SCELZI WINS A BIG ONE IN DENVER MORRISON, Colo. (July 16, 2006) - It was a long time coming, but Gary Scelzi finally conquered Bandimere Speedway today by winning his first national event here in either Top Fuel or Funny Car at the Mopar...
SCELZI WINS A BIG ONE IN DENVER
MORRISON, Colo. (July 16, 2006) - It was a long time coming, but Gary Scelzi finally conquered Bandimere Speedway today by winning his first national event here in either Top Fuel or Funny Car at the Mopar Mile-High Nationals.
It was a landmark victory for him and for his and event sponsor Mopar, as it was also Scelzi's first win of the season, his first as the reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series champion and his first since Sonoma, Calif., in 2005, 21 races ago.
This also marked his eighth Funny Car win and his 33rd career victory in both Top Fuel and Funny Car in 53 final rounds.
Driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car en route to the triumph, the four-time NHRA world champion disposed of Scott Kalitta with a 5.092/298.21, John Force with a 5.284/270.54 in the quarterfinal, and Tommy Johnson Jr. in the semifinal with a 5.182/298.47.
He faced Cruz Pedregon in the final round. Pedregon torched the starting lights with an almost impossible .011 reaction time (.000 is perfect) to Scelzi's .090, but Scelzi took over the lead at 500 feet when the engine in Pedregon's car exploded. Scelzi crossed the finish line in 5.132 seconds at 301.94, while Pedregon coasted across in 5.820 seconds at 202.82 mph.
"Coming here with Mopar being the sponsor, having the Big-Block Party (Thursday night in Golden, Colo.), and playing golf with the people from Gates Belts, there was a lot of activity (this week)," said Scelzi, who now has only Gainesville, Fla., and Englishtown, N.J., on his list as venues where he hasn't won. "This is a tough place. It's really tough to make cars run. The track temperatures were hotter than anywhere we've ever been, even in St. Louis. It was six degrees hotter than St. Louis. It was 146 degrees. And (crew chief) Mike Neff really has a handle on this thing.
"I've struggled, (with) the car not running, me trying to make things happen and I've made some dumb mistakes. Mike Neff just keeps being a motivator and keeps telling me that he doesn't want anybody else in his car and just go out there and drive it like I normally drive it.
"Mike Neff, Jim Jannard from Oakley, Kevin Miller from Mopar. Those three have been so instrumental in trying to keep my head on straight. It's a long time for me. I've been fortunate to be around a lot of good people in cars that should win and you don't want to be the weak link.
"It doesn't upset me if the car smokes the tires. It upsets me if I do something wrong. When I went into that final against Cruz, I said, You are not taking this away from me. There's no way. I've come this far. I'm going to win Denver. And lucky enough we did.
"We wanted a win. Force and (teammate Ron) Capps have a pretty big lead (in the points), said Scelzi, who is now sixth in the standings, "but, I tell you, I have my eye on Robert Hight (in third) right now (39 points ahead of Scelzi) and that's our goal right now. It's to try to win some races and get into third. Then we'll just have to see what those other two do. But that's a pretty big margin to make up this late in the season, but it could be done."
Said Mike Neff:
"It's very difficult as hot as it was. It's not that the Denver track is a bad track, it's just, given the temperature of the track was 146 degrees, any track would be difficult. Then, to throw in the altitude up here, it was as challenging as I could ever see it getting.
"It feels real good (to win). It's been a long time since we've won. We've been close, but it's really important to get a win here to keep everyone motivated. The first win of the year always feels good."
Added team owner Don Schumacher:
"It is great for them to get their first win of 2006. The last four races they've really had a great race car, and just have had some tough breaks with some hiccups. They're doing a great job, and things are going great. We'll go to Seattle, where the first thing we have to do is qualify, then we'll go from there."
Next up is next weekend's Schuck's NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways, outside of Seattle, Wash., July 21-23.