Gainesville: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi Aims For Gainesville Win; 330 MPH Would Be A Bonus GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2004) - Gary Scelzi is well aware his HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car has the potential to break the 330-mph Funny Car barrier this weekend at the...

Scelzi Aims For Gainesville Win; 330 MPH Would Be A Bonus

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 16, 2004) - Gary Scelzi is well aware his HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car has the potential to break the 330-mph Funny Car barrier this weekend at the NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway. He already holds the national top-speed record of 329.18 mph, set last year in Joliet, Ill., and is the fastest Funny Car pilot on the planet.

He's also claimed six of the top nine fastest Funny Car speeds in NHRA history, all established in 2003, his first full season of NHRA Funny Car competition. All he wants, however, is to win this race this weekend, the third round of the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. If he breaks 330 mph, it's gravy, he says.

"The track's been re-paved. From what I've heard it's the smoothest race track that's ever been built. That's what everybody's been saying. With the smooth race track and if it has tight asphalt from half-track on, it could have the makings for a 330-mph run, if the weather is right.

"But the big thing that we're concerned about now is wins," says Scelzi, third in Funny Car points after two races, the highest he's stood since entering the Funny Car class in 2002. "We don't want to get behind. The HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge needs a win. That's what we're after. We need to race smart. We need to qualify well and we need to win the race to start out the '04 season."

Scelzi finished sixth in the point standings in 2003 and has one Funny Car victory on top of his 25 Top Fuel wins and three Top Fuel championships. "We're starting out a whole lot better than we did last year and that's been our game plan all along," he adds.

"Gainesville has been pretty good to me so far, whether it be Funny Car or Dragster," says the Fresno native, who has a runner-up finish here in Funny Car (2002) and in Top Fuel (2001), as well as three No. 1 Top Fuel qualifying efforts.

Last year he qualified No. 10 here. So far in 2004 he's qualified No. 4 and No. 6 in the first two events and has reached the semifinals once. "I like qualifying in the top half, but the end result we're looking for comes on Sunday," he says. "That's the key to this whole thing. Qualifying points are great, but you need to be in the top half of the field and you need to go to the semifinals or the finals. That's what's important. If you go out first round, you don't qualify well and you get behind, it seems like you never catch up. That's what we're trying to avoid.

"Gainesville is one of those old races that has a lot of prestige, just like Pomona or Indy. It's a famous race and it's got a lot of history behind it. This is one place where I haven't won. We're really encouraged about our results so far this year and we hope that we can break through here in Gainesville."

Pro qualifying rounds are scheduled for 12 noon and 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 19, and Saturday, March 20, with final eliminations beginning at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 21.

ESPN2 will air qualifying on March 21 at 2:30 a.m.-4:30 a.m. ET, and final eliminations on March 21 from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. ET.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi