Pomona Scelzi interview

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761 SCELZI HAS LOFTY GOALS FOR ROOKIE SEASON IN TOP FUEL POMONA, Calif. -- The words rolled off Gary Scelzi's tongue with quiet confidence. Someone asked...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: NHRA Communications (818) 914-4761

SCELZI HAS LOFTY GOALS FOR ROOKIE SEASON IN TOP FUEL

POMONA, Calif. -- The words rolled off Gary Scelzi's tongue with quiet confidence.

Someone asked Scelzi about goals for his rookie season in Top Fuel in 1997, driving the Team Winston Dragster owned by tuning wizard Alan Johnson. Scelzi was hired by Johnson last October to replace Blaine Johnson, who suffered a fatal accident last August during qualifying at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

"I don't want to sound cocky, but I told my parents and my wife after I got the call from Alan that there are two things I've never done," Scelzi said. "One was drive a Top Fuel car, and the other was win a Winston championship. I'm trying to kill two birds with one stone."

Scelzi, from Fresno, Calif., will start his quest to reach those goals at the 37th annual, $1,546,100 Chief Auto Parts Winternationals, Jan. 30-Feb. 2 at Pomona Raceway. The race opens the 22-event, $30-million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series in 1997.

Winning a Winston championship is a longshot for most rookies, but Scelzi is no ordinary rookie. And the Team Winston Dragster crew is no ordinary team.

Scelzi, 36, has won three NHRA national events in a Federal- Mogul Dragster and three in a Federal-Mogul Funny Car during his long sportsman career. He started his career racing a sand dragster in Santa Maria, Calif., just like Blaine Johnson, and is a close friend of the Johnson family.

His route to success is very similar to that of Blaine Johnson, who won three races and led the NHRA Winston point standings last season before his tragic accident. Johnson also was a sportsman standout, winning NHRA Winston Top Alcohol Dragster titles from 1990-93.

"I know I'm not Blaine's replacement," Scelzi said. "I'm just another driver. Blaine was incredible. No one will replace him. I'm just honored they asked me."

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Jack Durbin indy500@freenet.tlh.fl.us Motorsport News International jackd@motorsport.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi