Indianapolis: Gary Scelzi final summary

SCELZI RUN STRONG IN FIRST ROUND, LOSES TO BURKART AT U.S. NATIONALS CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 4, 2006) - Those people who believe drag racing is just "stand on the gas and get it from A to B" would be considered misinformed when it comes to the...

SCELZI RUN STRONG IN FIRST ROUND, LOSES TO BURKART AT U.S. NATIONALS

CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 4, 2006) - Those people who believe drag racing is just "stand on the gas and get it from A to B" would be considered misinformed when it comes to the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. With speeds reaching 334 mph and elapsed times under five seconds, this sport is clearly more of a science laced with outrageous power, disappointment and emotional wins and losses.

Gary Scelzi and the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T team were victims of those aspects as well as of engineering and mechanical issues today at the U.S. Nationals at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

The reigning NHRA Funny Car champion, who has won this prestigious event in Top Fuel but not in Funny Car - since entering that class in 2002 - lost the opening stanza in today's final eliminations at the historic race. His dismissal came on a holeshot advantage to Phil Burkart Jr. Scelzi clocked a quicker elapsed time of 4.731 seconds at 330.96 mph, but Burkart's slower 4.789/323.58 claimed the win light. The margin of victory was an agonizing two feet.

At first glance, Scelzi's .116 (of a second) reaction time (.000 is perfect) to Burkart's .054 would appear that the driver was asleep at the wheel, but, while Scelzi admits Burkart took off ahead of him, he offers the following technical explanation of the results:

"This weekend especially, we have really been fighting our car to move in the first 60 feet (of a 1320-ft. track)," he said. "We've been on the very bottom of the 60-ft. charts which includes the initial hit of the throttle and moving forward. And we've been 18th, 20th, and nowhere close to the rest of the guys in the field.

"Our car, from 330 feet to the finish line, is like a couple thousandths (of a second) behind John Force's best run. We pick up more from there. That's why we've been running the 330-nph speeds (three times this weekend). But, no matter what we do to this thing we can't get it to react like (teammates Ron) Capps' car and (Whit) Bazemore's car. It just won't do it.

"So, we're going to run the car tomorrow (here at ORP) and we're going to make some completely wacko changes to get our car to run quicker to 60 feet and to 330 feet. If we could get it to pick up the 200 hundredths to 300 hundredths of a second we're lacking, we'll be running 4.60s and over 330 mph again. Because whatever it does early, it carries it through to the end.

"Yeah, I got beat on a holeshot," Scelzi added. "Phil had a great light and actually I had about my average light when I staged thin: .100 to .116, .120 - within a couple of hundredths. That's where I'm at all the time thin.

"Phil hit the gas ahead of me, no doubt about it, but his car reacts quicker too. If we had those two hundredths back - I lost by four thousandths - the outcome would be different.

"Bazemore is actually going to drive the car for me tomorrow, because I want him to hit the gas. They've really quickened Bazemore's car up in reaction time, and he was phenomenal in qualifying. If it picks up with the changes we're making with him driving, we'll know when we get to Reading if we actually made it better.

"This is disheartening," Scelzi said of his early exit. "This is Indy. You don't want to give this one up."

Scelzi remains seventh in the points rankings, with 1001 points.

Next up is the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., Sept. 15-17.

-credit: dsr

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Scelzi , Phil Burkart