Scelzi's Hemi-Powered Oakley Dodge Back on Track; Reaches Semis in E-Town ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 20, 2004) - Gary Scelzi and crew chief Mike Neff are all fired up after reaching the Funny Car semifinal round for the second straight event of the...
Scelzi's Hemi-Powered Oakley Dodge Back on Track; Reaches Semis in E-Town
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 20, 2004) - Gary Scelzi and crew chief Mike Neff are all fired up after reaching the Funny Car semifinal round for the second straight event of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series at the K&N Filters Supernationals today. Last week in Columbus they advanced to the final round and were buoyed by the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge's performance. It was no different today when Scelzi found himself paired against 12-time Funny Car champion John Force in the semifinal round and lost. Neff and his driver are nearly ecstatic.
Scelzi's history in his HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus versus Force gave him the edge going in, as he'd won four times out of five against him. Scelzi launched first with a .063 reaction time to Force's .073, but it was all-Force, all the way from the 60-ft. mark to the finish stripe, winning over the Fresno native by a margin of victory of .0316 of a second. The numbers: 4.952/312.42 for Force, 4.993/307.51 for Scelzi.
Jerry Toliver was Scelzi's victim in the first round, followed by a thriller in the quarter-final against Cruz Pedregon, when Scelzi veered dramatically to the right, then to the left, sputtering and smoking to the finish line ahead of a tire-smoking Pedregon by .1233 of a second. Scelzi's winning pass was a 5.407/276.41 to Pedregon's 5.512/264.08.
"I tell you what," said Scelzi after that race, "It's like I passed him with 20 holes (cylinders) gone out on the right-hand side, but it's only an 8-cylinder HEMI. It went out there and everything was good and all of a sudden it just turned right. And, Man, I laid over left to get it back, and it blew the tires off it, and I said, Uh, Oh, here we go. And then I did like I tried to do in Columbus and hammered it all the way to the finish line. In Columbus it broke the blower studs off it. It didn't break them off this time and the Oakley Dodge HEMI got the win."
Scelzi dropped to sixth in the Funny Car point standings, despite his strong performance, as today's event winner Gary Densham passed him for fifth. "You know what, it's been a great weekend," he said. "In fact we've had two great weekends. We came in here 175 points out of the lead, and we're leaving here 153 out of the lead. That's excellent. That's our goal. Right now the leaders are coming to us and our car is running well.
"It's exciting right now to be in this position," he added. "We've got a good hot rod. We could have won that race against Force just as easily as we lost it. We got a lucky round, we beat Cruz, we ran good in qualifying, the car's responding. I'm as happy as I could be right now without winning the race.
"I've got a gun that shoots as straight and as fast as anybody out there, and that's all you can ask for. The rest of it is fate.
"We'll see what kind of cards are dealt to us next week in St. Louis. I'm pretty happy going into there right now."
Neff, famous for his stone-faced stoicism under just about any circumstances, was caught smiling as well. "I'm really happy," he said. "Our car has been going down the track every run; it's predictable. And that's all you can ask for from these Funny Cars. It's a tough class. And John Force is the man. And we gave him a good drag race. We didn't beat ourselves.
"We were definitely a player here today: having quick time of the fourth qualifying run, running quickest in the first round (4.898), putting a cylinder out in the second yet winning. That's what did us in right there. That threw us off track and we came up a little conservative for the final round.
"Everything is good, Gary is driving great, my guys are doing a great job, the car's been doing everything we want it to do. I'm pretty fired up that we definitely have this thing headed back on the right track from four or five races ago."
Next up is the Sears Craftsman Nationals in Madison, Ill., June 25-27.