Gary Scelzi Challenger test

SCELZI TESTS NEW CHALLENGER ON SPEED'S 'TEST DRIVE,' AIRS SATURDAY FRESNO, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2008) - Last month, four-time NHRA world champion Gary Scelzi took to El Mirage Dry Lake Bed in the Mojave Desert in California to test drive a new...

SCELZI TESTS NEW CHALLENGER ON SPEED'S 'TEST DRIVE,' AIRS SATURDAY

FRESNO, Calif. (Sept. 25, 2008) - Last month, four-time NHRA world champion Gary Scelzi took to El Mirage Dry Lake Bed in the Mojave Desert in California to test drive a new Dodge Challenger SRT8 and its 6.1-liter SRT Hemi SMPI engine for the show Test Drive, hosted by four-time SCCA Trans-Am champion Tommy Kendall. The 30-minute episode is scheduled to air on SPEED TV this Saturday, Sept. 27, at 6:30 p.m. ET.

The show will also feature appearances by late-night host and car aficionado Jay Leno, actress Carmen Electra and NASCAR driver Kyle Petty.

It was a unique experience for the driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series who is more accustomed to racing an 8000-hp race car at over 330 mph in under four seconds on a closed quarter-mile track. The challenges of the desert were intimidating. Scelzi's goal? To see if the Challenger would reach a speed of 165 mph. You'll have to watch the show to find out if the goal was accomplished.

"We definitely know where the name 'El Mirage' comes from," said Scelzi. "When we made our test runs everything looked like water on the track and we had a bit of a head wind. And it was hard to get your bearings because there were no points of reference. There were no cones, no telephone poles, no markers to tell you when to shut off. And I looked at the odometer and marked off three miles and knew where we had to shut off before we got to the rough terrain.

"With the bright light of the camera that was shining on me I could not see the small digital odometer. All I could see was the speedometer. We kind of had an idea of where we were and, when it was just about to run out of runway, I slowed down," said Scelzi, without admitting whether the car reached 165 mph or not.

"The car was extremely stable. The river bed was smooth, but if you went too far it was extremely rough. And we found that out on a 50-mph test run when we hit the rough stuff. I mean, it was out of nowhere and the car was bouncing off the ground and we thought we did some damage to it. But, fortunately, we didn't.

"Tommy did all the introductions and the interviews afterwards because we only had one SRT Challenger. But Tommy and I did a few donuts and a few fun things in between off-camera. I've known Tommy for a couple of years and he's a great guy and a big drag-racing advocate. He follows the sport, he follows me, and he's just a great all-around person and so were the producers who were there.

"Everyone who had something to do with the TV shoot was just incredible and accommodating and a lot of fun to work with."

Scelzi did admit that he entered this shoot with some trepidation. "I had no regrets at all," he said, "but sometimes you get roped into these things and then when you start thinking about it you wonder what could possibly go wrong, and then you find out that there's a lot of things that could go wrong. Actually, we were pretty smart about how we planned this thing out. It could have turned into a pretty ugly situation if you didn't know where to shut the car off."

The Dodge Challenger show will be featured on SPEED VOD beginning in mid-October and SPEEDtv.com will support the effort with multiple edited clips from the program and a promotional page on the Web site.

-credit: dsr

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Kyle Petty , Gary Scelzi , Jay Leno , Tommy Kendall
Tags TV