Whit Bazemore makes it to final round; moves into third in point standings. Cool weather, horsepower and crew chief Lee Beard are meant for each other. And The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a sweetheart of a race track for this...
Whit Bazemore makes it to final round; moves into third in point standings.
Cool weather, horsepower and crew chief Lee Beard are meant for each other. And The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a sweetheart of a race track for this combination. Throw driver Whit Bazemore into the mix and you have a winning effort. Unfortunately, the effort came up short in the final round today.
Bazemore, driving the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, claimed No. 1 qualifying spot for the second time at this dragstrip with a 4.788-second run and was on a fast track to the front of the point standings. He eliminated Jack Wyatt in the first round with a 4.812-second lap at 323.58 mph, the fastest speed of all elimination rounds, then benefited from his teammate Scotty Cannon's problems in the second round to take the win light with a 5.230/250.78 while his supercharger was self-destructing.
In the semifinals, the two-time U.S. Nationals champion faced Tommy Johnson Jr. Baze was off the line first, with a .044 reaction time to Johnson's .055, but it was Johnson ahead by a car's length until the top end, when T.J. faltered and the legendary Lee Beard horsepower took over to bring Bazemore home at the finish with a 4.899/319.22 pass, giving him lane choice for the final.
The final round brought together two rival camps: Don Schumacher Racing versus John Force Racing; Whit Bazemore versus Tony Pedregon. The two were meeting for the fifth final-round of their careers, with their win/loss record tied at 2-2.
The atmosphere was electric at the starting line. Team owners Schumacher and Force stood at friendly distances willing their drivers to the victory podium. As the starting lights flashed, the red light that shone in Bazemore's lane ended his day, as Pedregon took the win with a 4.916/283.07.
It was a major disappointment for Bazemore, but there is good news. He moved into third in the point standings, just 19 points out of second and 44 less than first place. With 19 races remaining in this long season, it's still anyone's crown to win.
WHIT BAZEMORE, MATCO TOOLS IRON EAGLE DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR:
ON REDLIGHTING: "It's just driver error. That's all you can say, and it's very frustrating. I made a mistake. Our team did an outstanding job today, especially recovering from the second round. I feel like we had the car to beat. We ended up having problems in the final that would have made it difficult to beat them with what ended up happening, anyway. But the fact is that we're not going to win, no matter what, when I red-light. It's not acceptable. Mistakes happen sometimes, but we have to keep them to a very real minimum, and we will."
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AT THE START? "I was ready to go and I was very focused. I don't know. My leg went down and my brain didn't tell it to. But it did. I don't red-light that often. I'll think about it, and analyze it some and go from there."
TALK ABOUT WINNING THE OTHER ROUNDS: "They're all very hard. And we were fortunate in the second round against our teammate Scotty Cannon that he had problems before we did (Bazemore had a blown supercharger), so we were fortunate there to win, and the same against T.J. (Tommy Johnson Jr.) in the semis. We were behind there. Lee Beard and this Matco Tools team gave me the horsepower that carried us around when T.J. had a problem. It's just so brutally tough to win right now in this class, but we had a good day. All in all, we had a very good day. We're making good progress. They've (Pedregon) got a great team over there; they're hard to beat; they're the team to beat right now. As for John Force's team; you can't count those guys out. We put some distance between us and them. They're going to come back strong at some point this year, it goes without saying. In that regard, it was a good day there too."