Las Vegas: Mopar Motorsports Saturday summary

Bazemore scores no. 1 qualifier; Wilson makes season-first show with Stratus. LAS VEGAS (April 5, 2003) -- It was a day of firsts for the Mopar stable as final-round eliminations wrapped up for Sunday's fourth annual Summitracing.com Nationals...

Bazemore scores no. 1 qualifier; Wilson makes season-first show with Stratus.

LAS VEGAS (April 5, 2003) -- It was a day of firsts for the Mopar stable as final-round eliminations wrapped up for Sunday's fourth annual Summitracing.com Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Funny Car driver Whit Bazemore piloted his Matco Tools 'Iron Eagle' Dodge Stratus R/T to the No. 1 position on the strength of 4.788-second run at 323.43 mph. Bazemore posted a career-best run at the Vegas track in last year's fall event with a run of 325.85 mph.

"We're halfway home to making this a great weekend," Bazemore said. "There are still four more rounds to go through and we need to be consistent with each one. The Dodge body has made a big difference for us. Dodge has worked real hard on this body and the aerodynamics of the car are better than what we've had previously. So, it makes the job of tuning the race car easier and it makes the job of driving the race car easier. The car is more planted and we can be more aggressive it. We have better downforce, which means better traction, so we can push the envelope a little more and get more performance out of the car. It's a critical piece of the program.

"This hasn't happened by accident," Bazemore continued. "The Dodge engineers have been very involved in this process. We've been to the wind tunnel twice and it's a process that's always evolving. We're looking ahead to next season already and making something better than what we now. And, what we have now is working really well. We're very happy to have Dodge on board as a technical partner as well as a marketing partner for the team."

The effort has Bazemore line up against category veteran Jack Wyatt in round one.

Bazemore's teammate Gary Scelzi, driver of the Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, was unable to recover from a spectacular explosion during yesterday's qualifying session and missed the show.

Wilson, New Stratus Qualify for First Pro Stock Event of the Season...

In the Pro Stock division, Mopar shoe Gene Wilson made his first race of the 2003 season and is locked in the 15th slot with a pass of 6.925 seconds at 199.17 mph. Wilson's move is also significant because it allows the new Stratus body to be put through its first paces of Sunday competition.

"We blazed the tires a little on that last run and that hurt us a little on the ET (elapsed time). But, we feel we can get back to our morning tune up for tomorrow's race and be consistent and competitive. The car is working great and the crew are working hard and making good decisions with the car. We're making progress with the Stratus and becoming more familiar with its characteristics and setup. That's been through a lot of trial and error and also through the help of Mopar's engineers. They've really been a great resource to our team and I think the field is going to start seeing the results of our hard work. We feel more confident going into race day and we'll just have to see what we put up on the scoreboard. I'm proud to put the Stratus in its first race."

Wilson has a first round match with Kurt Johnson on tap for tomorrow.

Allen Johnson wielded his Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T Pro Stock effort to the ninth-qualified position with a 6.916-second elapsed time at 200.86 mph. the Greeneville, Tenn., resident will take on Barry Grant in round one.

"We've struggle with setup all weekend," Johnson commented. "We made a really good run the second time out, but since then just haven't put the combination together. With respect to horsepower, we probably have one of the top three motors out here; it's just been trying to get it matched up with the setup that's been holding us back. We're going to make some changes and hopefully lay down a good number tomorrow."

Old nemesis face off tomorrow as Mopar's Darrell Alderman has a first round battle with Warren Johnson. Alderman moved from outside the field on Friday to the 13th slot with a 6.920-second blast at 199.67 mph.

"We changed the carburetors and ignition box after our first run this morning and it seemed to make a difference in the afternoon session. We put Allen's carburetors on I could feel the difference. It also seemed like the car liked the left lane, which has become the dominant lane this weekend. Unfortunately, we have the right lane tomorrow, but with the changes we're making, we will still be competitive."

Mopar Pro Stock veteran Larry Morgan missed the top 16 qualifiers.

The BASICS....

Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Dodge Stratus R/T
Schumacher Racing
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 4.788 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: 323.43 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: First

Allen Johnson, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T
Johnson & Johnson Racing
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.916 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: 200.86 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: Ninth

Darrell Alderman, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Neon R/T
Johnson & Johnson Racing
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.920 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: 199.67 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: 13th

Gene Wilson, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T
Larry Morgan Racing
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.925 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: 199.17 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: 15th

-Mopar.com-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Darrell Alderman , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Gene Wilson , Barry Grant , Allen Johnson , Jack Wyatt