Baytown: Gary Scelzi preview

FUNNY CAR RACER SCELZI STILL HOLDS TOP FUEL RECORD IN HOUSTON HOUSTON, Texas (March 26, 2008) - Four-time NHRA world champion Gary Scelzi returns to Houston Raceway Park this weekend for the fourth round of the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing ...

FUNNY CAR RACER SCELZI STILL HOLDS TOP FUEL RECORD IN HOUSTON

HOUSTON, Texas (March 26, 2008) - Four-time NHRA world champion Gary Scelzi returns to Houston Raceway Park this weekend for the fourth round of the 2008 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car. The Fresno, Calif., native who left the Top Fuel category at the end of 2001 to join the Funny Car class still holds the Top Fuel elapsed-time track record (4.480 seconds) at Houston Raceway Park, set in 1999.

Scelzi, who joined Don Schumacher Racing in 2003 and captured the 2005 NHRA Funny Car championship, is a two-time Top Fuel winner in Houston (1997 and 1998), but has not won here yet in Funny Car. He's aiming to change that statistic at this weekend's NHRA Spring Nationals.

"That's really kind of amazing," he said of his track record. "When we set the record in Houston in Top Fuel the engine actually blew up at 1100 feet and we still set the record. It would have been the quickest and fastest run in the history for a long, long time, but it would have been too quick to back it up for a national record (track records are backed up if a second similar run is within one percent). So, it actually worked out pretty well.

"That run actually was the only run in the history of Top Fuel where someone broke the three-second barrier to the eighth mile. We ran 2.999 seconds, which is also amazing, because the 4.48 has been beaten as a national record, but no one has gone quicker to the eighth mile than myself and (crew chief at the time) Alan Johnson, which is no surprise with Alan Johnson (who now tunes five-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher's U.S. Army dragster)."

Scelzi also returns to Houston after a DNQ (did not qualify) at the last event in Gainesville, Fla. "Going back to Houston after a DNQ - even though people may find this hard to believe - is almost like after a win wanting to get to the next track," said Scelzi, who is currently 11th in the point standings after three of 24 races. "Obviously, it's not as exciting, but after a DNQ you want to get back to a race track and redeem yourself, and, first of all, qualify, which has always been our method: get the car in the show on the first run and then improve on your qualifying position as the qualifying sessions go on. That didn't happen in Gainesville because of the rain (which washed out the two Friday qualifying runs), but I still feel very confident in our tune-up. I'm very confident in (crew chief) Todd Okuhara and all the Mopar boys. And I think that we can come into this race track, qualify and win the race. It would not surprise me, and I really don't think it would surprise any of our competitors.

"I also think we're going to see a lot of big names on that DNQ list this season, much like we did last year, and, obviously, it didn't affect the way the POWERade points championship turned out.

"The main thing is we want to be in the top five when we leave Indy (for the start of the Countdown to One playoffs after the U.S. Nationals on Labor Day), although we know it takes the top 10. We want to be in the upper half and our plans are still on track. We had a little setback in Gainesville, but we're ready to go to Houston."

As for whether the Mopar/Oakley team will run the Murf McKinney or the Brad Hadman chassis in Houston, "The decision will be made probably on Thursday if we're going to run the Hadman car or the McKinney car," Scelzi said.

Houston marks also the first time Scelzi will enjoy the luxury of a round-trip private flight courtesy of team owner Ken Black, something that was offered him for 10 events at the end of last year in order to keep Scelzi competing while spending more time with his family and business in Fresno. "Thursday afternoon I'm flying to Vegas and Thursday night we're flying to Houston," said Scelzi. "Sunday night I'll be back at home by 9 p.m. and be able to go to work on Monday.

"Actually, the first time I flew back with Ken was from Gainesville on Sunday night. This is going to be the first round-trip deal. But Ken has made it clear it's not an issue to fly me home, so he might be able to do more than he promised as far as getting me home on Sunday nights."

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher , Ken Black