Bristol: Gary Scelzi preview

BRISTOL ONE OF FOUR TRACKS SCELZI HAS YET TO CONQUER BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27, 2005) - Since he went pro in 1997, Gary Scelzi has won at 17 of the 21 dragstrips on which the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series holds its national events. Bristol ...

BRISTOL ONE OF FOUR TRACKS SCELZI HAS YET TO CONQUER

BRISTOL, Tenn. (April 27, 2005) - Since he went pro in 1997, Gary Scelzi has won at 17 of the 21 dragstrips on which the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series holds its national events. Bristol Dragway is not counted among them. The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car and three-time Top Fuel champion is aiming to change that in this weekend's O'Reilly Thunder Valley NHRA Nationals.

The Fresno, Calif., native captured his first NHRA Top Fuel crown as a rookie in 1997, and has notched 29 national-event wins in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, four of them since he joined the Funny Car class full-time with Don Schumacher Racing in 2003. But none of them has been in Denver, Englishtown, Gainesville or Bristol.

"Yes, this is another track I have never won at. Like the other three, it's one that I want to win, no question about it," says Scelzi, who is the only driver to have won in every NHRA pro class: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car. "I have two career goals right now. I want to say I have won at every NHRA race track we compete on, and I want to be only the second driver to have won championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Right now, Kenny Bernstein is the only driver who has done that."

Bristol Dragway is a favorite among the NHRA competitors, Scelzi included, but the weather in this Northeast corner of Tennessee is often an issue. "Right now the weather is on everybody's mind," says Scelzi. "There's a big concern about a rainout. I hate to even use that word. If we do pull this off and we get this race going it will probably be under cloud cover.

"When you get a race track under cloud cover it means great lap times. The race track is very smooth. I heard they have done some work to the concrete (launching pad). Sometimes the concrete starting line is questionable as far as holding rubber is concerned."

He's not concerned, however, about how this Bruton Smith-owned track will handle track conditions. "One thing about Bruton Smith tracks, they don't mess around. If there is any problem with the race track they just fix it right away. They don't let it become an issue. And that's one reason why all the racers like going to his facilities.

"From the motor home area where we park our coaches, and where the NASCAR teams guys also stay, with all the privacy and amenities, including a playground for the kids, to the beautiful mountains and greenery, it's all first class."

Scelzi is still smarting from the attention he's received after losing on a holeshot for the third straight race in Las Vegas two weeks ago, which he feels is unfair. "I think I've taken enough heat on this holeshot thing," he says. "We looked at enough video and what we actually saw was that I hit the gas the exact same time as (teammate) Whit Bazemore did in Houston and in Las Vegas I actually hit the gas a little ahead of Cruz Pedregon."

He lost to Bazemore in the first round in Houston and to Pedregon in the quarter-final in Vegas.

"We stayed Monday to test in Vegas," he adds. "The Mopar/Oakley Dodge is reacting quicker now. Mike (Neff, crew chief) has made some changes to the car. We've had a fast race car all year long. I don't see that changing. We're qualifying better. The best car hasn't always won this year, and we're going to try to change that this weekend. Hopefully we're going to have the best car and I'm going to do everything I can in my power to leave with or ahead of my opponents. Mike is going to do the best he can to run the car as quick and as hard as he can.

"The plan has never changed. It's just the results haven't been what we wanted."

Scelzi stands eighth in Funny Car point standings, has qualified in the top half of the field in each event, including the pole in Vegas, and has four round wins to his credit after five races in 2005.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Don Schumacher