BAZEMORE OUT AND ON FIRE IN MEMPHIS SECOND ROUND MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 21, 2006) - Monday's completion of the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals went off on time at just before 9 a.m. Central Time at Memphis Motorsports Park following yesterday's...
BAZEMORE OUT AND ON FIRE IN MEMPHIS SECOND ROUND
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 21, 2006) - Monday's completion of the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals went off on time at just before 9 a.m. Central Time at Memphis Motorsports Park following yesterday's rain-out after the near completion of one round of eliminations. And Whit Bazemore was on a charge to the finish line in the quarterfinal against John Force.
After defeating Tommy Johnson Jr. in the opening round when he intentionally slowed to a 11.545/68.78 pass because Johnson fouled out, the driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car scorched the starting lights with a .020 (of a second) reaction time (.000 is perfect) to Force's .069. But, by the 60-ft. mark Force was ahead, taking the win with a 4.824-second elapsed time at 316.23 mph, while Bazemore's car caught on fire at the finish line, posting a 5.107/238.98.
The Matco Tools Dodge suffered severe fire damage and Bazemore lost 10 points and was fined $1000 for an oildown. He was OK after jumping from the moving car.
"We were going along just fine and it looks like it broke some valve train parts," Bazemore explained. "You don't see them, so you keep going. Then it just basically broke the block in half. The boost went up. It was a pretty good fire in the car, and it was similar to the old days (when he was a struggling, independent competitor). Everything was good until the brake line burned off.
"I rely on the brakes a lot. Sometimes we don't even use the parachutes. Everything was good and then the brakes just went totally - 100 percent, zero brakes. And that's when it's hot, there's no brakes and it could take another 30-40 seconds to stop with no brakes. Going 100 miles an hour to zero with no brakes could take a long time with the tires still on it, and the tires were still on it.
"I stood up and when I stood up through all the smoke I could see that we were going to probably glance the wall. I didn't want to be a part of that, not being buckled in, so I jumped off."
Bazemore was unhurt, but sore. "I'm fine. I'm OK," he said.
As for the damage to the car, "I don't know," said Bazemore. "We have more cars; we're not that worried about the car."
He is eighth in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car rankings, with 861 points, counting the oildown penalty. "If it comes down to being fifth or third (place) at the end of the year by 10 points, then it will be a big deal. With six races to go, the championship is a huge, huge longshot. We're not really that worried about that."
Next up is the prestigious U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Cleremont, Ind., Aug. 30-Sept. 4.