.C., hospital recuperating from serious leg injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident in mid-September. "That's when I really started to believe in the guys who work here," Bazemore said. "I mean, I've always believed in them, but then they proved to me that they are capable. I had to prove that I could carry my weight as well." Bazemore proved that seven months later at Topeka. *Finally, a win: John Force ended a 12-race winless streak in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang by winning the Champion Auto Stores Nationals Aug. 117 at Brainerd, Minn. The drought was Force's longest in one season since 1989. "Long time, no see," Force said to the media after the victory. "Maybe the new engine combination is coming around. "When the wins stopped, I would tell the boys we should go back to the old setup. But I didn't fight very hard. I knew we were going in the right direction. Those other guys were gaining on us." Especially Whit Bazemore, who had pulled to within 114 points of Force entering Brainerd. Force extended his lead to 172 points over Bazemore, who lost in the quarterfinals. "They have an advantage over us in every way," Bazemore said of Force's team. "They've been there, they are the guys to beat. "But they're the ones who have everything to lose. We have everything to gain. We're contending for the Winston championship." *On the sidelines: While Whit Bazemore is enjoying the best season of his career, he failed to qualify for the Big Bud Shootout special event Aug. 31 at the U.S. Nationals. The winner will earn $100,000, the largest single-day purse in NHRA Winston Drag Racing. The eight drivers who accumulated the most points during qualifying since last year's U.S. Nationals race in the Shootout. Bazemore missed the last three races of the 1996 season while recovering from serious leg injuries suffered in a motorcycle accident, effectively ending his chances of qualifying in the Team Winston Ford Mustang. He ended up 11th in the Shootout standings. "Emotionally and mentally, it hurts," Bazemore said. "We should be in it. It's billed as a race for the eight best drivers in the class. That's frustrating, obviously, because it's a very prestigious race, and we would have had a good chance at winning it." Bazemore isn't the only prominent Funny Car driver who will miss the Shootout. Randy Anderson, No. 6 in the point standings, and Ron Capps, No. 8 in the points, also will be on the sidelines. Anderson and Capps are Funny Car rookies, and earned no Shootout points the last four national events of 1996. *No fear: Whit Bazemore beat John Force in their last two matchups during eliminations, but Bazemore insists that Force isn't quivering in his boots over their next confrontation. "They respect us," Bazemore said of Force's team. "You can't intimidate those guys. But we don't even care what they do. We're concerned with what do. "We're just trying to make our car the best at the racetrack." *Expo: Many top drivers in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series will appear with their race cars in downtown Indianapolis during the Western Auto Parts America "Thunder In The Streets" motorsports expo Aug. 27. "Thunder In The Streets" is a street festival with a motorsports theme presented by Western Auto Parts America, the National Hot Rod Association and Indianapolis Raceway Park in nearby Clermont, site of the 43rd annual NHRA U.S. Nationals, Aug. 27-Sept. 1. The expo, open from 11 a.m.-2 p.m., will take place at Monument Circle, located on Meridian and Market Streets. Admission is free. More than 10 interactive displays, NHRA race cars and race-car transporters will be on display for fans. Many top NHRA drivers will sign autographs, including John Force, Kenny Bernstein, Shelly Anderson, Randy Anderson, Gary Scelzi and Whit Bazemore. *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 7 p.m. Aug. 29. Qualifying will continue with sessions at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Aug. 30-31. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Sept. 1. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 27. *Dash schedule: Elimination rounds for the Big Bud Shootout are scheduled for noon,2 p.m. and 4:45 p.m. Aug. 31. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the U.S. Nationals. Call NHRA Ticketing at (800) 884-6472 for ticket information. Tickets also can be purchased at Ticketmaster outlets. To order tickets by phone from Ticketmaster, call (317) 239-5151. *On TV: The Nashville Network (TNN) will televise three hours of live semifinal- and final-round competition from the U.S. Nationals at 3:30 p.m. (CDT) Sept. 1. TNN will televise the Big Bud Shootout live from 4-5 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 31 and The Wax Shop Pro Bike Dash live from 4-5 p.m. (CDT) Aug. 30. -30-