Bazemore takes it up a notch for Reading READING, Pa. (Sept. 15, 2004) - Whit Bazemore can boast of scoring one No. 1 qualifying position (2002) and two Funny Car runner-up finishes (2001, 2002) at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove ...
Bazemore takes it up a notch for Reading
READING, Pa. (Sept. 15, 2004) - Whit Bazemore can boast of scoring one No. 1 qualifying position (2002) and two Funny Car runner-up finishes (2001, 2002) at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in his 16-year NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series career. A first win at this track this weekend, however, to add to his 17 career victories, is what he'd really like to crow about.
The driver of the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus from the Don Schumacher Racing camp has won twice this season after reaching five final rounds and stands third in the Funny Car points rankings. Bazemore reached the semifinal round at the last event, the U.S. Nationals, and is within striking distance of his teammate Gary Scelzi in second place. Just 21 points behind, Bazemore could make a push towards leader John Force, 227 points ahead, with a good result here.
"Maple Grove Raceway is a decent track for us," said the two-time U.S. Nationals champion. "We've been runner-up here a couple of times and we've run well here. It's been a good place. We're getting ready to give it our best and hopefully we can improve our performance and come away with the trophy."
This weekend's event is also the start of the fifth three-race, back-to-back swing of the season (the season-opener in Pomona was rained out and re-scheduled for the following weekend. The Phoenix race followed the next week.)
"It's a challenge on many fronts," said Bazemore, whose 4.713-second run at 333.25 mph in Joliet, Ill., this year set a national elapsed-time record and was the quickest and fastest pass in Funny Car history. "It's the fifth set of three in a rows that we'll have, so it's no different than being out West earlier in the year, but it will certainly take its toll on everyone on the Matco Tools team. We're ready for it.
"We have a Marathon coach that can criss-cross the country at warp speed," he laughed. "That's how we get to where we're going. We'll be in our home-away-from-home for the next couple of weeks."
Knocking John Force out of the championship lead with five races remaining is a difficult task, conceded the Indianapolis resident who is seeking his first Funny Car championship after two runner-up finishes. "He'd have to make a lot of mistakes and miss his flights to all the races."
Pro qualifying for the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals will be held at 2:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 17 and will continue at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Sept. 18. Final professional eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sept. 19.
ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept 18. ESPN2 will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show, at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on Sept. 19. ESPN2 will televise three hours of final eliminations coverage at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sept. 19.