Memphis: Whit Bazemore eliminations summary

Bazemore takes lead in Funny Car Standings; wins third season race in Memphis MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 22, 2003) - Whit Bazemore took over the Funny Car points lead for the first time in his career and Don Schumacher Racing doubled-up for the...

Bazemore takes lead in Funny Car Standings; wins third season race in Memphis

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Sept. 22, 2003) - Whit Bazemore took over the Funny Car points lead for the first time in his career and Don Schumacher Racing doubled-up for the second time this year, winning both the Top Fuel and Funny Car classes in a race that was rained out on Sunday.

Tony Schumacher came back from a devastating crash on Friday night to win his third Top Fuel race of the season in the U.S. Army car, and Whit Bazemore collected his third victory of the year as well, driving the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus. The team had scored a double win at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., in June.

Starting from his second No. 1 qualifying spot this year (and the 23rd of his career), Bazemore's 15th career win propelled him into the points lead by seven points, as Tony Pedregon lost in the second round to Dean Skuza. Skuza, who also eliminated Bazemore's other rival for the Funny Car championship, John Force, in the semifinal, was Bazemore's opponent in the final round. Unfortunately, Skuza also eliminated Bazemore's teammate Gary Scelzi in the first round.

In his winning round against Force, Skuza's car was destroyed in a blaze which occurred after the finish line. With only 75 minutes allowed to prepare for the next round, a number of teams in the pits helped Skuza rebuild his car in time, and even Bazemore asked NHRA to allow the team as much time as necessary.

Skuza took off at the lights with a .059 reaction time to Bazemore's .082. But it was Bazemore all the way, taking the win with a very strong 4.894-second pass at 309.42 mph in the heat of the day to Skuza's losing 5.225/227.50.

En route to the winner's circle, Bazemore, of Indianapolis, defeated Bob Gilbertson (4.875/318.99 to 7.458/115.98), Cory Lee (4.967/295.66 to 4.971/291.82, winning by three feet) and Ron Capps (4.991/291.82 to 5.014/299.66).

"They pulled off a miracle. They're a tremendous team over there," said Bazemore of Skuza's effort. "We had to focus and try to win the race and that's what our Matco Tools Dodge team did. It's a great feeling. Any time you win one of these NHRA POWERade races it's a tremendous feeling."

"We've had a good year. We've had some ups and downs. We've been knocking on the door of the POWERade championship points lead since late spring. We haven't been able to knock the door down until today. Today we passed Tony Pedregon for the lead."

Bazemore won his first event at Memphis Motorsports Park today after not qualifying here in 2002 and is now the first driver since 1992 other than John Force to lead this late in the season. Only five races remain.

"I really knew deep in my heart that our team was capable of winning this thing and that I'm capable of winning it," he remarked. "I think this was a turning point. I have the confidence in the team and in myself and I knew we just needed a little bit of luck to go our way and today we were able to put it all together and it happened. We're in the lead, we won this race, we have five more to go. The guys behind us (Tony Pedregon and Force) are very, very good. It's going to be a dogfight to the end, we know it. At this point we don't want to settle for second best, that's for sure."

"Our fate is in our own hands," he continued. "We can control the situation if we do our job the best way we know how to do it. And we can win the POWERade championship. If we go out and make mistakes we're not going to win it. We're on a roll, we feel great. I know we have the team to get it done. And congratulations to Tony Schumacher for his great win after that crash on Friday."

Lee Beard was a happy man in winner's circle, celebrating the 49th win of his pro NHRA career as a crew chief. "It was an outstanding day for the Matco Tools Dodge. A tremendous effort by the team," he said. "The guys did a great job preparing the car every single round. There wasn't a mistake made on their end and Whit did a great job of driving. When you get all of that to come together you win one of these things."

"We're tickled to death to be in the points lead," he added. "I think my guys are finally really believing in themselves that they can be world champions. You always have that dream. And none of the guys on my team have been there before. They really didn't have the confidence in themselves, but I think after today they realize that all the hard work and all the extra effort they put out is going to come their way and make them world champions. We have five races left and we're all going to put our personal lives on the back burner and give this race team 150 percent and hopefully we'll come out on top."

"I was very happy that Dean Skuza's team made it up there. It's never the same when you have a single, whether it's in the first round or the final round. They're formidable opponents. We didn't take them lightly and Whit's 4.89 certainly would've been a competitive enough run to beat them under the best of conditions. We're pleased with that."

Team owner Don Schumacher, owner of six pro teams as of this year, was predictably ecstatic. "To double up is fantastic for Whit and Lee and the Matco Tools team and to move into the championships points lead," he said. "It's just fantastic to see Tony come back from the crash he had on Friday night and be able to win this race. Alan Johnson (Tony's crew chief) and that whole team are just doing a fantastic job.

"To watch this Matco Tools team do what they're doing week after week after week, picking themselves up and coming out here and winning races and doing a job to challenge and now take over the lead from a John Force team is just fantastic. I really support those guys, all of them. All six of my teams are a tremendous bunch of guys, but to have the Matco Tools team move into the points championship is really a joy."

Bazemore has reached 11 semifinals and seven finals in 18 races in 2003, winning three of them.

POINT STANDINGS:

1. Whit Bazemore            1376

2. Tony Pedregon 1369
3. John Force 1183
4. Gary Densham 1079
5. Del Worsham 1040
6. Ron Capps 947
7. Tommy Johnson Jr. 898
8. Gary Scelzi 849

14. Scotty Cannon 632

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Scotty Cannon , Cory Lee , Don Schumacher , Tommy Johnson Jr.