Denver: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi high on changing his luck at Bandimere DENVER, Colo. (July 14, 2003) - Unlike his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Whit Bazemore, Gary Scelzi is not as high on Bandimere Speedway located on the side of a mountain outside of Denver, Colorado.

Scelzi high on changing his luck at Bandimere

DENVER, Colo. (July 14, 2003) - Unlike his Don Schumacher Racing teammate Whit Bazemore, Gary Scelzi is not as high on Bandimere Speedway located on the side of a mountain outside of Denver, Colorado. It's not because he isn't impressed with the beauty of the surrounding area or with how the Bandimere family has succeeded in running this facility. He is. It's just that he hasn't done well here in the past and that's something he aims to change this weekend at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals with his Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus Funny Car.

"Denver is always exciting because it's a really neat facility," says the three-time Top Fuel champion who has won 25 Top Fuel events, but not one at Bandimere Speedway. He was low qualifier twice, however, in that category, in 2000 and 2001. "It's unique," he says. "The Bandimeres have a great facility. And with me being associated with Dodge and Mopar now and this being a Mopar race, it goes without saying I want to do well here. Unfortunately, Gary Scelzi has never had good luck here. I'm not sure what my record is here, but I know it's not very good."

"So, what better time than now to change that?" he asks. "Fortunately for me, Mike Neff was the No. 1 qualifier last year with my teammate Scotty Cannon's Oakley Funny Car and he's my crew chief this year. He has all those records and hopefully we haven't made too many changes to the car, so maybe we would repeat those numbers and have a chance to change the luck for Gary Scelzi, and put the Oakley Dodge in the winner's circle."

The mile-high altitude is the number one factor, of course, says Scelzi, but the Dodge body is an asset. "The altitude will definitely affect it. The nitromethane motors that we've got make so much power. One of the things is that you're up here in thin air and you don't have the downforce. That actually plays into our hands, because the Dodge Stratus has a ton of downforce, so we have the tools to make up for the thin air. It'll be the first time with the Dodge Stratus here. We're hoping all the things we learned in the wind tunnel and all the things we learned throughout raceday conditions, from extreme heat to extreme cold, we can put into play here and make the car go down the race track."

Scelzi, of Fresno, Calif., is in his first full season of Funny Car competition and is still looking for his first win for Don Schumacher Racing. He is, however, the fastest Funny Car driver in the world now, after establishing a national speed record of 328.06 mph at Joliet, Ill., last June. "Our goal continues to be to win a race or several races," he says. "Mike Neff is working extremely hard. (Bazemore's crew chief) Lee Beard, (co-crew chief) Dan Olson and now Alan Johnson (Tony Schumacher's Top Fuel crew chief) are all trying to work together for a better program, a more consistent program - not to be fast occasionally but to be fast all the time and consistently.

"Our performance, I feel, has been great, but consistency has been below par. We thought we would have won a race by now, but the Oakley Dodge makes extremely good horsepower and I think the consistency is starting to come around."

Scelzi is 10th in the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Tony Schumacher , Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff