Dallas: Gary Scelzi preview

With Reading Postponed, Scelzi is Back to Work in Dallas DALLAS, Texas (Sept. 22, 2004) - Last Sunday, after the Reading, Pa, round of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series was postponed to Oct. 8-10 because of Hurricane Ivan, Gary Scelzi...

With Reading Postponed, Scelzi is Back to Work in Dallas

DALLAS, Texas (Sept. 22, 2004) - Last Sunday, after the Reading, Pa, round of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series was postponed to Oct. 8-10 because of Hurricane Ivan, Gary Scelzi and the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car team were able to test on a dry Maple Grove Raceway. This helped crew chief Mike Neff not only prepare for the re-scheduled event, but for the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex this weekend as well.

"We only ran to about 800 feet in two runs at Maple Grove," said Scelzi, who is chasing John Force this season for his first Funny Car championship on top of three Top Fuel crowns. "The race track was very marginal, but the big effort we're pressing right now is getting the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge to not smoke the tires from half-track on. That's something that bit us in Indy and bit us in Brainerd, so we worked really hard on that.

"We made a couple of runs with very good results. All of John Force's cars were there testing, Johnny Gray was also testing. All of Don Prudhomme's teams were there. It seems like the Funny Cars were really trying to take advantage of a bad situation because of the rain, trying to learn some things with the 85 percent rule and the new tire.

"We feel pretty good about going into Dallas. We have a good, solid combination. Now we just need a little luck on our side," said the Fresno, Calif., native who is second in the championship chase, 206 markers behind John Force, with five races left in the season.

Scelzi has three Top Fuel wins at the Texas Motorplex - in 1998 (2), 1999 and 2000 - and has qualified No. 1 in Top Fuel three times (both 2000 events and the second event in 1998). He's looking for his first Funny Car title here, a second season win and a major move up in the point standings.

"It's going to be in the 80-degree range here in Texas. I looked at the forecast this morning and it shows no rain clear into next week. That's a welcome sight," he said.

"The track temperature shouldn't be much over 100 degrees at times, and that's a positive. Another plus is that this track is all concrete, so there's no transition from concrete to asphalt. So, we don't have to worry what the asphalt is like. Normally this race track is as good it is on the starting line as it is on the finish line.

"It is also very consistent even though it's a little bumpy, and the weather is going to play in our favor. It's not going to be cool, but it's also not going to be hot."

SCHEDULE: On Friday, Sept. 24, professional qualifying sessions are scheduled for 4 and 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Sept. 25, pro qualifying continues at noon and 2:30 p.m., with final eliminations set to begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 26.

TELEVISION: On Saturday, Sept. 25, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, Sept. 26, ESPN2 will televise two hours of final eliminations at 11 p.m. (ET).

GARY SCELZI QUICK FACTS:

* At the 2003 O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals, Scelzi qualified No. 2, lost second round to Dean Skuza

* Holds national Funny Car top-speed record of 330.55 mph. He demolished his own previous national record of 329.18 mph, which he had set in 2003 at Route 66 Raceway

* Is first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph barrier (Route 66 Raceway in 2004)

* Second in 2004 Funny Car points after 18 events, is 206 points out of the lead

* Age 44, born and raised in Fresno, Calif., where he lives with wife Julianne and sons Dominic and Giovanni

* Runs Scelzi Enterprises, a custom truck body design and manufacturing business in Fresno with his two brothers

* Is a three-time Top Fuel Dragster champion

* Won his first Top Fuel crown as a rookie

* Has two Funny Car wins, 25 Top Fuel wins

* Sixth in 2003 Funny Car points, his first full season in that class

* 2004 is his second straight season racing for Don Schumacher Racing

* Is the only NHRA driver to have won in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car. He accomplished this feat at Infineon Raceway in 2003

* Is one of the few Funny Car drivers who have a winning record against the 12-time Funny Car champion John Force: 7-5.

-gsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Dean Skuza , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Johnny Gray , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff