BAZEMORE BATTLES, BUT IS FORCE-D OUT IN RICHMOND Dinwiddie, Virginia, May 3, 1999 - Whit Bazemore knew he had his work cut out for him heading into the second round of eliminations of the Pennzoil Nationals. After defeating Camaro "teammate"...
BAZEMORE BATTLES, BUT IS FORCE-D OUT IN RICHMOND
Dinwiddie, Virginia, May 3, 1999 - Whit Bazemore knew he had his work cut out for him heading into the second round of eliminations of the Pennzoil Nationals. After defeating Camaro "teammate" Ron Capps in the first stanza, his next opponent would be eight-time and defending Funny Car champion John Force, whose team had dominated the division so far this season. In addition, Bazemore would have to overcome the lack of lane choice, which had proven to be a decisive factor in the first round. But even with those long odds, the entire Chuck Etchells Racing crew remained optimistic about their chances. After all, the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 team had captured the last two races run at Virginia Motorsports Park. They also believed that the rain, which had postponed the completion of the event until Monday, could have reduced the overwhelming advantage displayed by the right lane on Sunday. Either way, all questions would be answered in less than five seconds.
As expected, Bazemore was relegated to the less desirable left side. In an effort to record a better elapsed time and obtain lane choice for the semi-finals, each driver then shallow-staged, advancing the minimum distance necessary to complete the staging procedure. When the green lights flashed, Bazemore grabbed the advantage by over six hundredths of a second. As the two "fuel coupes" hurtled down the track, he fought to maintain traction and preserve his lead. But suddenly, Bazemore's ride slowed, the victim of a mechanical failure, allowing his rival to pass him at the 1000-foot mark and continue on for the win.
"We really stood on this Kendall Camaro to beat Force," explained Bazemore. "I thought the rain yesterday evened up the lanes a bit and that probably worked in our favor. I know Tim (co-crew chief Richards) really got on it, but I don't think it responded the way he wanted it to. It went out and shook the tires, so I pedaled it. We still had a good opportunity to beat John, because after I pedaled it, I still didn't see him for a half-second or so and then he went by. I believe we had a problem with the fuel system. It lost fuel pressure and then nosed over at about 800-900 feet. Once I realized we were beat, I shut it off.
It's disappointing, because that was our first opportunity to race him. The entire Etchells Racing team was pumped up. We were ready and we were confident. I think if the car had held together, the race would have been a lot closer. That would have been a very important win for us to have."
Qualifying had proven to be a struggle for all teams, as arctic temperatures and overcast skies prevented the Virginia Motorsports Park surface from holding enough heat to produce the traction necessary to withstand the high-speed runs normally seen at this race. The Etchells team efforts were furthered hampered by mechanical gremlins that not only slowed their charge, but caused extensive and expensive engine damage. Working late every night, the Tim and Kim Richards-led crew pored over their racecar, searching for answers. Their efforts resulted in a best elapsed time of 5.085 seconds, good enough for sixth on Sunday's eliminations ladder. Even so, the team knows the battle is far from over.
"We struggled a little bit in qualifying, dropping cylinders and spinning the tires, as did everyone else" said Bazemore. "We felt we had a good handle on a race-day set-up, and our win over a tough opponent like Ron Capps showed that we did. Unfortunately, we're weren't able to make it to the finish line under power against Force. It was one of those freak mechanical problems that happen once in a while. You're going to have your share of those during the year.
We're running this car awfully hard, and we're looking to secure some additional sponsorship. We have some great sponsors right now in Kendall, Chevrolet, Turtle Wax, Superwinch, Snap-On Tools, Auto Ventshade and Mighty Auto Parts who have used this car as a great marketing vehicle, and anyone joining the team would reap similar benefits. Chuck Etchells is working to find more funding for this car so we can continue to expand and improve this team. It's still a long season, so we just have to go to Atlanta and Englishtown, which are back to back, and be prepared. Knowing this Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro team, I'm confident we will be."
In Monday's Funny Car final, John Force defeated teammate Tony Pedregon to capture his fourth win of the season. After a weekend off for Mother's Day, NHRA heads south to Atlanta, Georgia for the Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Atlanta Dragway May 11-16.
Funny Car Points Standings (As of 5/3/99): 1. J. Force - 644, 2. T.Pedregon - 548, 3. C. Pedregon - 391, 4. Whit Bazemore - 353, 5. D. Skuza - 324, 6. C. Lee - 312, 7. F. Pedregon - 275, 8. G. Densham - 271, 9. D. Worsham - 257, 10. J. Toliver - 233.
Big Bud Shootout Points (As of 5/3/99): 1. J. Force - 1,945, 2. C. Pedregon - 1,785, 3. Whit Bazemore - 1,780, 4. T. Pedregon - 1,670, 5. R. Capps - 1,490, 6. D. Skuza - 1,420, 7. T. Wilkerson - 1,315, 8.(tie) G. Densham - 1,275, 8. (tie) A. Hofmann - 1,275, 10. D. Worsham - 1,265