SCELZI MOVES INTO CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENTION WITH FUNNY CAR VICTORY AT CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS Kalitta, Line and Ellis also earn victories at Route 66 Raceway JOLIET, Ill. -- Gary Scelzi closed in on John Force's world ...
SCELZI MOVES INTO CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENTION WITH FUNNY CAR VICTORY AT CARQUEST AUTO PARTS NHRA NATIONALS
Kalitta, Line and Ellis also earn victories at Route 66 Raceway
JOLIET, Ill. -- Gary Scelzi closed in on John Force's world championship points lead by racing to the Funny Car victory Sunday at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway.
Scott Kalitta, Jason Line and Chip Ellis also were winners at the $1.8 million race, the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Scelzi took advantage on a rare first round loss by Force and cut the 13-time champ's series lead to 64 when he powered past Force teammate Eric Medlen in the final round.
Scelzi covered the quarter-mile distance in 4.740 seconds at 330.80 mph in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to claim his second victory of the season and 31st of his career. Medlen trailed with a 4.805 at 321.73 in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang in his first final round appearance of the season.
"We have to capitalize on any chance we get and today we took out some heavy hitters," said Scelzi, who beat Bob Gilbertson, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Robert Hight to advance to the final round. "Anytime you can beat two of Force's cars in the same day it's a good thing because that doesn't happen very often. I hope we can keep it going and make a horse race out of this championship."
Kalitta earned his second Top Fuel victory of the season and 18th overall by outrunning Rod Fuller in the final. Kalitta clocked a 4.518 at 330.15 in his Jesse James/Mac Tools dragster to pull away from Fuller, who finished in 4.602 at 323.58 in his David Powers Homes dragster.
Kalitta had some tough early rounds, including wins over Morgan Lucas and Larry Dixon. However, his toughest round may have been a second-round win over his cousin and current series points leader Doug Kalitta.
"We've been frustrated with the car so today we set it up today exactly like Doug's car and it showed the results," said Scott, a two-time POWERade Series world champion (1994-'95) who moved into sixth in the current standings with the victory. "This worked out as good as it could for us because it's all about bringing a championship to Kalitta Motorsports, no matter to which of the three cars."
Despite the second-round loss, Doug maintained a 25-point lead over top rival and defending world champ Tony Schumacher, who also lost in the quarterfinals.
Line claimed his second win of the season and sixth of his career in Pro Stock in a photo-finish (.0015 margin of victory) over Jeg Coughlin. Line drove his Summit Racing Pontiac to a 6.783 at 203.09 to hold off Coughlin's Jeg's Mail Order Dodge Stratus, which posted a 6.800 at 202.48.
"It's good to beat Jeg, especially since this is my first race with the new sponsor," said Line, who moved into his fourth final round of the season with early round wins over Greg Stanfield, Dave Connolly and Richie Stevens . "I had a good feeling coming here. It's a great track and we seem to run well here."
Line moved into third place and his teammate, two-time defending champ Greg Anderson, moved into the points lead for the first time this season, continuing the strong recent surge for the KB racing duo.
"Our team chemistry is the best it's ever been," Line said. "We are excited and going in the right direction."
Anderson, who lost to Coughlin in the semifinals, moved ahead of season-long category leader Warren Johnson by 25 points. The top four drivers in the standings, who also include Line and Connolly, are separated by 86 points.
Ellis captured his first victory of the season and second of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle, clocking a 7.203 at 180.79 on his G-Squared S&S Buell to defeat local favorite Geno Scali, who posted a 7.343 at 178.30 on his Trim Tex Suzuki.
"I was glad we could pull it off today and win this for Ken (Johnson)," said Ellis, referring to his crew chief who is continuing to recover from a broken leg he suffered last weekend in a freak accident. "It took five people to do his job, but we got it done. That just shows you what this team is capable of when we all pull together. Jackie (Bryce) talked to him a while ago on the phone and he said that's the best medicine he's had."
With the victory, Ellis, who had struggled for most of the season, becomes the fifth different winner in the category and moved into second place in the point standings, 28 behind leader GT Tonglet, who suffered a rare first-round loss.
"Just like a pitcher in Major League Baseball we had to break out of a slump," said Ellis, one of the top contenders for the 2005 Auto Club Road to the Future Award which recognizes the best rookie performer of the season. "The bike wasn't struggling, I was. Drag racing is a very mental sport and for the last few races my mental wasn't very good. But today we moved from eighth to second and that just shows how valuable those POWERade points are."
The NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series continues with the 36th annual K&N Filters SuperNationals, June 16-19 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, Englishtown, N.J.