The biggest surprise in an upset-filled weekend of drag racing had nothing to do with what happened on the track in Sunday's Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta. It had to do with the dustup between Schumacher Racing teammates Ron Capps and Whit Bazemore that left Bazemore with stitches in his lip, and Capps with some `splaining to do.
The confrontation began a week ago, after Bazemore lost to John Force in the semifinals at Bristol Dragway. As Force took the win light, Capps pumped his fist in delight; a gesture Bazemore interpreted as a sign that his teammate had been pulling for Force. For his part, Capps said he was reacting to his getting lane choice over Force in the final round.
No matter which story is true, the end result was the same. Bazemore confronted Capps Saturday in Atlanta, words were exchanged, and Capps landed a right-cross to Bazemore's kisser. Capps, the NHRA PowerAde Funny Car points leader, attempted to downplay the incident Sunday, taking the blame for the misunderstanding and expressing his remorse. Bazemore was less contrite, expressing regret only over not being able to defend himself due to an ongoing NHRA probation for a service-road speeding incident and a resulting verbal clash with officials a year ago.
Capps offered Bazemore his hand Sunday (in peace), and Bazemore reportedly accepted. But an on-camera interview with ESPN2's Gary Gerould left little doubt that Bazemore has yet to let bygones be bygones, raising questions whether the two can continue to function as teammates.
Team owner Don Schumacher told NHRA.com, "This is a personal situation between Ron and Whit. They've talked to each other, and tried to clear the air. It's something that I wish hadn't happened. I wish the media would leave it alone, but I understand why they can't. To me, it's a negative we don't need." NHRA Vice President of Racing Operations, Graham Light said he has spoken to both drivers, and that the incident is under review.
Perhaps coincidentally, both Capps and Bazemore were eliminated in the first round Sunday; Capps making his first opening round exit of the season. Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman proved long ago that you can hate each other and still be teammates, but will it work in the NHRA?
Only time will tell.