Seattle Funny Car notebook

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 NORTHWEST NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Clean sweep: Whit Bazemore qualified No. 1 at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in mid-July at Denver, a first in his ...


Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

NORTHWEST NATIONALS FUNNY CAR NOTEBOOK *Clean sweep: Whit Bazemore qualified No. 1 at the Mopar Parts Mile-High Nationals in mid-July at Denver, a first in his nine-year career. Bazemore, from Indianapolis, also completed a sweep of the event in Team Winston Ford Mustang by winning, and recording the low elapsed time and top speed of the event. He beat six-time NHRA Winston champion John Force for the first time in his career in the semifinals. "Beating John Force was a huge step for our Winston Mustang," Bazemore said. "Nine years, and we had never beaten him. It feels really good to finally beat him. "I have tremendous confidence in our car right now. We've been in the final three out of the last four races, and I think everyone's confidence level is rising. Things don't seem to fall off our car, and we are getting to the finish line even if we smoke the tires." *Sponsor hunt: Former NFL coach Joe Gibbs, owner of the Top Fuel dragster driven by Cory McClenathan and the Funny Car driven by Cruz Pedregon, may be close to landing a sponsor to replace McDonald's for the 1998 season, Pedregon said. McDonald's is withdrawing from NHRA Winston Drag Racing after this season. The company has sponsored Gibbs' team since its formation in 1995. "We're extremely positive that we'll put something together for next year," Pedregon said. "There's one really prominent sponsor that we're working on that we're maybe talking a few weeks, three or four weeks." *Trucker: Cruz Pedregon says he has no plans to leave drag racing, but he admits that he really enjoys the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and wouldn't mind trying his hand at driving a truck around an oval. "I've had a good career in drag racing, and it's where I want to stay, but I may look at other forms of racing," Pedregon said. "I've always had a little itch to pursue other types of racing, whether it's circle track or road racing. "I know I could do it, and I know I would be good at it. The question is whether or not I have the right situation and the finances to do it." Pedregon has a long history with trucks. He drove one of his family's Peterbilt trucks for a block as a 9-year-old in Los Angeles after convincing his father that he could drive. Cruz and his father were stopped by a police officer and both earned $100 citations. Cruz Pedregon's first drag race also came in a diesel truck. He won $1,000 and a 6-foot trophy for a victory in a 1953 Kenworth. *Force-ful words: John Force admits he's not having the season he did last year, as he has only won two races in 1997 after winning a record 13 in 1996. But Force insists that his championship reign won't end this year in the Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. "We've opened a window for our opponents, but so far all they've done is stick their heads in and look around," Force said. "Nobody's climbed through. One week, Randy Anderson steps up. The next week, it's Chuck Etchells. Then it's Whit Bazemore. Then Tony's brother, Cruz. But not one of them has been able to keep it together long enough to challenge the points lead. "So what do I say to those guys? What advice do I have for my opponents? Make the move while you can because the window of opportunity won't stay open forever. We've got a few things to work out, but once we solve these problems, the nightmare of the '90s will continue." Force leads second-place Whit Bazemore by 152 points in the NHRA Winston point standings. *Changing gears: Every dragstrip in the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series may look the same, but looks can be deceiving. All the tracks may be the same length and shape, unlike other forms of racing. But every NHRA track requires a different setup, just like other forms of racing, Cruz Pedregon said. "If every track had the same surface, then we could just use the same setup week in and week out," Pedregon said. "That would take the challenge away from the sport. The fact that we have different race tracks and different racing conditions makes the crew chiefs earn their checks. "In oval-track racing, you have to change your setup every week to stay competitive. That may be one of the advantages that John Force has had throughout the years. He's been able to make the necessary adjustments and dominate in the summer when the heat is such a factor. If you're spinning the tires in the middle of the racetrack, then you need to go back into the pits and make the necessary changes." *Schedule: Pro qualifying starts at 3 p.m. Aug. 1 and continues at 7 p.m. that evening. Qualifying ends with sessions at noon and 4 p.m. Aug.2. Final eliminations start at 11 a.m. Aug. 3. Federal-Mogul competition starts at 9:15 a.m. Aug. 1. *Tickets: Tickets are available for the Northwest Nationals. Call Seattle International Raceway at (206) 631-1550. Tickets also are available at Ticketmaster outlets in Washington, Oregon and western Canada. *On TV: ESPN2 will televise two hours of same-day, final-round competition from the Northwest Nationals at 5:30 p.m. (PDT) Aug. 3. ESPN2 also will show two hours of live, Friday-night qualifying at 7 p.m. (PDT) Aug. 1. -30-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Cruz Pedregon , Cory McClenathan