Indianapolis: Gary Scelzi final summary

Scelzi reaches semis after defeating Force at U.S. Nats INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 6, 2004) - Gary Scelzi, second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings, and points leader John Force have been spending way too much time together...

Scelzi reaches semis after defeating Force at U.S. Nats

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 6, 2004) - Gary Scelzi, second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car standings, and points leader John Force have been spending way too much time together this season on the quarter-mile as Scelzi vies for his first Funny Car crown in the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus, and Force his 13th.

The pair matched up in an elimination round for the fifth straight event today at the prestigious 50th Annual U.S. Nationals, and in seven of the last eight events. For the second time this season, Scelzi defeated Force on a holeshot advantage, in the second round, after first disposing of his teammate Johnny Gray in the opening round.

The Fresno native and three-time Top Fuel champion defeated Force on a holeshot back in Brainerd, Minn., and Force paid him back with a holeshot winner in the quarterfinal at the last event in Memphis.

Scelzi's career round win-loss record against Force now stands at 7-5 and Scelzi has inched closer to the points lead, although losing in the semifinal round to Cruz Pedregon. Scelzi is now 206 points behind.

"I didn't know I had him," said Scelzi in the top-end interview after upsetting Force. "And I was looking for that green machine to come flying by there. It's good if you can beat him. It ain't a win at Indy, but, damn, it sure feels good.

"It's big. It's fun. It's exciting," he added. "You just get up to race the champ because you know that his car is fast and John is the best driver out here. He's always ready.

"It's been a duel all year long and I like it. And I really enjoy racing him because he doesn't play any games and he's a 12-time champion and nobody else out here can say that.

"It's neat for me to be able to stand up and go toe-to-toe with him and sometimes have some pretty good results."

Losing on a holeshot is not always what it seems. "The thing that reporters might not understand is when you roll the car in deeper (at the staging lights) you have a great reaction time," Scelzi explained. "When you roll it in thinner for lane choice your reaction time is worse. Sometimes the guy's late, but most of the time it's who rolled it in deeper.

"They can say holeshot, shmoleshot. When you're a driver you don't think much of that."

As for Force's reaction to him at the finish line: "He was pretty quiet," said Scelzi. "It's the U.S. Nationals. I've beat him before and John has always been very gracious and happy. He was very gracious, but you could see the emotion. He wanted to win bad.

"And when the media and everybody are saying you got beat on a holeshot, it hurts. I know what I felt like after Memphis. It was just seven thousandths of a second."

In the semifinal round against Cruz Pedregon, Scelzi had the edge in reaction time, but went up in smoke at about half-track. Scelzi pedaled it to regain control as the car veered to the centerline. Pedregon also lost traction and the pair fought it out to the finish line, with Pedregon taking the win light by a .1566 margin. "For whatever reason, it wore a clutch, and saw too much clutch and it smoked the tires," said Scelzi. "It's like the magic clutch discs; we don't know."

Next on the NHRA schedule is the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., Sept. 16-19.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Johnny Gray