Englishtown: Gary Scelzi preview

E'town site of start of Scelzi's '03 speedfest ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 16, 2004) - Gary Scelzi is eager to go racing in Englishtown this weekend. After all, it's the site of the start of his record-breaking speedfest in 2003, and where he'd like...

E'town site of start of Scelzi's '03 speedfest

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (June 16, 2004) - Gary Scelzi is eager to go racing in Englishtown this weekend. After all, it's the site of the start of his record-breaking speedfest in 2003, and where he'd like to launch another stretch of successes as the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series nears the mid-point of the season.

In only his first full year of Funny Car competition in 2003, driving the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus, Scelzi and crew chief Mike Neff had the Old Bridge Township Raceway Park quarter-mile by the horns, setting a track top-speed record of 326.95 mph here. They followed it up with a national top-speed record run of 328.06 mph two weeks later at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill.

The team went on to establish six track records in 2003, as well as a new national top-speed record of 329.18 mph in the second event in Joliet, which Scelzi deftly demolished this year at the same venue by becoming the first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph barrier with a 330.55 mph pass backed up by a 330.15-mph run for a new national record.

While record runs are not likely this weekend in E'town because of the event schedule change to a month later than in 2003, Scelzi would like to see the momentum the team gained last weekend in Columbus continue through Englishtown and the upcoming Western Swing.

The Fresno native reached his second final round of the season in Columbus, finishing runner-up to Del Worsham, and moved into fifth in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car points championship.

"The Friday night qualifying session will be good, but it depends on weather," said Scelzi of this weekend's event. "I don't think you're going to see any records, I'm sure, because we've had some pretty incredible conditions this year. You'll see some big speeds, but I don't know that you'll see 330 mph in the Funny car. I doubt it.

"The different time of year is going to play a big factor," he added. "It's going to be a good race track. Both lanes are the same. So I don't know that lane choice is going to be an issue. This is not a track that is a one-lane race track where it's an automatic loss if you're in the left or right lane. There are all positives here.

"Especially for us after coming off a runner-up. It feels great. We've had great performances all year, we just haven't been consistent and it looks like the changes we made are going to make that happen - aside from the tire-smoker in the final, which is just one of those things. Even Worsham smoked the tires."

After Englishtown and St. Louis next week, followed by two weekends off, the series begins a three-race Western Swing in Denver, Seattle and Sonoma, Calif. "I feel really good about our program right now," said the three-time Top Fuel champion who has 25 Top Fuel wins and one Funny Car victory, but has not won at Englishtown. "I feel that we've got a good solid tune-up in place to run the summer months with the heat. Mike Neff runs really good at these next few race tracks. I don't see any reason why we shouldn't be able to make some moves into the Funny Car points championship.

"We're only 175 points out of first with a lot of races left. And, like I said before, I've won world championships (Top Fuel) 200 points behind going into the U.S. Nationals in Indy (in September). I'd just like to tighten that gap. I'd like to come out of the Western Swing within 100 points of the lead or in the lead. So that's our plan. We just don't want anybody to get too far away, and 175 is definitely very doable right now.

"If we have two or three good races in a row we'll be right in the middle of the Funny Car points chase," he said.

Pro qualifying sessions begin on Friday, June 18, at 3:30 p.m. and continue at 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, June 19, the pro qualifying sessions are scheduled for noon and 3 p.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 20.

On Saturday, June 19, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 6 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, June 20, ESPN will televise two hours of eliminations at 5 p.m. (ET). Also on Sunday, June 20, ESPN2 will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show at 11:30 a.m. (ET).

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Gary Scelzi , Mike Neff