Bazemore Scores First Victory Of Year With Pontiac Firebird At SIR SEATTLE, July 29, 2001 - "There's no feeling like winning," said Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird Funny Car, after getting his first victory of the...
Bazemore Scores First Victory Of Year With Pontiac Firebird At SIR
SEATTLE, July 29, 2001 - "There's no feeling like winning," said Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird Funny Car, after getting his first victory of the season, and eighth career win today at the 14th annual Prolong Northwest Nationals.
In the last five years Seattle International Raceway has been an oasis for Bazemore. The 38-year-old drag racing veteran has scored three of his 20 career final rounds here including a victory in '97, a runner-up in '99 and a winner again today.
"I've always done pretty well on the western swing," said Bazemore. "I don't know what it is but we do great in the summertime. I love the west coast but I think it comes down to timing. We've got a brand new team this year, with Matco Tools, Pontiac and Don Schumacher as the team owner. So we knew there was going to be a learning curve.
"Lee Beard came in as crew chief at the last minute and has done an outstanding job on this Firebird. There aren't many car owners that have the commitment that John Force has and I honestly believe that Don Schumacher does. We have a team and a car that's competitive. You can do everything right but you've got to have a little bit of luck to go along with it. This is win number eight for me and each one is just as sweet."
Bazemore came into today's eliminations qualified fifth and fully aware that it would be a difficult afternoon. He proved his Firebird was ready in round one when he squared off against Johnny Gray and turned an elapsed time of 4.891 seconds at 310.55 mph. Next in his path was Tony Pedregon who ran an elapsed time of 4.924 seconds at 288.27mph, but Bazemore bettered him with a 4.859 second pass at 312.28 mph.
The semifinals proved to be an exciting matchup with Bazemore squaring off against fellow rival and 10-time Winston champion John Force. Force left the starting line first but smoked the tires at about 300 feet. That slight hiccup was all Bazemore's Pontiac needed to get to the finish stripe first setting up a final-round showdown with Ron Capps.
In the championship heat, Capps' nitro-powered Chevy launched first with a .482 reaction time, but hazed the tires at 1000 feet and slowed to a 5.086 elapsed time at 277.43 mph. Bazemore's Firebird crossed the finish line in 5.049 seconds at 284.56 mph giving the Matco Tools Pontiac driver his first visit to the winner's circle in 2001. The margin of victory was only one-thousandth of a second and moved Bazemore from fourth place to second behind Force.
"I think today you saw some real good side-by-side racing," said Bazemore. "I don't know what (Ron) Capps' side of the ladder looked like, but man ours was tough! We had Tony (Pedregon) in the second round, who is a good driver and is part of (John) Force's team, so it's just like running Force. We got by him and then we had to face Force. We were fortunate today that we were able to beat both of those cars. When you can do that, it's a really good feeling. Ron (Capps) is an excellent driver as well. We knew how hungry they were for a win too. Anytime you can win one of these races it's an incredible feeling because it's really hard to do."
Checker Schuck's Kragen Pontiac Firebird driver Del Worsham advanced to the semifinals before losing to Capps. He drove past teammate Frank Pedregon in round one and Dean Skuza in round two before his semifinal matchup. Worsham stays in third place in the Winston standings just 31 points behind Bazemore.
"After having traction problems and having to battle our way so hard to get to this round, what we really wanted to do was make our Firebird go down the track with all eight cylinders lit and the tires planted," explained Worsham. "If we could do that, whatever number came up and whoever got there first was just something we'd have to see. Even though we lost I'm happy we gave him a good battle and put up a good fight. We needed this confidence boost."
In Pro Stock, No. 1 qualifier Bruce Allen and Splitfire/Peak Pontiac Grand Am driver, Jim Yates advanced to the semifinals. Allen faced off against Darrell Alderman and Yates took on Mark Osborne. Both match ups were very close. Allen's Grand Am had the slight lead off the starting line but Alderman crossed the stripe first with an elapsed time of 6.866 seconds at 201.70 mph to Allen's 6.906 second run at 199.23 mph.
