Pomona II: Whit Bazemore preview

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 4, 2003) - The battle for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship may be over for Whit Bazemore, who is expected to be the class runner-up after this weekend's final race of the year, but the goals ...

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 4, 2003) - The battle for the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship may be over for Whit Bazemore, who is expected to be the class runner-up after this weekend's final race of the year, but the goals remain the same for the driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car at the Auto Club of Southern California Finals.

Bazemore, who contested his closest season of competition for the Funny Car crown in his 16-year career in 2003, isn't letting down his resolve to win every race he enters. The only difference this weekend for Bazemore and crew chief Lee Beard may be that the focus has turned towards planning for 2004 as well.

Bazemore lost the fight to claim his first Funny Car crown to his rival Tony Pedregon in the final round of the penultimate season race in Las Vegas on Oct. 26, virtually ending a tumultuous season which would have taken its toll on any competitor. The Indianapolis resident and cycling enthusiast, however, remains focused, aggressive and, he claims, pressure-free as he prepares for Pomona.

"I haven't felt any pressure lately," says Bazemore, who's won 15 Funny Car events in his career so far. "We have always been focused, aggressive and aiming for a win in every match. And it's our goal this weekend to go out and win just like always."

"It would be nice to end the season on a high note. We've had a great year and it would be nice to cap it off with a victory in Pomona," says the two-time U.S. Nationals champion who has qualified No. 1 here twice and was runner-up two times (all in 2001). "But we haven't won yet here. I'm really eager to get our first win at Pomona, because it is one of the premier tracks on the NHRA circuit."

Bazemore's 2003 season's been strong. He led the Funny Car point standings for the first time after his win on Sept. 22 in Memphis, Tenn., and endured a season-long see-saw points battle with Pedregon for the title. He's won three races so far this season, was runner-up five times and enjoys a potent 41-18 win/loss record after 22 of 23 events. He also holds the third quickest Funny Car elapsed time in NHRA history, a 4.725, established in Joliet, Ill., this year.

Mathematically, John Force, 122 points behind Bazemore, still has a chance to take over second place, but recent reports that Force suffered serious cuts to his hands in a freak accident at his race shop indicate that there's a chance he may not drive in Pomona.

It's time to look towards 2004, Bazemore says. "It would be nice to get this race over with and start on next season. We've already dissected our year a little bit and we asked ourselves why we didn't win this championship. We came up with some answers and we've already started to address those answers to make our team stronger and more competitive for next year.

"I'm really eager to start next season, but, in the meantime, it would still be really nice to finish this year on an up-note with a victory here in Pomona. And that's what we're aiming to do."

Bazemore was second in the NHRA Funny Car championship in 2001, third in 1997 and '99 and has finished in the top five five times and 10 times in the top 10 since 1992.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force