SCELZI TAKES OVER FUNNY CAR POINTS LEAD AT U.S. NATIONALS INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 5, 2005) - After being mired in either second or third in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings for the last 10 races, Gary Scelzi finally...
SCELZI TAKES OVER FUNNY CAR POINTS LEAD AT U.S. NATIONALS
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 5, 2005) - After being mired in either second or third in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings for the last 10 races, Gary Scelzi finally broke through and took over the points lead today from Robert Hight at the U.S. Nationals. He had not led the Funny Car points since he joined the Funny Car class in 2002 until today.
OK, it's only by one point, but every marker counts in this increasingly tightening battle for the Funny Car championship.
Scelzi, who drives the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car for Don Schumacher Racing, came home a semifinal-round finisher today after first defeating Tim Wilkerson (4.931/315.78), Tony Pedregon (4.891/318.02), then lost to Frank Pedregon in the semis with a 10.492/78.22 to Pedregon's 4.884/314.09 when he smoked the tires.
"It feels good to lead the points," said the three-time Top Fuel champion who is seeking his first Funny Car crown. "It's disheartening (that we didn't win the event) because we felt we had a handle on it today. I've been off and the Mopar/Oakley Dodge hasn't quite been on today. Yesterday my lights (reaction times) were great, the car was responding, we were being careful, and today it was like we couldn't make enough power, we couldn't make it snap, I wasn't snapping. I kept getting better every round, but we were just missing it.
"An Allen bolt either snapped or came loose in the fuel pump extension and it was spraying oil," he said of the semifinal problem. "That's why it smoked the tires. We didn't do anything stupid to race Frank. We were going to try to run an .85, an .86 and it should have done it, and it didn't."
Finally moving into the points lead after not being able to capitalize on his competitors' mistakes in recent races was today's reward. His closest competitors for the championship - Robert Hight, John Force and his teammate Ron Capps - went out in the first round today, giving Scelzi another chance to take advantage. This time he did.
"The other guys fell off; they went bye-bye first round," said Scelzi. "At least we won a couple of rounds and made it to the semis. You know, life is good. We need to really work now. I hope we've pulled out of the draft in time to keep the lead and we can keep this thing going in the direction we're going. We're going to go into three in a row (Reading, Pa., Dallas and Chicago) and I don't see anybody lightening up. Force has his car back, Robert's running good, Capps is there, Baze (Scelzi's other teammate Whit Bazemore, who was also a semifinal finisher today) is a player now. That's a good thing.
"We'll just go fight this thing and see what happens."
Next up is the Toyo Tires NHRA Nationals in Reading, Pa., Sept. 16-18, 2005.