"I have to give the Dodge guys credit, said Allen. "They ran good and kept lane choice all day. The left lane is quite a bit better then the right. Even as good as our Pontiac Grand Am was today, that right lane just got us. We got a little off to the right and got a little loose and that was just enough to let Darrell get by. I'm not going to complain. We've been having problems on raceday and we did better today. That's encouraging. We've got a good car and we're looking forward to Sonoma. We should hopefully do this good or even better."
Yates red lit against Osborne with a .367 reaction time to a .482. Osborne ran an elapsed time of 6.846 seconds at 201.88 mph to Yates' 6.872 second pass at 200.98 mph. Yates gained ground on first place Warren Johnson and is now just three rounds behind the points leader.
"I guess I just lost focus for a second up there," explained Yates. "It happens. If you don't red light occasionally you're not trying hard enough. When I staged the car I got it in a little to deep, that isn't why I red lighted but, that was what I was thinking about. I just wasn't focused enough and being on the starting line and not being in focus is something you should never do.
"I was pretty pumped up to race because I thought we had a chance to win the round. I knew Osborne was a tough driver so I was leaning pretty hard on him. It just comes down to me letting the clutch out too early. Drivers do that occasionally. I do it once every couple of years, so hopefully I will go two more years until it happens again. Our Grand Am made a good run. I'm very happy with it. I think it was a winnable round for us, I just didn't let the clutch out on time."
In the Sportsman Categories, Tony DeFrank drove his Grand Am to victory lane in Super Stock and in Stock Eliminator, Bernie Cunningham won in a Firebird against Dan Fletcher, who also drives a Firebird.
The next stop on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing tour is the 14th annual Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals on August 3-5 at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. <pre> Pro Stock Race Winner: Mark Osborne (Neon R/T) 6.893ET/201.43MPH Pro Stock Runner-Up: Darrell Alderman (Neon R/T) 6.894ET/201.73MPH Pontiac Pro Stock semifinalists: Bruce Allen, Jim Yates Pro Stock Top Qualifier: Bruce Allen (Pontiac Grand Am) 6.821ET/200.98MPH
Pro Stock Top 10: 1. Warren Johnson (Pontiac Grand Am) 2. Jim Yates (Grand Am) 3. Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Chevy Cavalier) 4. Mark Pawuk (Grand Am) 5. Mike Edwards (Cavalier) 6. Mark Osborne (Dodge Neon) 7. Kurt Johnson (Cavalier) 8. Ron Krisher (Cavalier) 9. Bruce Allen (Grand Am) 10. Brad Jeter (Grand Am)
Funny Car Winner: Whit Bazemore (Pontiac Firebird) 5.049ET/284.56MPH Funny Car Runner-Up: Ron Capps (Chevy Camaro) 5.086ET/277.43MPH Pontiac Funny Car semifinalists: Whit Bazemore, Del Worsham Funny Car Top Qualifier: John Force (Mustang) 4.827ET/303.23MPH
Funny Car Top 10: 1.John Force (Ford Mustang) 2. Whit Bazemore (Firebird) 3. Del Worsham (Firebird) 4. Ron Capps (Camaro) 5. Bruce Sarver (Firebird) 6. Tony Pedregon (Mustang) 7. Tommy Johnson Jr. (Camaro) 8. Dean Skuza (Dodge R/T) 9. Frank Pedregon (Firebird) 10. Gary Densham (Mustang)
Top Fuel Winner: Gary Scelzi 4.556ET/319.29MPH Top Fuel Runner-Up: Kenny Bernstein 4.881ET/264.91MPH GMC Top Fuel semi-finalists: Mike Dunn Top Fuel Top Qualifier: Gary Scelzi 4.512ET/316.97MPH
Top Fuel Top 10: 1. Kenny Bernstein 2. Larry Dixon 3. Doug Kalitta 4. Gary Scelzi 5. Mike Dunn 6. Darrell Russell 7. Doug Herbert 8. Tony Schumacher 9. David Grubnic 10. Rhonda Hartman-Smith