Joliet II: Whit Bazemore previews

Bazemore Returns to Route 66 Raceway, One of his Favorites JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 1, 2004) - Route 66 Raceway is one of Whit Bazemore's favorite race tracks. His record at the quarter-mile drag strip that opened in 1998 is impressive. The driver of...

Bazemore Returns to Route 66 Raceway, One of his Favorites

JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 1, 2004) - Route 66 Raceway is one of Whit Bazemore's favorite race tracks. His record at the quarter-mile drag strip that opened in 1998 is impressive. The driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car - which will sport the Rat Fink^Á paint scheme this weekend - has won here three times (in '03 at the first event of the year, in '01 in the second event, and at the inaugural event in '98).

He has also qualified No. 1 twice (in '01 and '03 in the second event), and blistered the track with the quickest and fastest Funny Car lap in NHRA history last May, a 4.713-second pass (for a national record that has not been broken) at an incredible 333.25 mph! No one has surpassed that speed to date.

Needless to say, he's looking forward to another record-setting and winning trip this weekend to the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals. Since May, the NHRA has lowered the nitromethane percentage to 85 from 90 to slow down the cars, so setting new records here will be a challenge. Add predicted 50-degree and perhaps even lower temperatures to the mix and it will be an interesting weekend.

"The weather is going to be very cool and there will be optimum conditions," said the Indianapolis resident. "I think this track and this facility will give all the competitors the best opportunity to have our best performances under these new rules. And for Funny Cars I think we'll see some mid-4.70s in the high 320-mph range.

"This track has been good to us. We won the first race ever here, and we won here two more times. It's a good track for us and it would be ideal to win here again on Sunday.

"It's also a great facility. It's probably the best track we race on. We're going to have a high-pressure cold front coming down, so those conditions might be there where the fans will really see some good performance despite the new rules that are designed to slow the cars down a little bit.

"Running these cars in 50-degree weather, however, is going to be pretty challenging," he added. "It remains to be seen what it actually is."

Bazemore has won twice this year so far, and with four races remaining in the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, he is in fourth place, 250 points out of the lead. He led the Funny Car point standings mid-season and now finds himself in a three-car battle for his first Funny Car championship among himself, his teammate Gary Scelzi in second and leader John Force as the season winds down. While still mathematically in the running, it's going to be a tough climb for the two-time U.S. Nationals champion and two-time Funny Car series runner-up.

"It's been a hard season for us. It certainly hasn't gone the way we envisioned it," Bazemore explained. "We worked hard to make it happen, but we didn't get the results we intended to get. To get a win this weekend would mean a lot to the team and it would help take the sting off a little bit on a year that has been tough for the Matco Tools Dodge team."

SCHEDULE
On Friday, Oct. 1, professional qualifying sessions are at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 2, pro qualifying sessions continue at 12:15 and 3 p.m. On Sunday, Oct. 3, pre-race ceremonies are at 10 a.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION
On Saturday, Oct. 2, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, Oct. 3, ESPN2 will broadcast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at noon (ET). On Sunday, Oct. 3, ESPN2 will televise two hours of eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET).

WHIT BAZEMORE QUICK FACTS:

* Two-time U.S. Nationals champion, 1997 and 2001

* Quickest and fastest Funny Car driver in NHRA history: 4.713-second ET (national record) at 333.25 mph, set at Route 66 Raceway

* Qualified No. 1 at 2003 CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, lost first round to Cory Lee

* Has won at Route 66 three times (first event in '03, second event in '01 and inaugural event in '98)

* No. 1 qualifier at Route 66 in '03 and '01 in first event

* Has qualified in the top two in nine events so far in 2004

* No. 4 in NHRA Funny Car points after 19 races, with two wins, five final rounds

* First Funny Car driver to break 325-mph barrier (U.S. Nationals 2001)

* 2003 Funny Car points runner-up

* Won three times in 2003, runner-up five times

* Has 17 career Funny Car event wins

* Took the 2003 championship chase to penultimate race in Las Vegas in an exciting final round against eventual champion Tony Pedregon

* Was also second in the NHRA Funny Car championship in 2001, third in 1997 and '99 and has finished in the top five six times and 11 times in the top 10 since 1992

* Age 41, born in New York City, an avid cyclist, lives in Indianapolis with wife Michelle, a semi-pro cyclist

* 2004 is his fourth season with Don Schumacher Racing

-dsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cory Lee , Don Schumacher