Bazemore reaches semis in Seattle KENT, Wash. (July 25, 2004) - Whit Bazemore and Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car crew chief Lee Beard had their work cut out for them today in final eliminations, after qualifying No. 7 under the...
Bazemore reaches semis in Seattle
KENT, Wash. (July 25, 2004) - Whit Bazemore and Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car crew chief Lee Beard had their work cut out for them today in final eliminations, after qualifying No. 7 under the new 85-percent nitromethane rule, on a new Goodyear tire with newly-mandated tire pressures, as well under extremely hot conditions on a resurfaced track.
For the early eliminations rounds, the temperature dropped 25 degrees and a marine cloud cover hovered overhead. Just before the semifinal round, however, the sun broke through and temperatures rose.
Despite the aforementioned challenges, Bazemore charged through the field to the semifinal round by disposing first of Ron Capps, and then Eric Medlen on a holeshot win, finding himself matched against Cruz Pedregon in the final round. Pedregon nearly red-lighted at the launch with a .010 reaction time to Bazemore's .075, and it was his for the taking as Bazemore lost traction halfway to post a losing 6.369/224.73 to Pedregon's 5.782/230.17.
"We just don't have any data or experience with this tire with our own tune-up," said the two-time U.S. Nationals champion and fastest Funny Car driver on Earth (333.25 mph), "so we're struggling in the heat obviously with this Goodyear tire and it takes a lot of educated guessing to do something on such short notice. Some guys are going to hit it right immediately, and some other guys aren't.
"And we already aren't the strongest car in the summer time," he added. "We run really well in good conditions and the reason for that is Lee Beard makes an awful lot of horsepower and you can tell by the speeds that we run and the national ET record that we hold (4.713 seconds).
"Anytime you have a situation that compromises the traction and whether that be high temperatures, a high-compound tire, a sub-standard race track, whatever the situation might be, it's going to affect the high-horsepower cars easier than the lower-horsepower cars. It's just a matter of our working hard to correct our problem and come up with a tune-up that's competitive in these kind of conditions.
"There's no doubt in my mind that we have a team that's more than capable of developing a good hot-weather tune-up and one that will see us competitive for the remainder of the year."
Although he lost a little bit of ground to John Force, winner today, in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series points (102 behind in third), he is now just nine points out of second place. "That's good," he remarked. "The championship is obviously our goal, but it's not something we're focusing on day in and day out. We come to a race and try to qualify; we try to win the first round and we try to win the race. If you do that throughout the year you're going to end up being in the hunt and if you're in the hunt then you have a good chance of winning it. That's all we're trying to do."
"We are in the same boat that a lot of people are here with the 85-percent nitromethane rule and this new tire," said Beard. "Obviously, you can see that this new tire doesn't have as much grip in the heat, especially on the Funny Cars. They really struggle because they don't have the downforce that the Dragsters have. This tire is really more suited for Dragsters. Obviously, when they decided to change tires they were looking at what transpired with the Dragsters, so the Funny Car drivers have to follow suit because they're 'Fuel' cars.
"I thought we ran very, very well in the first and second rounds, right at 4.93. Whit was in pretty deep; it probably would have gone .91 in the first round had it been light-staged. In the second round we went .91. Again he was in deep. It probably went .88 or .89 there. That's as good as any car's run here all weekend long.
"We're not out in left field. We just need to study the data from this weekend and make the necessary adjustments so that we're better going into Somona."
Next up is the Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., July 30-Aug. 1.