Sonoma Etchells Racing Preview

ETCHELLS AND BAZEMORE LOOK FOR CONTINUED SUCCESS IN SONOMA Putnam, Connecticut, July 27, 1999 - One year ago, Whit Bazemore left Sears Point Raceway with a runner-up finish in the Autolite Nationals. Meanwhile, Chuck Etchells departed the ...


Putnam, Connecticut, July 27, 1999 - One year ago, Whit Bazemore left Sears Point Raceway with a runner-up finish in the Autolite Nationals. Meanwhile, Chuck Etchells departed the scenic Sonoma facility as the Winston points leader in Funny Car, thus gaining the distinction of being the only man besides John Force to accomplish that feat. It is safe to say that neither man could have predicted the circumstances under which they would return for this year's event.

Their story is a prime example of the business of racing. After losing a major associate sponsor late in the season, Etchells elected to step out of his Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Funny Car and brought in Bazemore, who had lost his primary sponsor and was forced to disband his team, to be his driver. Eight months into the arrangement, Etchells is convinced that, despite his continuing desire to drive, his decision was the right one and has him looking towards the future.

"Obviously, one year makes a big difference," explained Etchells. "But the arrangement is working out very well. Whit has done a good job, this Kendall team is jelling and our sponsors are happy. We are working hard to field a second car, because we feel that's the key way to beating John Force. That is what we're focused on right now.

"I've learned a lot this year being out of the car about the business side of a race team, including a few things to help our sponsors even more than we had in the past. While I do miss driving the car and competing against my friends out there, it's been a great year, and an educational experience. I hope that we can take this and evolve it into a two-car effort in the year 2000, and be a legitimate threat to my buddy John (Force) for the championship. That's what I think it's going to take."

Being relieved of the pressures of team ownership has allowed Whit Bazemore to concentrate on his driving, and the 36 year-old Indianapolis resident has responded with two final round appearances, a number one qualifying effort in Gainesville, and a current third place standing in the Winston championship. But despite having a record that is the envy of most their competitors, Bazemore and the Etchells will not be satisfied until they add to his total of five career national event wins.

With that in mind, Bazemore must be excited to see Sears Point Raceway as the next stop on the schedule. This will be the third race for the Etchells team with the all-new Camaro Z28 body, which propelled them to the final round during its debut in Denver. As such, crew chiefs Tim and Kim Richards will have a firm grasp on its performance characteristics, and will be able to fine-tune it for the tricky Sonoma surface. The entire team's performance has been improving with every race, and there is an air of confidence in the Kendall pit. Finally, the Northern California track has been kind to Bazemore in recent seasons, making it a perfect backdrop for that breakthrough victory with this team.

"Sears Point has been a good racetrack for me in the last few years," stated Bazemore. "It's a hard race because of the heat. When it's 105 degrees as it can be at the track, it's tough. The recent heat wave we've been going through has been good for me, because I've been able to go jogging or mountain biking for an hour and a half in the hottest part of the day. I think that's important, because if you're racing in those kinds of conditions and you're not ready for it, it can take your strength away and affect your concentration.

"But this Kendall Camaro team will be up to the challenge. We're going after round wins and race wins. If we're able to field a consistently performing car, we will advance some rounds and could very well find ourselves in another final. My record in final rounds used to be very good, but it's fallen off a bit lately. We have got to turn that around, and this weekend could be just the place to do it."

BAZEMORE BANTER: This will be Bazemore's ninth appearance at Sears Point Raceway and second in a Camaro-bodied Funny Car....Bazemore looks to score his first win in the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro....Bazemore looks to improve his Autolite Nationals runner-up finish from last year.

Fast Facts

WHAT: 12th annual Autolite Nationals, the fourteenth event on the twenty-two race Winston Drag Racing schedule.

WHEN: August 6 - 8, 1999

WHERE: Sears Point Raceway, Sonoma, California

SCHEDULE: Professional qualifying sessions start with two sessions on Friday, August 6 at 2:30 & 6:30 p.m., and conclude on Saturday, August 7 with two rounds at 11:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, August 8.

TV: ESPN2 will air one hour of final-round coverage from 8:00 - 9:00 p.m. on Sunday, August 8, and two hours of first-round highlights on Sunday, August 8 from 3:00 - 5:00 p.m.. In addition, ESPN2 will air two hours of qualifying highlights on Saturday, August 7 from 10:00 p.m. - Midnight.. (All times are Eastern). As always, please check your local listings.

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Chuck Etchells