Brainerd: Gary Scelzi final summary

Scelzi takes runner-up in Brainerd, moves into second in points BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 15, 2004) - Gary Scelzi had an awesome day today at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, and it wasn't because of the ...

Scelzi takes runner-up in Brainerd, moves into second in points

BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 15, 2004) - Gary Scelzi had an awesome day today at the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, and it wasn't because of the 72-degree weather and low humidity. The driver of the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car served notice that he's the one to watch for the rest of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season by first taking out John Force in the semifinal round on a holeshot advantage, then moving into second in the point standings with a runner-up finish.

Scelzi easily defeated Tony Bartone in the first round with a 4.862/315.86 pass to Bartone's 5.212/252.28, then handily disposed of Cruz Pedregon in the second, with a 5.146/275.17 versus Pedregon's losing 9.650/96.89.

Force and Scelzi were paired for their third straight semifinal round, and after losing to Force in the last two, Scelzi ably maintained his edge over the 12-time Funny Car champion in the win-loss column by scoring his sixth win of the duo's 10 meetings. The three-time Top Fuel champion from Fresno, Calif., simply blew Force away on a holeshot advantage. Force's .123 (.000 is perfect) reaction time was no match for Scelzi's .060, and Scelzi crossed the finish line by a .019 of a second margin of victory with a 4.917-second elapsed time at 313.00 mph to Force's losing 4.873/317.27.

Scelzi then faced Force's teammate Eric Medlen in the final round, where he set an even quicker reaction time of .035 to Medlen's .105, but it wasn't enough, as Scelzi lost traction at half-track, handing the win to Medlen. The numbers: 4.999/302.62 for Medlen; 5.286/247.66 for Scelzi.

With today's results, Scelzi passes Del Worsham and his teammate Whit Bazemore (who lost in the first round) for second place in the Funny Car rankings, the highest position he's held in this class since he entered the category in 2002. He's 164 points behind Force and 24 in front of Bazemore.

"We're excited," he said. "We did everything that we had to do except in the final. But those things happen. We're not sure what went wrong, but (crew chief) Mike Neff and the HEMI Oakley team will check it out.

"We're second in points, we shortened the gap to Force," he added. "We just need to take some bigger chunks out of him and pay attention to our game and continue on like we've been doing for the last six races." Six races ago, Scelzi was sixth in points.

"It just feels good," Scelzi said of the holeshot win over Force. "I mean, he's the 12-time champ and he's the one everybody fears. We raced him smart and that's what we're trying to do each time. We're trying not to put any more effort into racing him than anybody else. We're just trying to do what we need to do to win and let the chips fall where they may.

"There's a lot of racing left (seven races), and, like I've said before, I've been 215 points behind going into Indy (in Top Fuel) - the 18th season race of 23 - and came out of Reading (the 19th) in the lead, so things can change in a hurry and Force is within reach, that's for sure.

"We're very happy to go from fourth to second. I'm very proud of Mike and I'm very proud of this team to have become contenders, because no one talked about us all year long and we've been right there.

"Our goal is to be No. 1 and we're going to work as hard as we possibly can to get that."

Next up is the O'Reilly NHRA Mid-South Nationals in Memphis, Tenn., Aug. 20-22.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Bartone , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Eric Medlen , Mike Neff