Scelzi ousted in first round in Bristol BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27, 2003) -- When you qualify No. 8 in any category of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series it's a good thing, because it puts you in the top half of the field and it gives you lane...
Scelzi ousted in first round in Bristol
BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27, 2003) -- When you qualify No. 8 in any category of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series it's a good thing, because it puts you in the top half of the field and it gives you lane choice in the first round of eliminations. But qualifying No. 8 also places you in risky territory, because you then have to race the No. 9 qualifier, who probably posted an elapsed time during qualifying which is pretty close to yours (4.869 for Scelzi, 4.870 for Skuza).
In today's first round of final eliminations in the Funny Car class of the Mac Tools Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals at Bristol Dragway, No. 8 qualifier Gary Scelzi, in the Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, knew it could be a close race against Dean Skuza. Scelzi launched first in the favored right lane, but Skuza moved ahead quickly, and by the one-eighth mile, when Scelzi spun the tires, it was a clear path for Skuza, who won with a 4.952/302.48 pass against Scelzi's 5.419/208.49.
"The race track was good early in the right lane, and it wasn't as good further out," said Scelzi, the three-time Top Fuel champion, now full-time in Funny Car. "We made changes to slow the car down and it just didn't do it. The motor seemed like it was up and wearing more clutch, which brought the temperature up more, which made it more aggressive, which in turn smoked the tires. I haven't heard yet, but I'm sure that we're going to be testing here tomorrow. Hopefully, it'll be hot like this and we'll learn something, because when we get to Atlanta it's going to be very similar. Race conditions could be hot. And as soon as the track temperature gets up over 100 degrees, 110, 120, the race track gets slippery. So we need to learn how to do this. Did it threw us a curve? Yeah, probably, but we're going to learn from it and go on. We have to keep our chins up.
"Honestly, I'm a little let down because I think we did everything right. I'm not a tuner and certainly don't want to be one, because these things are finicky. I felt like Mike (Neff, crew chief) did everything right. I'm a little at awe that it smoked the tires where it did and as hard as it did. It just was out of character for our race car. I don't think there was anything wrong with it. Nothing malfunctioned. I just don't know why it's not happy with me.
"I didn't see him, but we were side by side. I had a hundredth (of a second) on him on the starting line, but we did give up a hundredth in 60 feet. Our car needs to snap quicker earlier. We need to work on that 60-foot (mark). We all steal e.t. (elapsed time) on Sundays to get a better reaction time, to shorten the race track. Even at that, (John) Force's cars (which qualified 1-2-3 here) are just incredibly quick to 60 feet, far superior than any of them out there. We need to work on that and that's what we are going to work on. Can we find it? I hope so, because we have been working on it for a while trying to get that better. We've got to get it good enough to accelerate early without smoking the tires."
Round 7 of the series comes up this weekend at Atlanta Dragway, in Commerce, Ga., where Scelzi has won twice (in 1999 and 2000) in a Top Fuel Dragster, and was runner-up in 1997. Although he's never raced a Funny Car here, he certainly knows the track.
"Atlanta is one of those race tracks that's tricky," he said. "It's not a great race track, but I ran a 4.49 there in a dragster when it got cool. So, like here in Bristol, when we have cool temperatures and cloud cover, that's the great equalizer. The race track gets good no matter what, pretty much. It's not a bumpy race track, so we don't have to worry about those types of things. It just depends on weather.
"I don't think lane has anything to do with it. It didn't work, so you pick yourslef up, dust yourself off, and we'll go run the wheels off of it and you just try to learn and hope you get it, and that's all we can do."