Bazemore pilots Dodge Stratus R/T to first NHRA final. Tough day for the Mopar Pro Stockers. LAS VEGAS (April 6, 2003) -- NHRA Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore took the Dodge Stratus R/T to it's first final-round appearance in today's fourth...
Bazemore pilots Dodge Stratus R/T to first NHRA final.
Tough day for the Mopar Pro Stockers.
LAS VEGAS (April 6, 2003) -- NHRA Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore took the Dodge Stratus R/T to it's first final-round appearance in today's fourth annual Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Bazemore piloted his Matco Tools 'Iron Eagle' Dodge Stratus R/T to the No. 1 qualifier position on Friday and backed up that effort with consistent runs to reach today's final round. Bazemore had lane choice for the Funny Car final and chose the left lane, which had been the dominant lane throughout the weekend. Unfortunately for the 12-time NHRA national event winner, the red light flickered leaving the staging lane and was not able to compete with category winner Tony Pedregon. This was Bazemore's first final-round appearance of the 2003 season.
"It's still a good day," said a disappointed Bazemore. "We just hate to give it away like that. We had other problems during the run, so hindsight being what it is, the chances of us winning were not good anyway. It's disappointing and it's something that we don't do very often and it's not acceptable. But, we did have a good day for Dodge and the Matco Tools team. The team is proving that we are championship caliber and we just have to tighten up in a few areas to beat those guys (Tony Pedregon) because they are obviously the team to beat. They look awfully strong, but so do we, so it's a long year and we'll bounce back and be strong from here on out."
The three Mopar Pro Stock contenders did not fare as well. Hemi drivers Allen Johnson, Darrell Alderman and Gene Wilson each went into the first round without lane choice. Unable to make up that disadvantage, they were not able to advance to the second round.
Wilson brought the new Dodge Stratus R/T body to its first taste of Sunday competition since it debuted in February at the season-opening NHRA event at Pomona Raceway. Larry Morgan Racing will test Monday at The Strip in preparation for next week's event at Houston Raceway Park. Morgan and Wilson will continue to fine-tune the production-car based body.
"We had a good run, but unfortunately the race track had a few bald spots that were rather large at the starting line," Wilson said. "There were a few cars in front of me that had some trouble. There were some shut offs ahead of us that really hurt the track. We didn't have land choice going into the first round, so we just did the best we could. The Stratus is a great car and we're really gaining on it. Our motors are producing good horsepower and everyone is just putting 110 percent into this program from our team to the Mopar engineers."
The red-light bug also bit Mopar Neon R/T pilot Allen Johnson. The Greeneville, Tenn., resident fell to eventual runner-up Kurt Johnson. Allen Johnson qualified ninth.
"We just never had a good handle on the race track all weekend," Johnson noted. "We changed some things on the car this morning to try and correct it, but we just didn't go far enough. The race track was hot and there was a huge difference between the left (more favorable lane) and the right. We learned some things this weekend, so we'll go to Houston and keep charging. We plan to test the Stratus next week at Dallas to see where we are as a team with that car. We'll continue to run the Neons until we are comfortable with the Stratus and feel we are making competitive gains."
Darrell Alderman also struggled in round one, falling to long-time rival Warren Johnson in round one.
"The track is a lot slicker today, especially in the right lane," Alderman said. "The right (lane) here is traditionally a couple-hundreths-of-a-second slower than the left lane. We left (the line) earlier than Warren (Johnson), but once we got going the tires just shook loose. That's the frustrating part of this sport."
Johnson and Johnson Racing will test next week in Dallas as Alderman and Johnson prepare to switch from Dodge Neons to the Stratus R/T body.
LAS VEGAS WRAP...
, driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T (5.766 seconds/172.85 mph)
Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 4.788 seconds (Low ET of the event)
Weekend Best Speed: 323.43 mph
Weekend Qualifying Position: First
Final-Round Results: Red Light against Tony Pedregon
, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T (7.081 seconds/199.49 mph)
Johnson & Johnson Racing
Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.916 seconds
Weekend Best Speed: 200.86 mph
Weekend Qualifying Position: Ninth
First-Round Result: Red light against Barry Grant
, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T (14.558 seconds/73.94 mph)
Johnson & Johnson Racing
Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.920 seconds
Weekend Best Speed: 199.67 mph
Weekend Qualifying Position: 13th
First-Round Result: Lost, Warren Johnson
, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T (6.963 seconds/199.94 mph)
Larry Morgan Racing
Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.925 seconds
Weekend Best Speed: 199.17 mph
Weekend Qualifying Position: 15th
First-Round Result: Lost, Kurt Johnson