Las Vegas: Whit Bazemore preview

Vegas record holder Bazemore wants more at The Strip. LAS VEGAS (April 1, 2003) -- Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, holds both the elapsed time and top speed records at...

Vegas record holder Bazemore wants more at The Strip.

LAS VEGAS (April 1, 2003) -- Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, holds both the elapsed time and top speed records at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His 4.748-second e.t. and 325.85 mph records were set in the October races (e.t. in 2001, top speed in 2002). But it's at this weekend's SummitRacing.com NHRA Nationals where Bazemore won't settle for anything less than a win.

"I'm looking forward to Vegas for a number of reasons," said Bazemore, the first Funny Car driver to break the 325-mph barrier at any track. "Number one, because we're in a position to do real well here. We were runner-up at this race in 2001. We've run strongly. It's a track we like. We're in a position to go rounds and win rounds and win a race. That's what we're aiming for. Anything less than that will be a disappointment."

Bazemore and his Matco Tools team, headed by crew chief Lee Beard, have already demonstrated their ability to make their Dodge Stratus R/T perform well, establishing a track record of 324.32 mph at the last race in Gainesville, Fla., and posting top speed for the meet of 325.69 mph at the season opener in Pomona, Calif. "Baze" is also fourth in points going into Las Vegas.

The Indianapolis resident made it to the semifinals in Gainesville and was looking towards his first final round of the season, until a clutch disc failed, dashing his chances to move up in the standings. "We tested after Gainesville," he said, "and we know why we lost. We wanted to try a couple of new components that might help us and they worked pretty well. Every race we seem to be getting stronger and stronger. And we were pretty strong to begin with. We're fourth in points, two rounds out of the lead and we've had bad luck."

Vegas is a place where everyone looks for good luck, and 12-time Funny Car event winner and two-time U.S. Nationals champion Bazemore is no different. "Once we have good luck it's going to be something," he added. "We're doing really well without having that much good luck. We're working hard to make our luck change and be stronger and better and it's happening."

Having two hot shoes on his team nipping at his heels doesn't hurt, either, he says. "Having good competition from Gary Scelzi and Scotty Cannon is important. It can definitely be a motivating factor. When you have good strong teammates you know that they push you to be 110 percent and hopefully I push them. That just makes the team stronger and better and I think it's the same with the crew chiefs. There's no question that Lee is going to try to outdo Mike (Neff, Scelzi's crew chief), and Mike's trying to outdo Lee, and that's all healthy. As long as we all work together and can have a beer or two afterwards, which we can, it's all good."

Nitro Qualifying at The Strip begins on Friday, April 4, at 3:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, April 5, qualifying is at noon and 3 p.m., with final eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday, April 6.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher