SCELZI BUOYED BY POST-GAINESVILLE TESTING EN ROUTE TO HOUSTON BAYTOWN, Texas (March 28, 2006) - Reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion Gary Scelzi has had a tough start to the 2006 season in defense of his title, with three...
SCELZI BUOYED BY POST-GAINESVILLE TESTING EN ROUTE TO HOUSTON
BAYTOWN, Texas (March 28, 2006) - Reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion Gary Scelzi has had a tough start to the 2006 season in defense of his title, with three early-round losses in as many events.
The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T, however, is no worse off than he was at the beginning of his outstanding championship season in 2006, when he had two first-round losses and a runner-up finish in the first three races. The team then hit its stride and ended the season earning three-time Top Fuel champion Scelzi his first Funny Car crown.
In 2005, after three events, the Fresno, Calif., native was eighth in points; this year heading into the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway this weekend he's ninth in the standings.
The team, led by tuner Mike Neff, didn't give up then and is not giving up now, as a productive test session on Monday after the last race in Gainesville, Fla., has buoyed the driver's and team's spirits.
"We had a great test on Monday in Gainesville and I think we learned a tremendous amount," says Scelzi, Top Fuel winner here at Houston Raceway in 1997 and 1998. "It went really well. We were just going the wrong way in eliminations on Sunday. We got a little scared because it smoked the tires in the first qualifying run, but mainly it was just because it was a green track. We just kept going the wrong way, the wrong way, and even though we ran quicker than (Del) Worsham in the first round of eliminations (Scelzi lost on a holeshot with a 4.842-second ET) we expected to run a 4.77 or a .78. And it just didn't do it.
"So, on Monday we made the changes that we felt were right after we could see clearly, and the car ran two 4.77s in a row, a half-pass that would have run a .77, two more runs that were .77s, and then we tried to find the limit and found it, and had one tire smoker.
"Basically, we made three runs with no tire smoke and just one at the end when we were trying something completely different. We felt that we're on a good course with the (new) tire. The track temperature was over 100 degrees on Monday, so I feel really good about Houston."
There is still a long season ahead and collecting valuable points remains the goal. "I do care (about points)," says Scelzi, "but there's nothing I can do about changing the results of the first three races. The way you fix it is by winning and by going rounds. Our goal right now is to go as many rounds as we can, if not win the race."
Houston Raceway's track surface brings its own set of challenges. "The right lane has a pretty big bump in it," Scelzi says. "Historically, it's been a one-lane race track, normally the left lane. So, I don't know if they've made any improvements or not. I haven't heard anything, but I guess we'll find out. Lane choice is critical here."