Chicago-area fans were treated to one of the finest side-by-side races today in the first round of Funny Car eliminations for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway. Whit Bazemore and Gary Densham were nose to nose for the entire quarter-mile until Bazemore slipped a little to the left and crossed the finish line a mere 15 inches behind Densham. Bazemore launched just four thousandths of a second after Densham, with a .097 reaction time to Densham's .093 (.000 is perfect). The cars were clearly equal the rest of the way, with Densham taking the win by a whisker and a holeshot advantage with a 4.756-second elapsed time at 327.59 mph to Bazemore's quicker yet losing 4.754/317.94 mph. "We don't get embarrassed here at the Matco Tools team, we get frustrated and disappointed," said Bazemore. "Densham is a great competitor. He's a crusty old veteran. We were certainly fired up to race him. "Our light was four thousandths (of a second) slower than his and we lost the race by two thousandths and it's just very frustrating. The good news is we ran our best-ever speed at half track (266.95 mph). We had some things happen on that run that I think have taught us a lot with the race car. "Except for the fact that it was a loss, it was still a good run from an educational standpoint. I think ultimately we will be a stronger, more competitive team. "It spun the tires down there a little bit and that made it move around. If we can address that problem it will certainly run a lot better. We're kind of in uncharted territory there. Our competition is running a tenth quicker than we are so we're not content to do what we know. We have to improve ourselves and improve the race car and that's what we're doing. "We actually did learn some valuable things in that run, and it will help us at the next race." With Del Worsham winning today's event against points leader John Force and Force setting a national ET record of 4.665 seconds (for 20 bonus points), Bazemore falls out of the chase for his first Funny Car championship with three races remaining. He will battle for second place against his teammate Gary Scelzi, Del Worsham, Eric Medlen and Gary Densham in the final three races of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season. Next up is the Reading, Pa., make-up event next weekend at Maple Grove Raceway, which had been rained out two weeks ago. FUNNY CAR POINT STANDINGS 1. John Force, 1575 2. Del Worsham, 1338 3. Gary Scelzi, 1262 4. Whit Bazemore, 1239 5. Eric Medlen, 1207 6. Gary Densham, 1197 7. Cruz Pedregon, 1082 8. Tim Wilkerson, 1081
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