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Whit Bazemore

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Whit Bazemore, driver of the Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird Nitro Funny Car owned by Don Schumacher Racing, appears to be the only driver with a realistic, albeit slim, opportunity to unseat John Force from the throne he has held for 10 of the last 11 years. For 2001, he has three wins in six final rounds. At the inaugural NHRA Nationals in Chicago (September 27-30), the Matco Tools Pontiac blazed down the Route 66 Raceway setting NHRA performance standards en route. Bazemore now holds the NHRA elapsed time and speed record at 4.750 seconds and 325.45 mph.

Bazemore, who now calls Indianapolis home, spent his formative years playing in the streets of New York City dreaming of becoming a race car driver. He moved a step closer to that dream when he turned to photography and began doing race photos for companies well known for their motorsport tradition - - companies such as General Motors, R.J. Reynolds/Winston, and NHRA. In 1985, Bazemore attended Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School thereby turning his career behind the camera to one where he would be the subject of the picture, not the man behind the lens. He received his Nitro Funny Car license in 1986. Bazemore's learning curve found him in a number of different alcohol Funny Cars from 1986 until he turned professional in 1989.

DRO: In 30 seconds or less, bring Drag Racing Online up to date on your racing career leading up to your driving position at Don Schumacher Racing in the Matco Tools Pontiac Funny Car.

WB: It takes a lot longer than 30 seconds to talk about my career. Racing was something I always wanted to do. I went to Hawley's school in '85 and then drove an alcohol Funny car for a guy named Rich Fenwick in Connecticut in the summer of '86. Didn't have a job in 1987. In 1988, I drove an alcohol Funny Car for a kid named Jamie Hopmeier, out of Pensacola, Florida. We just matched raced on those eighth- mile tracks they have all over the southeast. Then I was hired at the end of '88 to drive the fuel Funny Car belonging to Ted Combis and did that for a year. Then half way through 1989 I was able to get together my own team with the help of crew chief Gary Evans. So we had Bazemore/Evans Racing from '89 until midway through 1993. After that I went out on my own. I just had Bazemore Racing. I hired Rob Flynn as crew chief for the '94 season and we enjoyed some good success. I disbanded the team in 1999 and went to drive for Tim Richards and had a good year there. This year I came on board with Don Schumacher and Matco Tools and we put together a program with Lee Beard as a crew chief. Obviously, we're really having what I would consider the best year in my career.

DRO: What about your decision to leave Chuck Etchells Racing and Tim Richards, to pursue other driving opportunities? How did the position at Don Schumacher Racing come about?

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