SCELZI, KALITTA AND JOHNSON WIN O'REILLY NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS AT BRISTOL DRAGWAY BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Gary Scelzi claimed the Funny Car victory in an upset-filled day of racing Sunday at the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals ...
SCELZI, KALITTA AND JOHNSON WIN O'REILLY NHRA THUNDER VALLEY NATIONALS AT BRISTOL DRAGWAY
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Gary Scelzi claimed the Funny Car victory in an upset-filled day of racing Sunday at the O'Reilly NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by Q-Racing at Bristol Dragway.
Doug Kalitta and Warren Johnson also were winners at the $1.5 million race the sixth of 23 events at the $1.5 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Scelzi drove a consistently quick Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to defeat Jeff Arend in the final round and claim his first win of the season and the 30th of his career. Scelzi clocked a 4.815 at 329.26 in his machine to hold off Arend's CMKX Chevy Monte Carlo, which posted a 4.971 at 282.42 in his first final round in nearly a decade.
While Funny Car points leader Whit Bazemore and 13-time champ John Force lost in the first round, Scelzi took advantage with early round wins over Gary Densham, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Jack Wyatt, before ousting Arend in the final.
"Everyone gets nervous when you see the big upsets and you see all the tire smoke like we did today," Scelzi said. "If you went up there weak this track was gonna get you. There were so many upsets that no one knew who was gonna win. Winning Bristol was special for me. This place has a lot of meaning and it was one of the few places left where I hadn't won so it's good to get it done."
Scelzi moved to fourth in the point standings with the victory, while Bazemore held onto the series lead.
Kalitta used a holeshot start to earn his 21st career Top Fuel victory and move into the series lead in his category. Kalitta powered his Mac Tools dragster to a 4.593 at 322.50 to hold off the quicker and faster David Powers Homes dragster of first-time finalist Rod Fuller.
"What a final," said Kalitta of his second win of the season. "It's always good to win on a holeshot but to do it when I was probably pretty shallow is really something. I'd like to think we have one of the best cars in the class but I can't say it's the best car just yet. There are too many other great cars out there. I do have confidence in our ability to win any race we enter."
Kalitta defeated Bruce Litton, David Grubnic and Scott Palmer to advance to the final and earn his second Bristol Dragway victory. Kalitta was happy to take advantage of a rare first round loss for defending series champ Tony Schumacher.
"I usually don't look at the points during a race," Kalitta said. "I save that for during the week. But I knew Tony went out in the first round and I knew we had better do all we can to take advantage of the situation because they don't give you many chances."
Johnson, 61, earned his 94th Pro Stock victory and second of the season in his GM Performance Parts Pontiac when final round opponent Richie Stevens fouled at the start in his Team Mopar HEMI-powered Dodge Stratus.
"There's no such thing as a bad win or a good loss the way I've always approached this business," said Johnson. "This is the way we make our living, but the biggest thing was the great turnout of race fans that we had here today. After this track was taken over by Bruton (Smith) and his group they obviously made it into one of the best facilities on the tour. It really doesn't resemble what it was in the late '70s and early '80s when I raced here before other than the mountains are still here, but even those have been moved back."
Johnson defeated Allen Johnson, Jason Line and Kurt Johnson in early rounds. With the win, the six-time world champion moves back into the series points lead.
"Our first intention is to win this championship for GM Performance Parts and Pontiac and everybody that's supported us over the years," said Johnson. "That would be the ideal scenario. Last season was a dismal year for us, and for the sponsors, but they stuck with us and thankfully it's coming around. We're not banking on winning the championship but we're certainly working very hard at it."
The NHRA POWERade Series continues with the 25th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 12-15 at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga.