JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 28, 2003) - It's to no one's surprise that the last six races of this 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Funny Car season are proving to be an exciting competition between two pro racers going for the crown. Whit Bazemore earned the points lead in that category for the first time in his career last week in Memphis and this weekend it's Tony Pedregon back up front. Expect a continuation of this see-saw season as the series winds down, with four events left.

No. 1 qualifier Bazemore, driving the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, knew he had a tough opponent in the first round in Cory Lee here at Route 66 Raceway in final eliminations. He even said so after becoming low qualifier last night. What he wasn't ready for was a first-round loss to the No. 16 qualifier. Bazemore launched at the lights a tad quicker than Lee (.092 to .093 reaction time), then got out of the groove and moved to the centerline. The car shut off at the top end and Bazemore coasted across the finish line with a 5.172-second elapsed time at 235.67 mph to Lee's winning 4.960/304.12.

"It's just a frustrating loss for the Matco Tools Dodge team," said Bazemore. "It's just part of racing. It shook itself out of the groove a little bit and I just couldn't get it back. It wouldn't come back. The track was so good, for a moment I thought maybe it won't matter because we would probably have good traction out there. It went down that way for a while and then around half track it just blew the tires off.

"We had a parts failure that Lee (Beard, crew chief) thinks if that hadn't happened we may still have been able to win. But the car shut itself off and I'm not so sure (we could have won) because we were awfully close to the center line. It's entirely possible that we were going to tag a cone or something. We were probably a little bit out of control there. Anyway, it's what happens. We'll regroup and go to Reading next week and try to have a better weekend there."

After arriving at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals this weekend in the points lead by seven points, Bazemore leaves with a 69-point deficit to Tony Pedregon, who won the event.

"Things change so quickly in this sport. We went from wishing the season was over yesterday to wishing today we had 10 or 20 more races to go," said a disappointed Bazemore.

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