West Coast swing improves Bazemore's chances KENT, Wash. - Whit Bazemore has never been one short of words. He just states what's on his mind or what he's feeling, and you can quote him on that. Bazemore has gone toe-to-toe, on and off the ...
West Coast swing improves Bazemore's chances
KENT, Wash. - Whit Bazemore has never been one short of words. He just states what's on his mind or what he's feeling, and you can quote him on that.
Bazemore has gone toe-to-toe, on and off the track, with some of the most animated figures in the NHRA's 50 years of existence, including the gregarious John Force and the mohawk-wearing Scotty Cannon.
Love him or hate him, no one can deny the driving skills and talent the 38-year-old Bazemore possesses and the threat he poses to any of his opponents.
Bazemore will take his drag racing abilities to the Pacific Northwest for the 14th annual Prolong Super Lubricants NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA, July 27-29, at Seattle International Raceway. The $1.7 million race is the 15th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
Recently at the NHRA's 50th Anniversary special event in Pomona, Calif., Bazemore clocked a career best track record run of 4.816 seconds, while Force ran a 4.85 in the opposite lane for an exciting side-by-side qualifying match-up. That blast earned Bazemore his first No. 1 qualifying position of the season. It also knocked Cannon from the top spot denying him his first career top qualifying effort. Bazemore was the eventual runner-up to Force in the Funny Car finale.
"It's especially gratifying for us to go out and run that well because of our rivalry with Force," said Bazemore. "Anytime you can outrun him in his hometown it's really special. The fans love it. It really gives you goosebumps when you come back down the track and the fans are applauding you. I know that (Force) is my biggest rival. I don't know what he thinks about me and it doesn't matter because he is the guy I think about when I'm thinking about drag racing and who we have to beat. This team is ready and we sure do not want to get beat by that guy anymore."
During his NHRA career, Bazemore has used the 'West Coast Swing' to his advantage. Already with a runner-up finish in the Pomona event, the former photographer will attempt to make his usual mid-season charge at the incomparable Force and the rest of the leaders of the Winston standings. Over the past four seasons in Seattle, Bazemore has been the top qualifier, had a runner up finish in '99, and was the event winner in '97. Those are the kind of surges that separate the championship contenders from the pretenders as the second half of the season continues to roll on.
Bazemore joined Funny Car pioneer Don Schumacher at the beginning of the 2001 season to drive the Lee Beard-tuned Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird. After some early season turmoil, the crew has begun to demonstrate team chemistry and the improved performance is the result.
"We haven't won any races, but the fact is that at any time we are in the hunt," said Bazemore. "The best thing is that the team came together so quickly and that Beard was able to get a handle on a Funny Car right away after all those years with a Top Fuel dragster. I think some people are surprised, but I know I'm not surprised. It's hard for people to learn how to work together, but hey, he's a good tuner. He's very conscientious, very aggressive in his own way. And he's hungry. He always makes a good effort. I think this team is going to continue to improve, and I think I am too."