ENGLISHTOWN WINNER BAZEMORE LOOKS TO KEEP UP MOMENTUM AT TOPEKA TOPEKA, Kan. (May 22, 2003) - Whit Bazemore drove his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T straight into the winner's circle at Englishtown, N.J., last weekend to score his...
ENGLISHTOWN WINNER BAZEMORE LOOKS TO KEEP UP MOMENTUM AT TOPEKA
TOPEKA, Kan. (May 22, 2003) - Whit Bazemore drove his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T straight into the winner's circle at Englishtown, N.J., last weekend to score his first Funny Car victory this season and the first for Dodge since 1998. He and his Don Schumacher Racing team led by Lee Beard intend to keep up the momentum at Heartland Park Topeka this weekend, the site of Bazemore's first career Funny Car event win in 1997.
"Topeka is where I won my first race in June of 1997, so naturally it's a place we enjoy coming back to," says Bazemore, second in the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points and closing in on leader Tony Pedregon, who is only 72 points ahead. "It was just a great experience. Your first win is the hardest one. It took nine years and it was great. We beat Randy Anderson in the final, who at the time was going to be the next big hot shoe. We had Winston sponsorship, my Top Fuel teammate (at the time and again this season) Gary Scelzi was already on a tear that year, doing very well. It was the second win for my team. My team had won its first race in 1996 at Dallas with Dale Puldy driving for me while I was recovering in the hospital (from a motorcycle crash). For my first win as a driver and the second for my team, it was just a huge, huge experience. I remember like it was yesterday. It was great."
Bazemore has since earned 12 more career Funny Car event titles.
"Topeka is a fun little town, kind of quiet. Historically it's been a pretty good track. Although, if it's hot here it tends to not be as good. For some reason It deteriorates rapidly. But if it's overcast it can be pretty good. So, that would suit our car well and, obviously, coming off a win at Englishtown, we look forward continuing to improve our performance and getting a good result."
Bazemore's Matco Tools team is on a roll this season, having qualified in the top half of the field at each event. The team has also made it into the semifinal round in seven of the eight races so far, as well as three finals, and Baze and crew chief Lee Beard are knocking on the door for the No. 1 spot in points.
"We're not getting too excited, because it's a long year and we have to do it again this weekend," added the two-time U.S. Nationals champion. "We expect to win races and we've been in a good position all year to win races, but we haven't until now. So now we did it and the important thing is that we continue to have a good running car and go rounds. Like I said before, when you're going to the semifinals every weekend you're putting yourself into a position to win races. And that's what we're doing. As long as we can do that we'll have some good results.
"The most important thing for us going into Topeka is to first qualify. We saw at Englishtown how easy it is to not qualify. If there's a weather issue coupled with a mechanical issue on the car (which happened to "Baze" in E-town where only two rounds of qualifying were held because of rain) then, boom, you're not going to qualify. Believe it or not, we could have easily DNQ'd after we had a problem smoking the tires in the first run. And then we almost smoked them the second run. In that regard we were very lucky to even qualify there.
"The sport can put you in a precarious position; you can't ever take anything for granted it. Every run is very important; in the first qualifying run we have to go down the race track. That's how we approach it."
Pro Nitro qualifying for the Summernationals begins on Friday, May 23, at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. On Saturday, May 24, Pro Nitro qualifying is at 12:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Final eliminations on Sunday, May 25, begin at 11 a.m.