SCELZI QUALIFIES NO. 7 AT U.S. NATIONALS; GOES TO SECOND ROUND IN SHOWDOWN INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 4, 2005) - After five qualifying rounds over three days for the 51st running of the prestigious U.S. Nationals, Gary Scelzi and the Mopar/Oakley Dodge...
SCELZI QUALIFIES NO. 7 AT U.S. NATIONALS; GOES TO SECOND ROUND IN SHOWDOWN
INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 4, 2005) - After five qualifying rounds over three days for the 51st running of the prestigious U.S. Nationals, Gary Scelzi and the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car team stand seventh in the field of 16 for tomorrow's eliminations -- the quickest Funny Car field in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series history.
Scelzi put together a string of five strong runs to place him solidly in the top half of the field: 4.842/322.58, 4.887/317.49, 4.763/327.74, 4.943/309.20 (first round of the Skoal Showdown) and 4.857/318.62.
"For some reason we have a motor with no power," said Scelzi, who is in a tight Funny Car championship chase. "We named it 'Jennifer Aniston' because that thing has won some races for us and it's always been really good. Chris Lewis always names his motors when he puts them together and that one is 'Jennifer Aniston.'"
He explained: "Let me just say that we have one named 'Satan,' so do you see a pattern starting to develop?"
"It's just been a tough deal," he continued. "It's normally one of our really good motors, so we've been behind. We actually hurt that motor second round of qualifying so we had to change it and things actually got better from then on. We found our power level, but we had a problem with the clutch - not wearing enough clutch - and the car was not responding to the changes Mike (Neff, crew chief) was making. It was a bracket racer, it was just slow."
"So we tried something on this last run and it looks like we're going in the right direction now, finally. That makes me feel really good about going into eliminations tomorrow. We're only a couple of hundredths (of a second) behind, instead of five to seven hundredths behind. Whatever direction he's going now, we're just going to keep going in that direction and hopefully we're going to be a player tomorrow."
Scelzi faces Tim Wilkerson in first round of eliminations on Sunday. "Tim has been really good. This is Indy, we're in the quickest field ever, and I'm glad to be a part of it," he said.
The Fresno, Calif., native went out in the second round of the $100,000 bonus Skoal Showdown event today, after defeating Cruz Pedregon in the opener (4.943/309.20 to 5.035/254.14). Scelzi was ahead of Eric Medlen in the second round until 1000 feet, when Medlen drove around and took the victory (4.897/314.83 for Medlen, 4.943/309.20 for Scelzi). Del Worsham took home the $100,000 bonus.
"We did good," said Scelzi of the Showdown, for which he qualified second. "There's a bump in the right-hand lane, and when it hit the bump (against Medlen) it got the tires loose and it never recovered. So, the changes that we made for the last qualifying session, even though the left lane didn't have the bump in it, we see that the speed is going back up. Instead of 309, it got to 318. It makes us feel that whatever we've done is going to control that now. Even with that bump, we think we know what to do."
"It is a big deal to lose the Showdown," he said, "but I'd rather win the race. The Showdown is a big deal for the guys on the team because of the bonus they would get, but the big picture is the world championship and that's what we're looking for. We need to win Indy; that's what we need to do."