BAZEMORE QUALIFIES NO. 2 FOR THE FOURTH TIME IN 2004; SETS CAREER FASTEST SPEED

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JOLIET, Ill. - Whit Bazemore qualified his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus Funny Car No. 2 for the fourth time in 2004 for tomorrow's NHRA Route 66 Nationals with the 4.731-second pass at 326.71 mph he posted in last night's stellar session, noted for the speed records that fell. In today's only qualifying session (the fourth round was cancelled because of rain), Bazemore established a career-best 329.02-mph run, nearly joining the 330-mph club which inducted its only two members (Gary Scelzi and Tony Pedregon) during last night's qualifying round. Bazemore's 4.752-second effort today was the second quickest and fastest of that round (to teammate Gary Scelzi's 4.732/330.55) and he was looking forward to tonight's final qualifying round to improve. Although disappointed with losing the opportunity to better his speed, Bazemore, the first Funny Car driver to break the 325-mph barrier, was upbeat. "The 329.08-mph run was good. It's not quite as fast as our teammate, but they're on a different planet right now. We're close, but we ran well, we qualified No. 2, we're feeling pretty good about the car and the performance of the team. "It's a shame. We were really looking forward to tonight's session because we went 329 mph, and (crew chief Lee) Beard's very aggressive right now. Our teammate's been 330, and we know that we can do it and it's in the car, so we were all set to really stand on it tonight and try to do our career best on both ends (ET and speed). We were going to try to run a real, real low 4.70 and go 331-plus. Obviously we're not going to be in a position to do that tomorrow during the race. And we don't know when we'll be able to be in a position to do it again, so it's shame. That's the way it goes. We'll be ready to race tomorrow." Bazemore, second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings, will face Ron Capps in the first round of eliminations tomorrow, which begin at 11 a.m.
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