Whit Bazemore and the Chuck Etchells Racing Team knew they had their work cut out for them entering Saturday's final eliminations of the Sears Craftsman Nationals. After all, this was crew chief Terry Manzer's first weekend with the team, and he...
Whit Bazemore and the Chuck Etchells Racing Team knew they had their work cut out for them entering Saturday's final eliminations of the Sears Craftsman Nationals. After all, this was crew chief Terry Manzer's first weekend with the team, and he and the crew had worked long hours not only preparing the Kendall Motor Oil/Matco Tools Camaro Z28 Funny Car for competition but learning how to work together. Complicating matters even further was the repeated failure of one component on the Etchells entry, which had not only slowed Bazemore in two qualifying runs, but had caused a fire that required a yeoman effort on Friday night to repair the damage, including rebuilding the front corner of the carbon-fiber body. The team overcame these obstacles to qualify 12th with a best effort of 5.053 seconds with a top speed of 285.63 mph.
After heavy rains had postponed the start of eliminations at Gateway International Raceway by more than an hour, Bazemore staged for the first round against Bruce Sarver. At the flash of green, Bazemore grabbed the advantage by two hundredths of a second. However, just as it seemed Bazemore would score the upset victory, billowing smoke from the rear tires indicated a speed-robbing loss of traction, and Sarver used the quickest pass of the round to overcome the disadvantage and claim the win.
"I was confident coming into eliminations, because the Kendall/Matco Camaro team had run well to half track in qualifying, after which we had little things happen that kept us from running a good number. Therefore, I knew if we could get the car down the track under full power we would be competitive. In the first round, we were ahead of our opponent but unfortunately the car suddenly drifted out of the groove to the right. I fought it, but it wouldn't come back, and pretty quickly it was almost half a car width out of the groove and right around half-track it just blew the tires off. I had my hands full bringing it under control.
"The end result was unfortunate, but the good thing is that the Etchells Racing team did an outstanding job this weekend under difficult conditions. Terry Manzer came in and inherited what in essence was someone else's racecar. He had to change it to his tune-up without the benefit of time or the particular parts he was used to working with. All things considered, we had a really good weekend, one that has us looking forward to the future. I feel good about the direction we're going in, and I can't wait to get to Bristol."