THIS IS IT FOR SCELZI! ONLY ONE RACE LEFT TO DECIDE THE FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 1, 2005) - The tension is high for the top two drivers in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship chase to win their first ...
THIS IS IT FOR SCELZI! ONLY ONE RACE LEFT TO DECIDE THE FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP
POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 1, 2005) - The tension is high for the top two drivers in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship chase to win their first Funny Car crowns, as the season comes down to the final race, the Automobile Club of Southern California Finals this weekend at Pomona Raceway.
After 22 races, only two points separate leader Gary Scelzi, driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, and his teammate Ron Capps, in the Brut Dodge. The man who has already won 13 championships, John Force, sits in third, 28 (or two elimination rounds) behind Scelzi.
For Scelzi, who has three Top Fuel titles under his belt, it's going to be business as usual, he says, as he tries to lower the stress level by doing what his team, led by crew chief Mike Neff, has done all season: been fast, quick and strong.
"The bottom line is to get in the show," says Scelzi, "and if you lose qualifying points and Ron gets ahead of us after qualifying, then that's what's going to happen. We're not going to change our whole game plan just over those two points. It [won't be] the end of the world."
Drivers earn 1-8 points based on qualifying position (8 pts for No. 1; 7 for 2nd; 6 for 3rd; 5 for 4th; 4 for 5-6th; 3 for 7-8th; 2 for 9-12th; and 1 for 13-16th).
"The important thing is on Sunday," adds Scelzi. "We're going there to try to win the race, just like we did in Vegas. We almost did it (Capps beat Scelzi in the final). Whether that happens in Pomona, we'll see. I don't have a crystal ball, but we're not going to change up our game plan and force ourselves to blow it pulling in the gate.
"This is down to three guys going at it, basically, all year, [long]. No one's been able to get away with anything. No one's been able to pad that lead. Now time's run out. There's no more mistakes for any of us. We've gotta go and we've gotta do well."
Dethroning the reigning champion is the goal, but it's not an easy task, as Force Racing has won the NHRA Funny Car championship 12 straight years. "This is John Force," Scelzi says. "He's a 13-time world champion, and if you watch his organization, everybody's tried to copy it, everybody's tried to duplicate it, and nobody's been successful. I think that it's the hardest it's ever been on him, or anybody else, the closest they've ever been. It's a different scenario. It's a different feeling. Even though he's a close friend of mine, he's John Force, and once you pull onto the starting line, you better not be coming with a knife to a gun fight, and you better be dead-on on your aim. And you know that, so that just kind of raises everything, too the pressure, the hair on the back of your neck. It raises the level of everything, because this is a big deal."
Scelzi has three wins at Pomona Raceway - all in Top Fuel, none in Funny Car. All three drivers went out in the first round at the 2005 season opener in Pomona.
Head to head in 2005: Force is 2-0 vs. Scelzi, but Scelzi leads overall with a 9-8 record; Force is 3-4 vs. Capps; Capps and Scelzi are 2-2 vs. one another and 5-5 career.