HOT OR COLD, SCELZI IS SET FOR DALLAS DALLAS (Oct. 5, 2005) - Before the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals were postponed because of Hurricane Rita, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series teams were expecting 100-degree-plus conditions at the Texas ...
HOT OR COLD, SCELZI IS SET FOR DALLAS
DALLAS (Oct. 5, 2005) - Before the O'Reilly NHRA Fall Nationals were postponed because of Hurricane Rita, the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series teams were expecting 100-degree-plus conditions at the Texas Motorplex. Now, the weather reports for this weekend's rescheduled event are calling for temperatures in the 70s.
"If the weather really does cool down this weekend in Dallas it will be great," said Funny Car points leader Gary Scelzi, driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T. "Even if it doesn't, that's OK, because we can run in the heat."
Although he has a 43-point lead over 13-time Funny Car champion John Force following his semifinal finish at Route 66 Raceway on Sunday, Scelzi knows his competition is right there ready to attack. Force is on his heels in second, his teammate Ron Capps is two more points behind, and the rest of the Force team contingent of Robert Hight and Eric Medlen trails just 70 and 100 points back.
"It is exciting," said Scelzi, who is seeking his first Funny Car championship to go with his three Top Fuel crowns. "One, because it's Funny Car, and, two, to dethrone any one of Force's cars that have had such a command on the Funny Car championship over the years is a big thing."
Does he have butterflies? "What I found in Reading (Pa., where he reached the semis and padded his points lead) was that the more nervous I got the better I felt." he replied. "It was a change. Yes, I was edgy, I was nervous, but I was enjoying it. I was enjoying the challenge and I was enjoying the pressure.
"It was almost to the point where now the nervousness is making me want to fight more, like dig deeper and say, You know what? You can win championships, you've done it before, you love this stuff - just keep telling yourself over and over.
"And it was working. So, if Dallas is anything like Reading and Chicago was, my mindset is ready to go the distance. And I think (crew chief) Mike Neff, the way he's been tuning the Mopar/Oakley Dodge, shows he's ready to go the distance."
The Fresno, Calif., native is also looking forward to a good track surface at the Texas Motorplex. "Dallas has been ground, which has taken some bumps out of the surface, which should be really good," he said.
"And we don't know [for sure] what the weather is going to do. But, being that it's all concrete, it's going to be 10 degrees cooler than any asphalt race track. So it should be good no matter what the weather or the temperature is, all the way to the finish line.
"And I'm sure grinding the bumps out is also going to help keep the Goodyear tires stick.
"Every race from here until the end of the season will be a challenge. The important thing is to at least get to the finals. It's not 'get past the first round or get to the semis.' You need to get to the final round in case it is one of your (championship) opponents, because you're only going to lose 20 points in that case.
"The whole idea is to win the race. Our goal is the same: qualify well and get the job done at the end."
Scelzi's record at the Texas Motorplex includes three Top Fuel wins (1998 2, 1999 and 2000) and three No. 1 Top Fuel qualifiers (1998, 2000 1 and 2). He has not won a Fuel Funny Car event here.