Houston Gary Scelzi Looks To a Top Fuel treat

SCELZI WANTS TOP FUEL TREAT AT MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS BAYTOWN, Texas - Two-time NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi is pondering the question: Will he get a trick or a treat at the third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, Oct. 28-31 at...

SCELZI WANTS TOP FUEL TREAT AT MATCO TOOLS SUPERNATIONALS BAYTOWN, Texas - Two-time NHRA Winston Top Fuel champion Gary Scelzi is pondering the question: Will he get a trick or a treat at the third annual Matco Tools SuperNationals, Oct. 28-31 at super-fast Houston Raceway Park? Given the nature of the unpredictable Top Fuel season thus far, Scelzi isn't so sure. Add in the fact that eliminations will be contested on Halloween, and the stage could be set for a variety of supernatural happenings. The Fresno, Calif. driver is the defending champion of the $1.7 million race, 21st of 22 events in the $40 million NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series. Last year he was treated to a record-setting victory, where he established the NHRA speed record at 326.44 mph (recently reset to 326.91 mph by Tony Schumacher). This season he is among several drivers chasing the NHRA Winston championship. By day's end he hopes to get a brand new NHRA trophy dropped in his plastic pumpkin. However, Tony Schumacher, Joe Amato and Doug Herbert will all be seeking the same prize in hopes of moving forward in their quest for NHRA Winston championship glory. "This year has just been so crazy and full of surprises," said Scelzi, a three-time winner this season. "However, it doesn't surprise me about Amato or Schumacher being there. Dan Olson (crew chief) has done a great job with that Exide team and Tony has definitely come into his own as a driver. I'm surprised that there's only four of us in it right now. The way things were going a few races back, I figured there'd be at least six or seven drivers in the hunt all the way until the end." Former title contenders who have faded from the title picture in recent events include some big names. Mike Dunn, who led the points chase for over half the season in his Team Mopar dragster, failed to qualify at Memphis, Tenn. Kenny Bernstein also fell victim to an untimely DNQ at the U.S. Nationals and suffered a devastating crash in Memphis. Cory McClenathan, who appeared to be on his way back to the top after a win at Indy, dropped first round decisions in the next three races. "I can't believe the inconsistency between all of the teams," Scelzi said. "In all of the seasons I've been around NHRA Winston Drag Racing, there's always been a dominant car. It just seems that there isn't a dominant car this year. Everybody's been hot and cold. I've never seen it like that. Normally, there's somebody that's hot and even when they cool off they're not that bad. I think we've had seven first round losses. In the previous two years we've had a total of three. There's just so many teams now that can run the low numbers that even first round you can't run your car a little softer or you'll be beat. You can run a 4.60 pretty conservatively, but most of the times the competition will send you home packing if you try it." Scelzi says the combination of Houston's track surface and the expected weather conditions will provide a tuner's paradise. "Alan is a big power builder and our race car seems to be suitable for tracks that hold a lot of power," Scelzi said. "Unfortunately for us, there's other cars out there that do the same. I think it's going to be interesting. I don't think you're going to see cars that don't normally win, that run 4.70s and high 4.60s, end up in the final. I don't think you're going to see some of the crazy things that have happened this year. Something you will see is some incredible E.T.s and speeds." All Top Fuel teams will be hungry to set the national elapsed time record at Houston. Larry Dixon recorded the current national elapsed time record there this spring, driving his Miller Lite dragster to a milestone 4.486 second blast. "We want to qualify well on the first shot," Scelzi said. "After that we're going to see how much the computer says we have left in it. I know that Alan is going after a sub-4.48 second run. We need those extra 20 bonus points (for setting a national elapsed time record) for the championship. You really need to do it in qualifying, because when you run a 4.48 you're really testing the limits. If you can run some 4.52s four times during eliminations, more than likely you'll be going to the final. You're not going to have to run 4.47s to win the race." Despite an October that hasn't been too kind to Team Winston, Scelzi is optimistic about his chances at Houston. He started the month with a horrifying crash in Topeka, Kan., then posted first round losses at Memphis and Dallas. He knows in order to be the three-time champ he faces a tall order. Schumacher's victory in Dallas somewhat padded the Exide Batteries driver's lead. Schumacher leads second place driver Amato by 81 points. Scelzi is fourth, 151 points back. "We're down to crunch time now and after Houston we're going to know who the top two or three drivers are that'll be going after the Winston championship at Pomona," Scelzi said. "My attitude is we're going out to get it. We want this Winston championship. We want to be the second team to win three Top Fuel titles in a row. I've never been anything but the Winston champion and I don't want to lose it."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Larry Dixon , Mike Dunn , Kenny Bernstein , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Gary Scelzi