SCELZI ROCKS TO THE FINAL ROUND IN OHIO HEBRON, Ohio (May 22, 2005) - There was a good reason Gary Scelzi had that air of confidence coming into final eliminations today. He clearly had the car to beat and the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T ...
SCELZI ROCKS TO THE FINAL ROUND IN OHIO
HEBRON, Ohio (May 22, 2005) - There was a good reason Gary Scelzi had that air of confidence coming into final eliminations today. He clearly had the car to beat and the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T didn't disappoint. Scelzi easily mowed down his opponents in the first, second and semifinal rounds, then hit the John Force brick wall in the final match-up.
On a track that endured intermittent rain showers late in the afternoon to delay the final round and NHRA's ruling to limit turn-around time between rounds from 75 minutes to 65 to try to beat those showers, Scelzi sent home Tony Pedregon in the first round with a 4.827/320.05 (.077 reaction time).
He then tossed out Robert Hight in the second round with a .066 reaction time in a track record-setting run of 327.11 mph at 4.790 seconds to Hight's 4.793/324.83 (.085 R/T).
The third round was another barnburner, as Scelzi torched the starting lights with an outstanding .041 reaction time to Cruz Pedregon's .064, winning that round with a 4.811/322.65 versus Pedregon's 4.812/324.36.
The final round was highly anticipated, as Scelzi entered it with a 3-0 lifetime final-round win record against Force, and 9-7 in round wins.
Force took off with a .073 reaction time, while Scelzi shallow-staged into the beams to a .093 time. This race had the fans standing on their seats, but it was Force's day to finally beat Scelzi and he did it on a holeshot advantage, crossing the finish line first with a slower 4.776/324.51 to Scelzi's quicker but losing 4.764/326.79.
Margin of victory: a mere .0083 of a second, or four feet.
"We changed the combination to help my reaction times. It's working excellent," said Scelzi, who made a big jump into second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings today. "The Mopar/Oakley Dodge is hauling butt. It's doing everything we want it to do and I just didn't roll it in in the final because my lights were so good all day. I was afraid that I was going to be amped up [and possibly foul out]. I had a .093, my worst light of the whole deal.
"It just happens. It's one of those things. Force ran excellent. We're second in points, we're 80 out. I don't like to give Force anything, but we've got a hot rod and we've got a plan right now to go to the end of the year, and we're going to be right in his face all year long like he'll be in ours.
"It's upsetting to lose. It's the first time we lost to him in a final, but it had to happen sooner or later. So, now that we have that out of the way, let's load up and go to Topeka and see what happens."
Scelzi had high praise for the NHRA's Safety Safari and how they prepped the track today. "Honestly, I'm not shy about beating NHRA up when the tracks are rotten," he said. "This is what the fans pay for. They pay for good side-by-side racing, even racing. In fact, in the semis (crew chief) Mike Neff asked me which lane I wanted to run in. That is what I like to see.
"My hat's off to the NHRA. Whatever they've done, or whatever they've changed over the last four or five races, they need to keep doing it, because that's what's going to pack these stands. When you see 4.70s and 4.80s side-by-side in Funny Car, and 4.50s and 4.40s side-by-side in Top Fuel, that's what these fans pay to see and that's what they deserve.
"Every round in Funny Car is unbelievable (this year). You'd better bring your A-game when you drag your car up there. Your car better be the quickest and fastest and you better be on the lights. We ran a .76, Force ran a .77. We got beat by eight thousandths of a second. It's unfortunate.
"Am I pissed? Yeah. Hey, you know what, it's not the first time I've been beat, and it's certainly not the last.
"It's the final round so there's only one car better than us. We're all in good shape here, believe me.
"It was all good. Every round was a race. There was no slouch race at all. No complaints."
Next up is this weekend's O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka (Kans.), May 27-29.