ENNIS, Texas - Gary Scelzi has two victories this season, and both final round battles have been against the defending NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher. Scelzi, the gritty driver from Fresno, Calif., wore the coveted ...
ENNIS, Texas - Gary Scelzi has two victories this season, and both final round battles have been against the defending NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher.
Scelzi, the gritty driver from Fresno, Calif., wore the coveted championship ring for two seasons (1997-'98) before giving it up to the 30-year old Schumacher last year in a tight battle.
Scelzi's determination in defeating Schumacher in finals at Pomona, Calif. and Atlanta is the only proof needed to see that the Team Winston dragster driver will stop at nothing to regain his lost status in the sport. For Scelzi, it's indeed good to be king. He'll continue to work toward that goal at the fourth annual Castrol Nationals presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts, May 25-28 at the state-of-the-art Texas Motorplex, drag racing's only all-concrete quarter-mile. Scelzi is the defending Top Fuel winner of the $1.8 million race, the ninth of 23 events in the $45 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series.
However, Scelzi does know that in order to regain his championship position he'll need to defeat the scrappy Schumacher, who has advanced to five final rounds this season and is the current Winston points leader. So far, so good in that mission.
"As much as we like to go head-to-head with that Exide bunch and as much as we like to beat them, I have to make sure that I really keep my emotions in check on the starting line or Tony will beat us like he's been beating everyone else this year," Scelzi said. "That team is tough, and as long as they keep going to finals, they're going to be tough."
Not as tough as Scelzi expects the Team Winston dragster to be in upcoming races, thanks to his talented crew chief, Alan Johnson.
"Thank God Alan found the things he did with the car at Atlanta because now we've got that consistency again," Scelzi said. "That's a great feeling to have."
It's contagious. Johnson, usually very reserved, is even breaking a smile these days.
"Alan is a pretty excited guy these days," Scelzi said. "He showed a lot of emotion after that win in Atlanta, and that's a little uncharacteristic of Alan. I think the only other times I've seen him that excited was when we ran the 4.480-second pass in Houston and when we beat Tony at Pomona to open this season. When he's confident, it really reflects on the team."
A team that has posted some of the quickest runs since NHRA mandated the 90-percent nitro rule for Top Fuel and Funny Car teams.
"To run a 4.56 at Atlanta with the new rules in the heat of the day was a major deal," Scelzi said. "Then to run a 4.62 in the final kind of served notice that Alan's on his game. If he stays in this groove, there's a lot of teams that are going to hate to see "Big Red" in the other lane."