Gainesville: Gary Scelzi preview

SCELZI SEEKS FIRST GAINESVILLE WIN, ONE OF TWO LIFE'S MISSIONS GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2005) - Gary Scelzi has won at 17 of the 21 dragstrips on which the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series holds its national events. Gainesville Raceway is...


GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 15, 2005) - Gary Scelzi has won at 17 of the 21 dragstrips on which the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series holds its national events. Gainesville Raceway is not one of them. The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car and three-time Top Fuel champion wants to change that this weekend at the NHRA Gatornationals.

The Fresno native captured his first NHRA Top Fuel crown as a rookie in 1997, and has notched 29 national-event wins in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, four of them since he joined the Funny Car class full-time with Don Schumacher Racing in 2003. But he can't count Denver, Bristol, Englishtown and Gainesville among them.

"Gainesville is one of only four race tracks that I've never won at, and winning here in Gainesville would mean a lot," he said.

"You only get so many attempts in a lifetime, and my attempts are getting fewer as my career progresses," said the 44-year-old. "And it's just something that I would love to have. I have been fortunate enough to accomplish a lot of things, set a lot of records, but I would love nothing more than to have won at every facility that we race at, whether it be in a dragster or a Funny Car."

That's not all he'd like to achieve. "I feel that every year the pressure builds more and more, at least on myself. Because you never know what's going to happen. You never know what's going to happen with sponsors, you never know what's going to happen with car owners, you never know, at least for Gary Scelzi, the future of drag racing. I want to win as often as I can and then if and when the time comes, when things go awry, I can say I've accomplished all I wanted to do. I'd hate to leave this sport thinking that I didn't accomplish all the things I wanted to.

"And one of the things I want to do is to be the second man on this planet to have won a world championship in Top Fuel and in Funny Car," he said. Kenny Bernstein is the first.

"I never take anything for granted because nothing lasts forever," added a philosophical Scelzi.

But, first things first: facing the challenge of competing on a quarter-mile that was re-surfaced last year and didn't produce the expected quick laps and fast speeds at the 2004 Gatornationals.

"There should be more rubber on it by now, and it should bond quicker because it's seasoned a little bit," Scelzi commented. "It's a year old. I don't know if they ground it, so I don't know what the status of the race track is going to be.

"I'm assuming it's going to be better. But I recall it was awfully porous on the concrete portion, and the rubber wasn't sticking to it very well. We can only hope it's improved.

"It's always been a very good race track, especially in the sun. And that's something we've always looked forward to. Gainesville has historically been a good race track even when it got a little of temperature on it. After they re-paved it last year, we just assumed that it would continue that way, but we were fooled

"But I can't hardly believe that it won't be a really good race track, especially after a year. Normally tracks get better after a year after they've been redone."

Scelzi and crew chief Mike Neff started the 2005 season with the same momentum they ended 2004, where they reached the final round in three of the last eight races, won two of them, and moved into a battle for second place with Del Worsham at the final race. However, after two races, they find themselves 10th in the standings, despite Scelzi's having set his Funny Car career-best ET of 4.717 seconds and overall fastest speed of 331.53 mph at the season-opener.

"I'd say our performance so far this season is mediocre for our standards," he said. "We've had signs of brilliance, but whether it be me, or whether it be the car smoking the tires, Mike and I need to both be on the same page. We need to get the job done and we need to get it done now. We don't need to wait until the middle of the year to make our move. We need to make things happen right now.

"And maybe we're just putting a lot of pressure on ourselves that doesn't need to put on right now. But I think we both feel that way. We want to get the job done early and we want to stay in the game all year long.

"We have improved. Like I said before, patience is not one of a drag racer's finer points. And we want to win more than our fair share of races. Until we do that we probably won't be happy. And that's what's going to make this team a championship team. We don't strive for average."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Del Worsham , Gary Scelzi , Mike Neff