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Sat, 29 Sep 2001, 01:52 PM

Bazemore, Dunn Among Friday Qualifying Leaders
Courtesy of NHRA Communications

At NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway

JOLIET, Ill. -- Whit Bazemore turned in the quickest Funny Car run in NHRA history to lead qualifying Friday at the inaugural NHRA Nationals.

Whit Bazemore

Mike Dunn, Kurt Johnson and Mike Coughlin led their respective categories at the $1.9 million race, the 20th of 24 events in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Bazemore sped down the Route 66 Raceway quarter-mile track in 4.750 seconds at 323.27 mph in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird to move to the top of the 16-car order. Bazemore is currently in second place in the Winston season standings. John Force leads in the points race and was second in the time trials after he turned in a 4.800-second run at 316.90 mph in his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang.

Pro qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at noon and 3 p.m.

"That was an unbelievable run," Bazemore said. "We knew the conditions were there. The key was that first run this afternoon. It was a good, solid lap and it allowed us to be more aggressive this evening. In my mind, I think we have more in it." Dunn was the quickest in Top Fuel with a 4.511-second run at 326.95 mph in the Yankee dragster. Dunn has made three trips to the finals this season, winning twice.

"The crew is doing a good job and we're not making any mistakes," Dunn said. "We ran a (4.56) in the first session and the car was set-up real soft. We knew it had a lot more in it. It was a good run. I was kind of suprised that the run held because I thought (Kenny) Bernstein or (Larry) Dixon would run quicker. At this point I'm not worried about where I finish in the points.

Mike Dunn
"Our goal as a race team is to win races and championships. If we can't win the championship, then we're going to do whatever we can to win races. That's our plan for the next five races, to go out there and do what we know and try to win as many races as possible."

Bernstein was second in the day's events with a time of 4.513 at 325.22 mph in his Budweiser King dragster, while Dixon sits in third place with a 4.532-second run at 320.20 mph in the Miller Lite dragster.

Johnson set a track record for time in the Pro Stock category. He ran a 6.815-second run at 201.58 mph in his AC Delco Chevy Cavalier.

Tom Hammonds is in 20th place after a 6.899-second run at 200.47 mph. Before his second run of the evening, Hammonds announced that he was retiring from the NBA after 12 seasons. He has been with the Minnesota Timberwolves since 1998, but has been racing part time since 1996. As of Friday, Hammonds is now a full-time Pro Stock driver.

Coughlin set also set a track record with a 7.403-second run at 182.03 mph to lead the Pro Stock Trucks. Coughlin has been on a recent hot streak, winning the last two Pro Truck events in his Jeg's Chevy S-10.

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