Schumacher Racing 2003 preview

Schumacher Racing heads into Pomona and 2003 with expanded Funny Car effort. INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 30, 2003) -- With the addition of Gary Scelzi in the Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car to its existing two-car Funny Car team,...

Schumacher Racing heads into Pomona and 2003 with expanded Funny Car effort.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (January 30, 2003) -- With the addition of Gary Scelzi in the Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car to its existing two-car Funny Car team, Don Schumacher Racing becomes the largest NHRA pro team competing in the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, as it heads to the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona Raceway next weekend (Feb. 6-9).

Scelzi joins Scotty Cannon, in the second Oakley-sponsored Funny Car, and Whit Bazemore, in the Matco Tools-backed Dodge Funny Car. Completing the four-car effort under the Schumacher Racing umbrella is the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster driven by Tony Schumacher.

Reshuffling of personnel over the winter and a switch to new Dodge bodies have revamped and revitalized the Funny Car group. Lee Beard continues as crew chief for Bazemore's Matco Tools Funny Car. He's joined in 2003 by Mike "Zippy" Neff (with Cannon last year), as crew chief on Scelzi's Oakley Dodge, and Dan Olson, who tuned Tony Schumacher's dragster last year, as co-crew chief on both Bazemore's and Scelzi's cars. Phil Shuler takes over as Cannon's crew chief.

Along with Wes Cerny, new crew chief on the dragster, the Schumacher Racing brain trust was already in full gear at recent pre-season testing at Firebird Raceway in Arizona, where Bazemore posted low elapsed time (4.820sec) and top speed (320.89 mph) during the three-day NHRA Time Trials, and Scelzi improved his personal best Funny Car run in nearly every session, coming up with a 4.809/320.51 pass the following week.

"I love competition," says team owner Don Schumacher. "Otherwise, I wouldn't be in racing or in business. That's why I continue to grow my racing operation along with growing Schumacher Electric (based in Chicago). It's quite a challenge to be able to put a fourth team together and have the personnel fall into place and get the components and parts put in place in a short period of time. Fortunately, we've got the funding, from great sponsors such as the U.S. Army, Matco Tools and now Oakley on two cars. We also have a multiple-year agreement with Dodge and are also fortunate to have unique individuals driving. The toughest part of multiple teams is to have the team members all get along with each other. We've got a great organization and a great bunch of people and crew chiefs who have been able to put this together."

GARY SCELZI - HAPPY TO BE IN FUNNY CAR

Scelzi, three-time NHRA Top Fuel champion, born and raised in Fresno, Calif., joins Schumacher Racing full-time this year, following a limited Funny Car season in 2002, his first foray into that class. "I really don't miss being in a dragster," he says. "I had five great years in Top Fuel. I'm tied for fifth in the all-time win list and I have three championships, a runner-up and a fifth place in five years. That's pretty outstanding. I wanted to do something new and exciting and having a manufacturer behind me, such as Dodge, and a great sponsor in Oakley, I knew Funny Car is where I wanted to be. It seems like there's a little more excitement there right now. Being a part of Don Schumacher Racing with the talent and the equipment that he's assembled, a guy would have to be brain dead to not be excited about the opportunity."

Pomona Raceway is close to home for Scelzi: "I like this track. It's kind of my home race track because Fresno is only three and a half hours away. I've won here several times in the alcohol classes and in Top Fuel. It's neat because there's a lot of family, which can be kind of stressful, and a lot of friends."

WHIT BAZEMORE -- FOCUSED AND READY

Two-time U.S. Nationals champion Bazemore, of Indianapolis, who was Scelzi's teammate in 1997-1998 when Scelzi drove a Top Fuel Dragster and Bazemore a Funny Car, is also eager to get the season started. "I think this year we have an extremely good chance to do very well," he says. "I am more focused than I've ever been. We want to win races and we had a few lessons last year (he won two events; finished fifth in points) and we're very focused on every aspect of driving the car. That's my responsibility and we're going to do it 100 percent correctly and that's it. We're a much more competitive team this year personnel-wise. I think the decisions that are made on race day are going to be stronger decisions because of the personnel that we have."

Bazemore, the first driver to reach 325 mph in a Funny Car (at the 2001 U.S. Nationals), has never won at Pomona. "Pomona is a legendary track and the Winternationals is obviously a race that has a lot of tradition," he says. "That's one reason we want to win it. The other reason is, when you're looking at the big picture, it's very important to get off to a good strong start. I expect that when we get to Pomona the Matco Tools Dodge will be the most prepared it's ever been and we're all going to be ready to go racing. It may be more important to have a good result in Pomona than at any other time of the year, because you have an opportunity to get ahead. You're not catching up. It's important to be very, very competitive out of the trailer there."

SCOTTY CANNON -- NEW CREW CHIEF, STRONG GOALS

Scotty Cannon, who ended up eighth in points in 2002, will compete in his 2002 Oakley Funny Car at Pomona. The Lyman, S.C., resident begins the season with a new crew chief, Phil Shuler, who worked for Cannon in 2001, and several new crew members. "Our goal, of course, is to go out there and win a championship this year," he says. "But our main concern right now is just to make sure we get the team up and going good and gelling well, getting the car running good and steady. I'm glad to be involved with Oakley again. Oakley and Don put together a situation that lets me kind of run my own deal and have it just a little bit different than the other two teams. All the cars are running a little bit different. I think we can share information, but I don't think you can tune all the cars the same. We also have a lot of different parts on our car that the other two cars don't have, but I know we'll exchange notes."

As for Pomona, "It would have been nicer to have had more runs under our belt with a new team and a different tune-up," Cannon says. "The good thing is that most of the guys on the team are guys that I have worked with before. I like going to Pomona. At the end of the year, when you leave Pomona, you're kind of ready for a break. In six to eight weeks you're ready to go racing again."

Regarding the reports that he would field a Pro Mod team in 2003, he responds, "I'm still looking for the funding to run my own Pro Mod team and have another driver in it. Before I do that, I'm putting all the effort into this Funny Car team."

-sr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Scotty Cannon , Don Schumacher