Madison: Saturday qualifying report

Scelzi Races To Career-Best Time To Earn No. 1 Position in Funny Car at Sears Craftsman Nationals Russell, Anderson and Brown also earn top qualifying positions at Gateway International Raceway MADISON, Ill. -- Gary Scelzi raced to his first No....

Scelzi Races To Career-Best Time To Earn No. 1 Position in Funny Car at Sears Craftsman Nationals
Russell, Anderson and Brown also earn top qualifying positions at Gateway International Raceway

MADISON, Ill. -- Gary Scelzi raced to his first No. 1 qualifying effort of the season in Funny Car Saturday night at the Sears Craftsman NHRA Nationals.

Darrell Russell, Greg Anderson and Antron Brown also set track records to earn No. 1 qualifying positions in their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 12th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Eliminations begin Sunday at 4:30 p.m. (CT).

Scelzi powered his Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T to a track record run of 4.724 seconds at 329.50 mph at Gateway International Raceway to lead the 16-car lineup. It was the 36th No. 1 position of his career, 33 of which were earned during his Top Fuel career from 1997-'01.

"I think that was the worse job of driving I've ever done in my life, but who cares," said Scelzi of his career-best elapsed time. "When you run tracks that historically are a bit slippery you take all the weight out of the front end so it can get down through there. The problem is that it's harder to steer that way because the front end is up in the air a lot more. I was moving to the centerline and I was yanking and yanking the steering wheel left and all of a sudden it made a big move and I thought, 'I screwed up.' But it still ran over there and we were able to get the number."

Russell earned the second No. 1 qualifying award of his career in and first since the '02 season, powering his Amato Racing Top Fuel dragster to a leading run of 4.511 at 328.54.

"It's been awhile," Russell said. "I don't know if I'm more excited about qualifying No. 1 or about the consistency we showed today. It just seems like everything's coming to us right now and it's a great feeling. The guys are working well together and Wayne (Dupuy, crew chief) is loving this new Brad Hadman chassis. He's got the set-up right now. I was watching every car ahead of us and I didn't really feel comfortable until the last few pairs ran and I saw that no one was really stepping up. You still never know with (Tony) Schumacher and he was right next to us but we held on and we couldn't be happier."

Anderson claimed the ninth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and 25th of his career in Pro Stock by clocking a 6.702 at 205.26 in his Vegas General Construction Pontiac Grand Am.

"We've been a little off our game the last three races and maybe it's in large part to the heat we're feeling from everyone closing the gap on us," Anderson said. "It's certainly got us to thinking and we've been trying some different things. It's really starting to get fun out there for all of us. The class is better all the way around."

Brown took his seventh career top qualifying award in Pro Stock Bike with a 7.086 at 187.68 on his U.S. Army Suzuki.

"That was great back-to-back runs for this U.S. Army team," said Brown, also the top qualifier at Gateway in 2001. "This team's been working very, very hard and we tested again before this race. It all paid off because I think we finally have the right set-up for the bike. We've been making good power all year; we've just had a hard time getting it down to the track."

-nhra-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson