In front of 3000 of team owner Don Schumacher's friends and business associates, Whit Bazemore collected his second Funny Car victory of the season, the 14th of his career, on a holeshot advantage against Tommy Johnson Jr. Bazemore's win made it doubly sweet for Schumacher Racing as Tony Schumacher also won the Top Fuel race at Schumacher Racing's home track, Route 66 Raceway. Schumacher Electric is located in Mt. Prospect, Ill. Bazemore took of with a .069 reaction time to Johnson's .152, grabbing the win with a slower 4.872-second elapsed time at 319.67 mph to Johnson's 4.839/316.97. Adding to the luster of a stellar weekend, Bazemore's teammate Gary Scelzi set the NHRA Funny Car national speed record of 328.06 mph today. This was the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus R/T driver's third straight final-round appearance, his third victory at Route 66 Raceway ('98, '01, '03), and it moves him closer to No. 1 in the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings. He's just 36 points behind Tony Pedregon, who was eliminated by Tommy Johnson Jr. in the second round. "This is our team's home race, and really a tremendous effort by everybody," said Bazemore, who has made it at least as far as the semifinals in nine of the 10 races so far. "Three straight final rounds and two wins out of those, it says everything about our team and our organization, from Don all the way down," added the Indianapolis resident. "It's just an unbelievable effort by Lee Beard (crew chief) and the guys, Dan Olson (co-crew chief) and Mike Neff (Scelzi's crew chief). My teammate Gary Scelzi had a tough week, with a tragedy in his family. He was here. He's a three-time champion and he showed it this weekend. To be here and set the national speed record with his Dodge, (was a) tremendous effort by everybody involved." Don Schumacher was understandably proud. "I brought in some great, great people," he said, "with Alan Johnson coming in (Tony Schumacher's new crew chief); he's the smartest man in this sport. The only guy close to him realistically is Lee Beard. Lee is doing a fantastic job with us. The Funny Cars performed all year long. We're going out here to win the World Championship with this Dodge. Here at my home race track, there's no better joy than [to win and] to be here with family, friends, employees, my crews and such. It's just been a great, great weekend." Bazemore still concedes that his rival Tony Pedregon is going to be tough to beat for the crown, despite his early-round loss. "It seems that this season and even going back halfway through the last season, the only time they were really beatable was when they beat themselves; either Tony did it or they did it themselves. This year it's been tough. We've beat them not that often, but we have beat them when they made a mistake. No one else has really been able to get the job done. "They are a very, very good team and they have performance that, quite honestly, we don't quite have right now. But we're very, very close. Whenever they stumble it's very important for us to take the ball and run with it. Today's the perfect example. For them to go out in the second round was a real surprise, but it was good. It's a beautiful thing." Lane choice was critical today, and Bazemore didn't have that option in the final round after defeating Bob Gilbertson, Del Worsham and John Lawson. "We made some pretty drastic changes to the car," he explained. "In fact, we made one change that we were going to test tomorrow. We went ahead and made that change for the final. Lee and Dan did a great job and they went outside the box, so to speak, to try to solve some problems we were having. And it worked. The car stayed hooked up down track and that was key. Obviously, if we had run much slower than an .87, we would have gotten beat." Schumacher was quick to credit his driver for today's victory: "Whit left on Tommy, did a hell of a job out there," he said. "He rose to the occasion. And really, we won that round because of Whit." *** POINT STANDINGS: 1. Tony Pedregon 912 2. Whit Bazemore 876 3. Gary Densham 671 4. Del Worsham 636 5. Ron Capps 586 6. Tommy Johnson Jr. 552 7. John Force 514 8. Johnny Gray 509 9. Gary Scelzi 428
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