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Bazemore takes shot at third U.S. Nationals win, gets runner-up
Indianapolis, Monday: Two-time U.S. Nationals Funny Car champion Whit Bazemore survived a dramatic day of drag racing at the U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway at Indianapolis, charging his way to his fourth final round of Funny Car eliminations at this historic event, coming up just 13 feet short of a three-peat.
Driving the special-bodied Matco Tools "Tales of the Rat Fink" Dodge Charger R/T, the
Bazemore benefited from an odd occurrence which disqualified Jim Head in the semifinal, when Head clipped a cone at the finish line following his round win over Bazemore in dueling tire-smoking runs. Head, however, did not cross the centerline.
With that, Bazemore earned a spot in a final-round match-up against Robert Hight. The pair launched with nearly identical reaction times: .078 for Bazemore, .071 for Hight. It was a tight drag race to the finish, with Hight taking the victory by .0267 of a second with a 4.737/328.38 lap over Bazemore's losing 4.756/327.82.
"We're just really disappointed," said Bazemore, "but at the same time we're really proud of the team and the guys on the Matco Tools team. It was a long weekend, a stressful weekend. We were runner-up at Indy. On one hand, it's a great accomplishment. On the other hand, you just left with a very empty feeling because you had a chance to win this race and you don't have that many opportunities. So in that aspect, it's frustrating.
"The team bounced back. We had a tough day. We spun the tires a little bit in the second round, then we spun them a lot in the third round and I couldn't get the thing to hook back up. We kept it off the wall and off the centerline, which ultimately got us the win, but I felt like we left a lot on the table there as far as the driver is concerned.
"In the final, I think the team did excellent. Hight and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock had the car to beat all weekend, if not all year. They have a lot of good performance over there and it was basically their race to lose and we gave them a hell of a race, and for that we're really proud."
Bazemore explained the events of his semifinal win over Head: "I saw he was awfully close to the centerline and just for a fleeting moment I had hopes that OK, maybe he did cross the centerline, but then you realize what are the odds, because we got beat. I was really upset with myself more than anything because I should be able to get this car to hook back up. And then they said that we won and, (I thought) Great, we got a lucky break. Then we go watch it on the monitor for ESPN and I'm watching Head and his rear tire actually didn't cross the whole centerline and they're interviewing me and it's on television and I'm watching and I'm thinking, We really didn't win. I didn't see him clip the cone. I just saw his rear tire touch the white line but not cross it. And the rule is you have to cross it and clearly he didn't cross it. So my emotions are, OK do I point this out and get the win taken away? It turned out that he did hit the cone."
Bazemore remains eighth in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings, with five races left in the season.
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