St Louis Chuck Etchells Racing Post Race Story

ST. LOUIS WIN GIVES BAZEMORE THE SLIP IN 2ND ROUND Madison, Illinois, June 28, 1999 - Sand is a substance with many uses in everyday life. Millions of children across the world play in boxes filled with it. When attached to paper, it becomes a...


Madison, Illinois, June 28, 1999 - Sand is a substance with many uses in everyday life. Millions of children across the world play in boxes filled with it. When attached to paper, it becomes a valuable tool for smoothing and polishing. Throughout the summer, vacationers will flock to beaches to tan on it, while highway workers will use tons of it throughout the winter to make roads safer. One place, however, where sand is not welcome is on the racing surface of an NHRA dragstrip. Unfortunately for Whit Bazemore and the Kendall Oil/Superwinch Camaro Z28 Racing team, that is precisely what they found on the starting line as they staged for their second round match-up with points leader John Force.

The start of final eliminations had been delayed by almost three hours by heavy rains, which had left dirt and sand throughout the pits, which accumulated inside the Funny Car bodies as they were towed to the line. Naturally, the first hit of the throttle during the pre-race burnout vibrated the debris onto the starting line, more predominantly in the right lane. Naturally, without lane choice, this was the side Bazemore was relegated to for his encounter with Force. Bazemore's chances for victory were short-lived, however, as his mount lost traction almost immediately, and after several attempts to regain control and chase down his opponent, the Kendall pilot clicked off his motor to save valuable parts and coasted to the finish line.

"We were very confident heading into the second round that our Kendall Camaro could take care of our buddy John (Force)" explained Bazemore afterwards. "Unfortunately, the car didn't even move. We blew the tires off right at the hit, but we don't think it was a tune-up related problem. Three of the four cars that ran in that lane during the second round smoked the tires at the exact same spot. Apparently there was a lot of sand right there at the starting line. After the run the NHRA starting line officials acknowledged the sand was there. That's what makes this loss even more difficult.

It's tough enough because it was against John, who we're trying to chase down. He was only able to run a 5.07, and we had run a 5.06 in the first round, so the potential was there. I feel very confident that we didn't tune the car to smoke the tires. It's very hard anytime you lose because of something you take for granted, such as the track conditions tonight. The NHRA works hard to try and give us a level playing field, so I would hope that the next time this type of situation will be addressed before we run."

Crew chief Tim Richards' assessment of the situation reflected that of his driver's.

"There was sand that came off the bodies of the cars that pulled up to the starting line that didn't get cleaned off. It was very disappointing because it essentially eliminated everyone who had to run in that lane."

Prior to the run against Force, the Etchells crew had displayed the consistency they had shown all season. Battling a difficult track and changing weather conditions, the Kendall team was able to continue their season-long string of top half qualifying performances, with Bazemore placing seventh on Saturday's final eliminations ladder. This gave Bazemore lane choice for the first round of his 150th NHRA Funny Car start and he took full advantage, running his quickest pass of the weekend to defeat defending event champion Frank Pedregon, and set the stage for the meeting with Force. Bazemore received additional good news when Pedregon's owner Jim Dunn elected not to participate in the upcoming Winston Showdown, granting the Kendall Camaro driver automatic qualification.

"We're making good progress with this car," stated Bazemore. "We ran well in the first round, running a 5.06 while spinning the tires. We're working on getting it to spin the tires less, and I believe the new Camaro body we should have at the next race should help us substantially in that area. Today's race is behind us. Our focus is now on Bristol and winning the Winston Showdown."

In Saturday's final round, John Force defeated tire-smoking teammate Tony Pedregon to capture his seventh Funny Car win of the season. After a weekend off, the NHRA will christen the brand-new Bristol Dragway in Bristol, Tennessee for the Winston Showdown with the top Funny Car pilots taking on their Top Fuel counterparts in a high-dollar All-Star race July 8-10.

Funny Car Points Standings (As of 6/27/99): 1. J. Force - 1149, 2. T.Pedregon - 903, 3. Whit Bazemore - 664, 4. T. Wilkerson - 561, 6. D. Skuza - 550, 6. C. Pedregon - 542, 7. F. Pedregon - 493, 8. D. Worsham - 455, 9. J. Epler - 435, 10. C. Lee - 428.

Big Bud Shootout Points (As of 6/27/99): 1. J. Force - 2,770, 2. Whit Bazemore - 2,470, 3. T. Pedregon - 2,405, 4. C. Pedregon - 2,090, 5. T. Wilkerson - 2,040, 6. R. Capps - 1,960, 7. D. Skuza - 1,950, 8. A. Hofmann - 1840.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Frank Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Chuck Etchells , Tim Richards