Englishtown Top Fuel preview

SCELZI KEEPS IT CLOSE: Two-time NHRA Winston champion Gary Scelzi and his Team Winston dragster crew made a statement with their most recent victory, a thrilling romp in suburban Atlanta. The Fresno, Calif. driver realizes if he's to win a...

SCELZI KEEPS IT CLOSE: Two-time NHRA Winston champion Gary Scelzi and his Team Winston dragster crew made a statement with their most recent victory, a thrilling romp in suburban Atlanta. The Fresno, Calif. driver realizes if he's to win a third Winston Top Fuel championship, he'll need similar performances at every event.

"We took out the hitters in Atlanta," said Scelzi, who defeated Kenny Bernstein, Joe Amato and Tony Schumacher in consecutive rounds to win his second of the season. "When you win like that and take out every big dog that's out there, what's left?"

SCHUMACHER CONSISTENT: Defending NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher, driver of the Exide Batteries dragster is picking up where he left off last season. His Dan Olson-tuned machine is consistently making final round appearances. His runner-up finish at Atlanta was his fifth final round appearance of the season. Although he has only one victory this season, Schumacher knows the key is advancing through eliminations each Sunday.

"We have been consistent all year, but have just had some bad timing," said Schumacher, who earned his only win of the year at Phoenix. "We found some things at Richmond and Atlanta that I believe will help us win some races on down the road. We'd like to start at Englishtown." Schumacher, 30, owns the fastest speed in NHRA history, a 330 mph blast set last year in Phoenix. He's also got the fastest speed of the year (322.42) since NHRA rules set the maximum amount of nitro at 90 percent. Schumacher says many predicted his team would suffer a setback with the new rules. If anything, he says, the team is much more dangerous because they're more consistent.

"A lot of people thought we were making our horsepower all on nitro," Schumacher said. "Dan hasn't been pulling on the motor real hard yet at the top end. Our tune-up is really easy on parts. Many teams right now are hurting parts every pass down the track."

DIXON STEPS UP THE PACE: Add Larry Dixon's name to the long list of NHRA Top Fuel championship contenders. With back-to-back victories in Houston and Richmond, Va., Dixon moved within striking distance of Schumacher's points lead. His Miller Lite dragster continued to be extremely consistent, posting a semifinal effort in Atlanta.

"I haven't felt this good about a car since 1995," said Dixon, who won at Englishtown that season and went on to earn NHRA Rookie of the Year honors. "With Dick LaHaie (crew chief) on our side, I feel like at every race we have a car that is capable of winning."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Larry Dixon , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi , Dick LaHaie