Seattle: Sunday summary

KENT, Wash. - Gary Scelzi earned his first win of the season Sunday at the 14th annual Prolong Super Lubricants NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA at Seattle International Raceway. Whit Bazemore and Mark Osborne also won their ...

KENT, Wash. - Gary Scelzi earned his first win of the season Sunday at the 14th annual Prolong Super Lubricants NHRA Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA at Seattle International Raceway.

Whit Bazemore and Mark Osborne also won their respective categories at the $1.7 million race, the 15th of 24 races in the $50 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.

Scelzi powered his Team Winston dragster down the track in 4.556 seconds at 319.29 mph to hold off points leader Kenny Bernstein who experienced mechanical problems near the finish line and slowed to a 4.881 at 264.91 pass in his Budweiser dragster.

"I didn't want to leave Seattle without a victory," said Scelzi. "We were racing Kenny in the final so we had to be on top of our game. We were hoping for no tire smoke. I pulled in a little deep at the starting line because I wasn't going to give up an inch. Lane choice didn't seem to be a factor. I liked the right lane as much as the left."

Scelzi drove past Ron Smith, Doug Herbert, Mike Dunn and Bernstein for his 24th career victory. One of his toughest rounds of the day was his first against Smith.

"Every race you win, nine out of ten times there is a lucky round and we had our lucky one in the first," said Scelzi who drove past the upset minded Smith despite an unbalanced fuel mix in his dragster.

Bernstein, who was penalized $1,000 and 10 points for oiling the track in the final, extended his points lead to 14 over Larry Dixon with his runner-up finish. Scelzi cut his deficit to 211 as he tries to defend his Winston championship.

"We really needed a win but you can't push these things," said Scelzi. "It's been tough this year because it seemed like all the stars were lining up against me. This team could win three or four in a row. We've done it in the past. We've got a good hot rod right now but it's going to be hard to catch Kenny and Larry. Getting this win is a move in the right direction. I hope this is the beginning of the end for everybody else."

Bazemore claimed his first victory of the season in his Matco Tools Pontiac Firebird in a photo finish over Ron Capps. Bazemore covered the distance in 5.049 at 284.56, while Capps' Skoal Racing Chevy Camaro dropped off the pace at the finish and ran 5.086 at 277.43. By driving past Johnny Gray, Tony Pedregon, rival John Force, and Capps, Bazemore moved to second in the Winston standings with his eighth career win. To get to Capps, Bazemore had to muster his first win against Force since the first round of the season-opening event in Pomona, Calif.

"After I got by (Force's teammate) Pedregon, I had to face the man himself," said Bazemore. "We were fortunate to beat both of their cars. It gives you a really good feeling because they're really good at what they do."

It also was Bazemore's first win as a member of the Schumacher Racing team, which he joined at the beginning of the 2001 season.

"It feels good to win with a brand new team," said Bazemore. "You expect that there is going to be a learning curve. (Crew chief) Lee Beard has done an outstanding job and (Tony Schumacher's crew chief) Dan Olson has been a valuable asset. There is no feeling like winning. That's what it's all about."

Force continued to inch closer to his record setting 11th NHRA Winston championship with his semifinal finish. He leads Bazemore by 391, with nine events remaining in the season.

Osborne defeated teammate Darrell Alderman in an all-Dodge Pro Stock final. It was the first time two Mopar entries met in the final since '95 and the first time a Dodge claimed a Pro Stock win since '99.

Osborne clocked a 6.893 at 201.43 in his Neon R/T, while Alderman posted a 6.894 at 201.73 in his identical Neon for his second runner-up finish of the season. It was only the second NHRA event that Osborne and Alderman have been using the Neon.

"The Hemi engine is great," said Osborne, who recorded the third quickest Pro Stock run in NHRA history during eliminations (6.811 seconds). "The guys at the shop are doing an awesome job. We really lit up the scoreboard this weekend with some great performances. Finally we feel like we have a car that is equal to what our competitors have. We are looking for more big things out of the program the rest of the season."

Alderman upped the national record for speed when he reached 202.64 in his second round win over V. Gaines. However, in the final big speed didn't matter as Osborne used a holeshot to get the win.

"We had identical setups and I think the performance showed that," said Osborne. "The cars posted nearly identical elapsed times in the final. It's always great to be in a final with a teammate. That was a lot of fun."

The NHRA's 50th Anniversary season continues with the 14th annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals, Aug. 3-5, at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

-NHRA

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Darrell Alderman , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Pedregon , Whit Bazemore , Ron Capps , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Johnny Gray