Matco Tools turned the sport on its collective ear Friday, announcing that they will sever their longstanding relationship with Don Schumacher Racing next season to back a new Top Fuel entry out of the David Powers Racing stable. No driver has yet been named for the Powers entry, though current Matco Tools Funny Car driver – and Don Schmacher employee -- Whit Bazemore admitted that he has spoken to Powers about coming aboard next season, as a teammate to Hot Rod Fuller.
Don Schumacher told ESPN2 Saturday that he was stunned by the move; saying he had learned of Matco’s decision just hours before. Further, Schumacher said he has been in negotiations with Matco for months, and believed that they were close to a deal. In his words, ”I’m shocked. We had a few minor details to work out, but I had no reason to expect anything like this.”
Schumacher said he will begin the search for a new sponsor immediately, but when asked about Bazemore’s continued status with the team, said only that Bazemore remains his driver “at this time.”
I have no first-hand information on what happened between Matco Tools and Schumacher Racing. However, I’ve been involved in motorsports long enough to read between the lines. Follow the bouncing ball, if you can…
Bazemore has underachieved in the Schumacher Funny Car camp, as compared to teammates Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps.
Bazemore’s relationship with Capps deteriorated to the point of physical violence earlier this season.
Capps is contending for the 2006 PowerAde World Championship, while Bazemore languishes eighth in points, 382 behind leader John Force at the start of the weekend.
Schumacher has spoken only in the vaguest terms about Bazemore’s future with the team, while Bazemore has admitted speaking with other operations.
Bazemore spoke glowingly of the Powers team Saturday, while admitting only that he enjoys a “good relationship” with Matco Tools, and might be interested in driving the new Matco rail.
I was no math whiz in school, but it appears to me that as far as Bazemore is concerned, it adds up something like this:
Good relationship with sponsor + deteriorating relationship with owner = unexpected jump by sponsor to new team.
Did Whit Bazemore throw Don Schumacher under the bus, stealing Matco Tools in an effort to ensure that he has a ride next season? It’s impossible to know for sure.
But like the old saying goes, “If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… it’s probably a duck.”