WHIT BAZEMORE SPEAKS

 The rumors had been swirling for months but last week they became reality. Jack Beckman was officially named as the replacement for Whit Bazemore in the days leading up to the originally scheduled NHRA TOYO Tires Nationals date.

The questions began as early as Seattle. Would Bazemore return as the driver of the Don Schumacher Racing Matco Tools Funny Car in 2007? Would Matco Tools renew their contract at the end of 2006?


Life after DSR...

 

The rumors had been swirling for months but last week they became reality. Jack Beckman was officially named as the replacement for Whit Bazemore in the days leading up to the originally scheduled NHRA TOYO Tires Nationals date.

The questions began as early as Seattle. Would Bazemore return as the driver of the Don Schumacher Racing Matco Tools Funny Car in 2007? Would Matco Tools renew their contract at the end of 2006?

Those answers came at Indy when Matco Tools announced they were pulling out and headed to David Powers Motorsports. The ball began to unravel for Bazemore when Torco's CompetitionPlus.com revealed that Beckman would be completing his licensing a week later. Speculation was that he was to be Bazemore's successor and that soon became reality.

Bazemore is on the sidelines and for him that's a new experience for the recent U.S. Nationals finalist. He is still under contract with DSR until the end of the season, but after that he becomes a free agent. We caught up with Bazemore via phone from his Indianapolis home for an interview.

 

CP - How’s life after driving with DSR?

WB - It’s good, you know. It’s kind of funny not having the pressure of being in race mode. During the season you’re in race mode almost the whole time non-stop. You have a weekend off or something, of course, but in the back of your mind you’re still thinking a little bit about your job. For me now, looking at not racing for the rest of the year, it’s kind of really different to have that much time and not be in race mode, so to speak.

CP - What were you planning to do this weekend without racing?

WB - Well, it’s funny. At first, when Don and I talked about the scenario that was kind of taking place and he expressed to me his position with regards to next year and all that at first I thought that some time off would be good. Come Tuesday or Wednesday last week, though, according to my wife Michelle I was definitely going a little crazy, so it’s obvious to me that I’m a long, long way from being ready to retire. I think having the time off will be a positive thing for me, because it will make me really motivated for next year. But I was just going to spend the weekend hanging out at home with the family and catching up with things around the house, which is ultimately what we did.

CP - You’re still under contract with Don Schumacher. Does that mean you’ll be violating that contract if you race for another team this season?

WB - Correct

 


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CP - How does that set with you?

WB - Well, it’s my choice. If an opportunity comes up to race at some point later this year then I’ll evaluate the financial implications and make a decision accordingly. If I were to lose money then that’s my choice, and if I don’t want to lose money then they’d either have to pay me or I wouldn’t drive it. It’s kind of between Don and myself. It’s normal for this kind of situation.

CP - It’s kind of a good and bad situation. One the one hand you know you still have a paycheck coming in, but on the other you may miss out on some of those rides that could have fallen into your lap.

WB - Well, typically at this level there aren’t too many rides that are going to fall into your lap. I’d only be interested in driving a car at the same level or higher, and it’s hard to get higher than we were. You look at Indy where we were runner-up. The difficult thing is that it takes a team to make a car competitive. The team that we had on the Matco Tools Dodge at Schumacher Racing was really starting to come together. There had been turmoil since Lee Beard left in the middle of last season. Todd Okuhara and Phil Shuler had just come on board a few months prior, but the guys were all focused and working in one direction and we were methodically solving our problems, so the team aspect was really good. I’m not really the kind of person who is just going to jump into any car should the phone ring. That’s not what I’m interested in doing.

CP - You’ve said, and we understand that you had to put on your politically correct hat…

WB -
Not Me

CP - You’ve said, and we understand that you had to put on your politically correct hat, that all of this was okay with you. Is it really okay? 

WB - It’s okay in that I understand the reasoning behind Don’s decision, and I agree with it. So it is okay in that regard. But do I miss racing already? Yeah. I’m a Funny Car driver, you know, first and foremost. That’s all I’ve ever done. That’s what I was born to do. I’ve done it for so long now and I give it everything I have, so to suddenly stop mid-year is not the easiest process for someone in my shoes. It’s hard; it’s really hard. Am I happy that I’m not racing? Of course not – I’d much rather be racing but that doesn’t mean that I’m unhappy about things because I’m not. I understand very well Don’s predicament, and he’s the one in a predicament. I am too to a certain extent, but I think I have some good options for next year, and I’m working on those. If I have to miss five races this year to work with Don Schumacher then that’s what I do and that’s fine.

Above all it’s about relationships, and Don and I, despite all the rumors, have had a good relationship for six years. It’s important to both of us to keep that. I think that if I had put my foot down, which I could have done, and demanded that I wanted to race for the rest of the year, he may or may not have let that happen, but it wouldn’t have been the smart thing to do. Ultimately I don’t think it would have benefited me and my relationship with him.

CP - So what are you options? We understand you’ve had an offer from Torco’s Competition Plus to become a photographer.

WB - No, I’m a race car driver and that’s it. I race cars, try to be a good husband, I raise my boy, I ride my bike and I trade stocks on occasion.

CP -So what about these offers that you’ve had? Are they pretty good ones?

WB - I’m not at liberty to say. And they’re not necessarily offers but they’re opportunities. There are a couple of good ones, and one in particular is very, very good.

CP -Have you had offers to drive Top Fuel or has it all strictly been Funny Car?

WB - It’s all drag racing, bro.

CP -So does that mean you’re not at liberty to say if it’s Top Fuel or Funny Car?

WB - No, I can’t say, but I will say that I’ve had a strong relationship with Matco Tools and there’s a lot of history there and a lot of equity. I’ll say that they’re very interested in continuing a relationship with me.

CP -Is there anything else you would like to add?

WB - The fans have been super, and I really appreciate that. Don Schumacher has been super, and I’ve seen him take some heat in the media and from the fans over this, and it’s unfortunate because I don’t think it’s fair to him to be made out a bad guy.


 

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