Commerce: Mopar Saturday summary

Five Mopars in the show; Scelzi notches his best qualifying slot of season. Commerce, Ga. (May 3, 2003) -- Mopar teams rebounded strongly in today's final qualifying session after a three-hour rain delay cancelled Friday night's track ...

Five Mopars in the show; Scelzi notches his best qualifying slot of season.

Commerce, Ga. (May 3, 2003) -- Mopar teams rebounded strongly in today's final qualifying session after a three-hour rain delay cancelled Friday night's track activities.

The Stratus claimed the third and fourth slots in the Funny Car field lead by Whit Bazemore and backed up by Schumacher Racing teammate Gary Scelzi. Bazemore posted a quarter-mile run of 4,802 seconds at 322.73 mph and will take on Tim Wilkerson in the first round. Meanwhile Scelzi piloted his Oakley Time Bomb machine down the strip at 318.09 mph in just 4.855 seconds. The Fresno, Calif., resident will go against Johnny Gray tomorrow morning.

"We shook the tires and got too aggressive," Bazemore said. "The sun came out and the track got slick. We overstepped the bounds, but were able to gather it back in and overall, have had a solid weekend. There's been no drama, no heroics. We're looking for solid, consistent runs and that will make us competitive in tomorrow's first round. That's the kind of performance that will put us in great position for a championship."

Scelzi talked about his day.

"We lost a cylinder during that last run and the engine went off and then on again," Scelzi said. "Usually when that happens with a (nitro) fuel engine it will explode, so I turned it off. We're not taking any chances, so the guys are taking apart the entire ignition system to find out what happened. We had a great day with our best qualifying position of the season and with my teammate on the opposite side of the (elimination) ladder, it will be a day for Schumacher Racing."

Pro Stock shoe, Allen Johnson, put his Mopar machine in the eighth slot for Sunday's first round of competition on the strength of a 6.861-second, 201.40 mph run. Johnson led the Pro Stock contingent in qualifying as he prepares to defend his 2002 NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Southern Nationals event win. He will take on Mark Pawuk in the first round.

"We made an awesome run this afternoon," Johnson said. "We had been fighting the tune up and set up, but we nailed it on the head on that run. We've got lane choice for tomorrow's first round, so that will get off to a good start. It definitely gives up confidence and it's a great start to the weekend."

Darrell Alderman put his Neon in the top 16 by claiming the 14th spot despite losing a cylinder during his quarter-mile run. The three-time category champion posted a pass of 6.870 seconds at 200.74 mph and will contend against Kurt Johnson in the first round of eliminations. Alderman is followed by Greg Stanfield, who also made the show by clicking off a run of 6.870 seconds at 200.38 mph. The Bossier City, La., resident will go to the starting line in the 15th slot and take on Jeg Coughlin Jr.

"All I can say is that it's good thing we made a good run this morning," Alderman said. "We dropped a cylinder in the middle of the run and that hurt us at the top end. I was hoping that we had just broke a rocker arm because those are easy to fix. Unfortunately, we burned a piston, so we'll have to change motors, tune it and get it ready for the first round tomorrow morning."

Mopar Notes

Greg Stanfield, driver of the BPE Dodge Neon
Stanfield Price Racing
Hometown: Bossier City, La.
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.870 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: 200.38 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: 15th

"We're just happy to be here. I can't tell you how tough this field is. The weather has made this track difficult to figure out and we're still dealing with that, but we have good data from our runs and that will allow us to make good decisions for tomorrow's race."

Larry Morgan, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T
Larry Morgan Racing
Hometown: Newark, Ohio
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.955 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: 198.99 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: 27th

"This is a good news, bad news situation. The good news is that we made a better run in that last session. The bad news is that it wasn't enough to get us in the show. We're making a lot of adjustments to the set up and that's been challenging. The field is so competitive that if you give up one hundredth (of a second), you're gone."

Gene Wilson, driver of the Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus R/T
Larry Morgan Racing
Hometown: Canton, Ga.
Age: 30
Current Weekend Best Qualifying Time: 6.987 seconds
Current Weekend Best Speed: @00.74 mph
Current Weekend Qualifying Position: 30th

"Having Friday's night session cancelled really hurt us. We lost the chance to get a lot of data and that got us behind. We had our hands full with the transmission because we had too much in second gear. We left it alone and we should have changed some things. That's the kind of information that you lose when a qualifying session is missed."

-Mopar.com-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Mark Pawuk , Kurt Johnson , Whit Bazemore , Larry Morgan , Gene Wilson , Greg Stanfield , Tim Wilkerson , Allen Johnson , Johnny Gray