Las Vegas II: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi looks to conquer Vegas LAS VEGAS (Oct. 22, 2003) - Now that Gary Scelzi is well rested after a string of seven weekends of rainouts and racing in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car category, his goal is to conquer The Strip at...

Scelzi looks to conquer Vegas

LAS VEGAS (Oct. 22, 2003) - Now that Gary Scelzi is well rested after a string of seven weekends of rainouts and racing in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car category, his goal is to conquer The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend, where he hasn't had the greatest luck in the past.

In April at The Strip, his Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus lived up to its name when it was destroyed by an explosion during qualifying, resulting in a DNQ for the Fresno resident. That was a downer, but since then he, along with his crew chief Mike Neff, has mastered the art of speed, demolishing one track record after another, and is now tickling the 330-mph mark.

At Chicago's Route 66 Raceway in late September Scelzi re-wrote his own national top-speed record by taking his Oakley Dodge rocketship to a new national record of 329.18 mph, re-establishing himself as the fastest Funny Car pilot on Earth.

The weather conditions at this time of year in Las Vegas may not be conducive to breaking national records, so Scelzi's primary goal is to first make the 16-car field by qualifying high in Friday's first session, then go for low E.T. in the night session. After that, his job is to move past Ron Capps for sixth place in the Funny Car championship. Scelzi is just 49 points behind.

"The Strip has never has been a great place for me, which means it's time for that to change," says Scelzi, who has notched 25 Top Fuel wins and one Funny Car win, but not one of them in Las Vegas.

"The first thing we're going to do is to try to get this car qualified in the first shot (Friday afternoon), like we do every race. We ran one of the fastest speeds ever to half track in April, when we didn't qualify. We ran like 263 mph, which is pretty incredible," he adds.

"The only time we're going to be able to run that magical low E.T. number and the big speed I think is in Friday night qualifying, because the air gets cooler. It's been in the 90-degree range this week and it's almost like we've got to use our summer tune-up. At Infineon, Seattle and some of these other places where it gets hot like that we seem to have a pretty good handle on it."

Lane choice in final eliminations may be a factor, says Scelzi. "The left lane's got a bump in it that's pretty good, because of the walkway underneath. That contributed to my troubles in April, I think. So lane choice could become a factor here on Sunday. It could turn into a one-lane race track."

With his chances of moving into the top five in the Funny Car championship standings dashed, Scelzi is looking towards 2004 and the winter months to get back on track after a grueling second half of the 2003 season.

"I'm excited about next year," he says. "But I'm also pretty tired of all the rainouts. This week and a half that I've had off was well-earned and well-deserved. I'm glad the guys got to rest and I got to rest. It's given me a little better outlook, a little better personality. I was starting to get pretty rundown, pretty cranky."

What does a Nitro Funny Car driver do when he has a week off? "I've been playing with the go-karts with (son) Dominic and spending a lot of time with my kids. I'm also trying to get back on the same page at Scelzi Enterprises, and find out what's going on there because I've been away from it for so long. I'm just trying to get acquainted with what's going on again because that's what I'm going to be doing in my 'off' season - working back at the company."

But first he's got a little conquering to do.

-dsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi , Mike Neff