Scelzi wins another one against Force LAS VEGAS (Oct. 31, 2004) - It's becoming a habit - and it has nothing to do with the nun's outfit he wore this weekend for an ESPN2 piece on Halloween - for Gary Scelzi to beat John Force this year, and he...
Scelzi wins another one against Force
LAS VEGAS (Oct. 31, 2004) - It's becoming a habit - and it has nothing to do with the nun's outfit he wore this weekend for an ESPN2 piece on Halloween - for Gary Scelzi to beat John Force this year, and he did it again today in the second consecutive final round against the 13-time Funny Car championship (crowned yesterday).
Scelzi drove his HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car to his sixth final round of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series and won his third event of the year, fourth of his career, first at The Strip at Las Vegas in any category, and added to his round win-loss record against Force, making it 9-5.
With this win, Scelzi moves into second in Funny Car points in a tie with Del Worsham, whom Scelzi defeated in the semifinal round.
Scelzi disposed of Tommy Johnson Jr. in the first round with a 4.809/319.75, Cruz Pedregon with a 4.770/325.45 in the second and Worsham with another strong pass of 4.794/324.05 in the semifinal, before he faced his longtime friend in the final round.
His reaction times throughout the day were average - .095, .101 and .088 (.000 is perfect), until the final when Scelzi shot off with a .020 reaction time to Force's .081. That was all she wrote, as the three-time Top Fuel champion in only his second full year of Funny Car competition nailed the win on a holeshot advantage with a 4.790/326.32 pass to Force's quicker but losing 4.754/322.81.
"Let me tell you," Scelzi said in winner's circle, "every time you race John and (his crew chief Austin) Coil and those guys over there your back's against the wall. And you have to cheat them now and then. I didn't mean to take that big a chunk on the starting line. I turned on that top light, and I said, Oh, man, here we go, baby.
"But Zippy (crew chief Mike Neff) had that thing hopped up plenty good.
"My team makes me look good. Believe me, I'm doing everything I can to screw it up.
"I can't tell you how happy I am, how excited I am.
"I love racing the man. You can't help but just get pumped up to race him, because those guys are probably the greatest team that's ever been in drag racing - and maybe even in all of motorsports."
Scelzi never spares praise for his young crew chief. "Mike Neff is just really coming into his own here as of late. Even though we struggled a little bit in qualifying he never seemed to get nervous. And I just counted on him. The first round we ran an .80, and then we came back and ran a .77. We just kept getting better and better.
"We are tied for second. A lot of people didn't even look at us to be this high in the point standings, but we did. We felt we were this good of a team. But we stumbled early on. It's cost us, but we're rallying back. There are very few changes (to this team). Everyone on the team is coming back next year and we're just having a good time.
"We were the first car in line every round. Every Funny Car that raced, whether we were second pair, or fifth pair or whatever we were, we were the first ones that were serviced back in line. Nothing was left loose on the car. We had the fire bottles go off in the pits before the final and sprayed everything with soapy foam. The crew had to overcome that. The Matco Tools team came over, the Wonder Wagon team came over. Everybody pitched in and that's what a team is all about."
Following this event, the battle for second place in the Funny Car championship is now only between Worsham and Scelzi with one event remaining. "Finishing second means more to my guys, I think," added three-time Top Fuel champion Scelzi, "because there's a pretty big bonus for second compared to third. And I really want to see them get it.
"To me second is great, but once you've won those gold rings, second doesn't do you any justice. And that's just going to make us work harder next year."
Next up is the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway, Nov. 11-14.