Richmond: Gary Scelzi final report

SCELZI WINS HIS FOURTH OF SEASON, LANDS IN SECOND IN COUNTDOWN PETERSBURG, Va. (Oct. 7, 2007) - Gary Scelzi was the lead actor in a dramatic show of perseverance, skill, wherewithal and sheer determination today to not only win his fourth NHRA...

SCELZI WINS HIS FOURTH OF SEASON, LANDS IN SECOND IN COUNTDOWN

PETERSBURG, Va. (Oct. 7, 2007) - Gary Scelzi was the lead actor in a dramatic show of perseverance, skill, wherewithal and sheer determination today to not only win his fourth NHRA POWERade Drag Racing national event of the season in four final rounds, but to leap all the way into the No. 2 spot in the Countdown to Four. He accomplished this by defeating Del Worsham, Cruz Pedregon, Tony Bartone and lastly his teammate Ron Capps in the final round of eliminations at the Torco Racing Fuels NHRA Nationals, the last race of the Countdown to Four Playoffs.

After struggling to qualify No. 8, Scelzi and Capps (No. 15) were tied in fourth place in the rankings. Scelzi was the tie-breaker, having earned more round wins during the Countdown than Capps. Each knew he had to win every round, if the other advanced, to have any hopes of earning a spot in the top four. It already looked good for Tony Pedregon and Robert Hight to hold on to a berth in the Countdown, but there was only room for an additional two. Unfortunately for the three-car Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car team, as Scelzi and Capps advanced, teammate Jack Beckman, who entered this event third in points, found himself the victim after dropping out in the second round.

When Capps and Scelzi, driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T, reached the final round, Beckman was bumped into fifth and Capps earned the final slot.

In the final, the pair launched with near-identical reaction times: .085 for Scelzi, .076 for Capps. But Capps struck the tires and Scelzi grabbed the win with a 4.956-second pass at 306.60 mph to Capps' 5.935/207.11.

"It was a great day," said Scelzi, who now has a career 37 wins in 58 final rounds. "Todd (Okuhara, crew chief) made all the right calls. Okuhara has just been incredible. Mike Neff got us here and I don't ever want to forget that. Mike and I are very close. I hope I can help him in any way I can to learn how to drive a Funny Car," added Scelzi of his former crew chief who is slated to drive for John Force in 2008. "He's going to be here tomorrow (testing). I won't be, but I'll be in Vegas when we test in a couple of weeks. He means a lot to me, and Okuhara has slipped right in and I've been fortunate. I've had three professional crew chiefs in my career: Alan Johnson, Mike Neff and Todd Okuhara. And each one of them I love dearly.

"Before the final I told Todd, I said, You know, we're in the Countdown now, so it doesn't really do any good to be fourth, so we might as well try to be second. So let's hop this thing up a little bit and let's see what it will do, you little coward. He started laughing. And, I tell you what, when I hit the gas that thing was so out of control, it was the worst job of driving I think you could possibly have. I don't know how I didn't run over everything. And it's spinning the tire and I'm driving it out of the groove and going back and forth. Looked like a windshield wiper. Anyway, we lucked out, we got the win light.

"It just feels great. But I did not feel like today was the day where you're going to conquer the world. But when I look back at it, the last couple of races, even in Memphis (last win) I didn't feel that great going into Sunday. I hope I feel like hell in Vegas and like hell in Pomona. Because it looks pretty good right now."

"Any time you win is big," said Okuhara. "But it's kind of bittersweet with Jack Beckman and the MTS car dropping out of the top four. I wish we had all three cars in there.

"The track was hot, it was pretty tricky. It's hard because you qualify in such different conditions and you go into race day kind of guessing. We didn't run what we wanted to run, but I guess we ran good enough."

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Jack Beckman , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff