Seattle: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi says tire and new surface unknowns in Seattle KENT, Wash. (July 21, 2004) - Gary Scelzi escaped a big drop in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals last Sunday after losing in the...

Scelzi says tire and new surface unknowns in Seattle

KENT, Wash. (July 21, 2004) - Gary Scelzi escaped a big drop in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals last Sunday after losing in the first round of final eliminations. Except for Eric Medlen and points leader John Force, who were ousted in the second round, Scelzi's other closest competitors - teammate Whit Bazemore, Del Worsham and Gary Densham - were also eliminated in the opening round.

So the driver of the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus, who had made a powerful push to the top of the point standings in recent events, remains fourth in the rankings, well within striking distance of the lead, as the NHRA circus heads to the Pacific Northwest for the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals this weekend.

"It didn't draw any blood," he said. "We lost 20 points to Force and basically some qualifying points and you're going to have some races between now and the end of the season where you're going to have a bad time. The good thing was that everybody in the top five lost in the first or second round. If you're going to have a bad outing, that's the way to have it, because somebody could have made a major move there and no one did."

The Fresno native and national top-speed Funny Car record-holder of 330.55 mph is just 114 points out of first place and 87 short of second. But this weekend's event at Pacific Raceways, a hop-skip outside of Seattle, will present new challenges, he said.

Scelzi's record here at Pacific Raceways includes Funny Car low qualifier in 2003, three No. 1 Top Fuel qualifiers in 2001, 2000 and 1997. He's won two Top Fuel events here (2001, 2000) and was runner-up in 1997.

"It's supposed to be hot in Seattle, in the high 80s, low 90s," he commented. "Denver was really tough. I could not believe that so many teams could not get down that race track. I do not believe it was the surface. I think it had a lot to do with this new Goodyear tire (recently mandated by NHRA). There's obviously going to be a pretty big learning curve here.

"I understand that we didn't have downforce at Bandimere Speedway, but in Seattle we will have downforce. And the starting line is normally pretty good here. The tire is a big unknown factor. I didn't think it was going to be as big as it is, but obviously it is."

Another new NHRA rule includes lowering the fuel mixture to 85 percent nitromethane, down from 90 percent. "The 85 percent rule should help," he added, "because it will kill some power. But, again, we're going into a race that I've had a lot of success at in the Top Fuel and Alcohol ranks and, to be honest with you, I have no idea what to expect."

Complaints from drivers about the poor quality of the left lane last year resulted in a re-paving of portions of both lanes of the quarter-mile, which could present another challenge this weekend. "I hear that the Alcohol ranks ran OK on the new surface, but that it hadn't been ground," said Scelzi. "I guess they since ground the transition from the concrete to the asphalt. So I haven't heard anything. I don't think anybody has been on it since then. I don't know what to expect. All I know is that they did re-pave part of the race track, so at least we have a surface to run on.

"I'm looking forward to Seattle and then on to Sonoma for the final leg of the Western Swing," said the 2003 Sonoma victor, "because we'll be closer to what we normally run, conditions that we normally run, and we'll just work really hard to try to figure out this tire sooner. Fortunately, we have two Funny Cars running and a Dragster (Tony Schumacher) so we'll be able to compare some of our notes."

Pro qualifying is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. PT on Friday, July 23, and on Saturday, July 24, at 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. PT. Final eliminations will begin at 11 a.m. PT on Sunday, July 25.

ESPN2 will air qualifying on July 24 at 7 p.m. ET. NHRA2Day is scheduled for July 25, at 8:30 a.m. ET, and coverage of final eliminations will air at 8 p.m. ET on July 25 on ESPN2.

-dsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Whit Bazemore , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Gary Densham , Eric Medlen