St. Louis: Team Mopar preview

Center Line, Mich. -- Team Mopar® NHRA POWERade drag racers Allen Johnson, Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps will swap their pavement drag strip for the dirt oval at the "NHRA on Dirt" track race on May 1 at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill. The...

Center Line, Mich. -- Team Mopar® NHRA POWERade drag racers Allen Johnson, Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps will swap their pavement drag strip for the dirt oval at the "NHRA on Dirt" track race on May 1 at Tri-City Speedway in Pontoon Beach, Ill. The event will be held on the eve of the NHRA POWERade O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals that will be held on May 2--4 at Gateway International Raceway.

The HEMI®-powered trio will strap into Crate Late Model cars and duel in the dirt with fellow NHRA drivers Cruz Pedregon, Doug Kalitta, Dave Grubnic, Antron Brown, Kenny Koretsky, Tim Wilkerson, J.R. Todd and Allen Bradshaw.

Johnson, driver of the Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T Pro Stock car and Scelzi, pilot of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, faced off earlier this month in a pavement circle track event at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway's Bullring. Johnson led the race early and was among the leaders when he was bumped from behind and shuffled back in the pack.

Scelzi, as well as his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Capps, who steers the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car, have logged much more seat time racing on dirt tracks than Johnson. Yet the Greeneville, Tenn. native is confident he can show his Team Mopar Funny Car brethren a thing or two away from the quarter-mile.

"I've had a lot more experience on pavement than I've had on dirt," said Johnson. "I've raced motor cross and some cars on dirt, but nothing to this degree. Those guys [Scelzi and Capps] have a lot more experience than I do on this kind of stuff, but I figure I'm a better learner and quicker learner than they are. I figure I'll make up for my lack of experience with youthful enthusiasm."

Scelzi, who finished second at the Vegas Bullring event, is also confident in his and teammate Capps' circle-track abilities.

"I finished second in Vegas with the Thunder Roadsters to Doug Kalitta," said Scelzi. "I consider that a win because Doug is a USAC champion. So, our plan is for Capps and me to go one and two and it doesn't matter who's first and who's second. But we want to beat Doug and we want to beat the rest of these guys. Because Capps and I do this stuff pretty often. I am really, really looking forward to it and I hope the fans are too. Because it's something different, it's relaxing, big bragging rights, and I understand there's a huge trophy. I'd love to put that in the old Monaco motor home and bring it back to California."

Capps, who is the defending Funny Car champion at the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals, looks at the opportunity to tangle on dirt as a refreshing diversion from the NHRA's season-long grind.

"It's so much business now and it's so demanding during the NHRA race weekend that it's nice to do some fun things away from the track like we're going to do Thursday night," said Capps. "And better than that I bet there will be a large amount of fans that will probably show up because they'll be able to watch drag racers racing on dirt."

Johnson echoed Capps' sentiments, adding, "I enjoy doing these circle track events for two reasons. I like it for the competition -- it gets your competitive juices flowing -- and it's good for the fan base. It attracts more fans into the NHRA."

-credit: mopar

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Series NHRA
Drivers Antron Brown , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Doug Kalitta , Cruz Pedregon , Kenny Koretsky , Tim Wilkerson , Don Schumacher , J.R. Todd