SCELZI GOES OUT IN FIRST ROUND YET GAINS POINTS ON FORCE MADISON, Ill. (June 26, 2005) - For the second weekend in a row Gary Scelzi and John Force were eliminated in the first round of eliminations, and Scelzi gained points on the 13-time ...
SCELZI GOES OUT IN FIRST ROUND YET GAINS POINTS ON FORCE
MADISON, Ill. (June 26, 2005) - For the second weekend in a row Gary Scelzi and John Force were eliminated in the first round of eliminations, and Scelzi gained points on the 13-time champion, driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car.
It's an agonizing and torturous way to do it, but Scelzi is slowly - very slowly - chipping away at Force's points lead in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car class. By virtue of his qualifying No. 1, Scelzi gained seven points on Force this weekend at the NHRA Nationals at Gateway International Raceway despite his loss to Terry Haddock in the opening round, and is now just 55 points behind.
Last weekend, in Englishtown, N.J., he gained two points by out-qualifying Force.
Robert Hight, who advanced to the second round, was close to taking over second from Scelzi today, but was defeated in that round and remains in third, just seven points behind Scelzi.
Scelzi had the edge on Haddock at the starting light, with a .122 reaction time to Haddock's .148, but a mechanical problem midway resulted in a losing 5.720-second pass to Haddock's winning 5.482/206.51.
The irony was that Haddock failed to start the second round, giving Tom Wilkerson a bye run for the win.
"It's one of those things you have to deal with," said a dejected Scelzi who is seeking his first Funny Car championship to go with his three Top Fuel crowns, "but it's very difficult to not capitalize when there's no way you should have lost a race like that. So, you put your stuff back together and you go and get ready for Denver."
Crew chief Mike Neff explained the problem: "It blew the main fuel line that comes out of the back of the barrel valve which feeds the whole engine its fuel. It pulled the crimp apart and blew the fuel line off so all the gas just quit going to it and it quit running.
"It's very disappointing. It looked like it was on a really good run. It looked like it should have run a high 4.90 or something like that. It was just a tough break. Definitely a bad hit of luck on that one."
"We're going to go run a brand-new car at a match race this next weekend in Norwalk, Ohio," Scelzi continued, "so we'll know whether it's good and it's fresh, because this one's got a half a season on it. If it seems any better, we may run it, but I don't know that.
"There's nothing wrong with this car, it's just horrible luck. Between losing three races by three thousandths of a second, stupid fuel lines coming off or something else happening, it's pretty frustrating right now. I'm not handling it very well. I'm going to tell you right now, it upsets me to no end.
"I've been in these positions before, but I don't want to see this championship slip away. And there's a lot of racing left and there's nothing to be negative about, but you can see the handwriting on the wall when you know you've got a car that can win the damned race and you don't do it, because of a mechanical problem.
"I might have felt better if it smoked the tires, because I know how hard Mike works, and Mike's got a really good handle on this race car right now and these Team Mopar/Oakley Dodge guys are doing everything they can.
"This was a fuel line that's pressure tested, that's sealed, that's marked, that's labeled. It's like what would go on an aircraft.
"It's nobody's fault. I can't blame anybody, but right now the pressure is building, at least it is on myself. And I want this thing even more because I know we can get it. I know it's there. It's ours for the taking.
"I know we can go toe to toe with anybody out there and now we just have to go do that. But you have to have some racing luck, and we don't have it right now."
Next up is the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver, Colo., July 15-17, 2005.