Low Qualifier Bazemore Out in Second Round in Memphis MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 2004) - What was billed as a "night" race here at Memphis Motorsports Park, turned out to be held under the hottest and sunniest conditions of the weekend, at least...
Low Qualifier Bazemore Out in Second Round in Memphis
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 22, 2004) - What was billed as a "night" race here at Memphis Motorsports Park, turned out to be held under the hottest and sunniest conditions of the weekend, at least for the first three rounds. The slippery, sticky track presented a challenge for No. 1 qualifier Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car and crew chief Lee Beard.
Bazemore kept up his record of first-round season wins against Ron Capps by defeating him for the fifth time, with a respectable 5.081/290.19 to Capps' 5.270/257.53. This was an important win for Bazemore and crew chief Lee Beard under the existing conditions. Unfortunately, the second round resulted in a tire-hazing 6.404/169.21 pass for Bazemore, who lost to Del Worsham's 5.132/289.20.
"The first two rounds today we knew were going to be the hardest, especially for us," said the Indianapolis resident, "because we haven't been very dominating on a hot race track. The first round was really critical. Lee did a tremendous job setting up the Matco Tools Dodge, and reading the track, and we went right down there. We spun (the tires) down at the other end a little bit, but a lot of people did. So, all in all, that was a good lap. We got the win light over Capps. When the sun comes out it kind of evens the playing field a little bit, so they were a tough draw.
"I just don't think we took enough out of it," he said of his second-round loss, "but it's a very hard call to make. You're running Worsham and you certainly don't want to go out and get outrun. It's a very fine balance between getting outrun and overpowering the race track, especially with the situation that we have now, with this mandated tire that is different and the 85-percent nitro rule. We're still trying to find our way on a hot track with that combination and we don't really have a total handle on it yet.
"It was not a good moment to lose, but the fans have been great this year. They stand behind us all the time and that really means a lot. We don't mince words. At the beginning of the season our goal was very obvious, to win the championship, and we're not going to beat around the bush. It would be very easy for us to come out and say that we're hopeful for a top-five finish. And that's the safe route. But a top-five finish doesn't motivate us and when you state your goals publicly, you open yourself up to a little bit of ridicule because your successes or failures are very public.
"If we had said that our goal was a top-five finish, then it's very possible that we could finish fifth or fourth or third or second and at the end of the year everyone would say, Wow, they had a great year, they achieved their goal. We don't take the safe route here on the Matco Tools team. Our goal is to win the championship and until it's mathematically impossible we won't give up. And we've been that way ever since we started to contend, which was in 1997.
"It's been up and down. We've consistently been the second strongest team behind the team that wins it and we just have more work to do to get up to another level where we can really go out and try to dominate the way we want to. But it's a very hard job to get to the point. I believe wholeheartedly that we have the team here that is fully capable of achieving all of our goals. The guys prove themselves every day here and honestly I wouldn't trade them for anybody."
Bazemore holds on to third place in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, with 1078 points. He is now 23 points behind his teammate Gary Scelzi in second, who also lost in the second round, and 243 points behind leader John Force, who won today's event.
Next up is the prestigious 50th Annual U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Sept. 1-6.