Indianapolis2: Team Mopar Saturday summary

Strong qualifying effort for Mopar this weekend Morgan, Wilson, Bazemore and Scelzi in the top half of the field CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 6, 2003) -- Larry Morgan and Gene Wilson drove their Dodge Stratus Pro Stock entries to the top half of the ...

Strong qualifying effort for Mopar this weekend
Morgan, Wilson, Bazemore and Scelzi in the top half of the field

CLERMONT, Ind. (Sept. 6, 2003) -- Larry Morgan and Gene Wilson drove their Dodge Stratus Pro Stock entries to the top half of the field for tomorrow's rain-delayed 49th annual Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park. And Dodge Stratus drivers Gary Scelzi and Whit Bazemore took home two of the top three positions in Funny Car qualifying activity as well.

Morgan, who won this event in 1989, maintained the fifth-qualifying position after improving his elapsed time during the first session today. He logged a 6.811-second lap at 201.85 mph. The Newark, Ohio, resident, who also made the fourth-fastest pass of the weekend at 203.43 during last night's only session, was the third-quickest car of the morning run.

"We've had a pretty good weekend so far," said Morgan, who will face off against Warren Johnson in round one tomorrow. "On the last run, we had a bad run in the front half of the track. We ran the back half well, so I'm pretty pleased. We really feel good about it. If the track is going to be as good as we think it will be, it should be a great weekend. We're so elated with our performance this weekend. Just to be able to consistently run with the quick cars is a big deal."

"My Stratus us going to be an awesome race day car," added Morgan, who will be making his Sunday appearance in his new Stratus. "Rick Jones has done a great job in getting this car put together. We're working real hard to make some things happen for Mopar this weekend."

Teammate Gene Wilson didn't disappoint either, as he guided his Hemi-powered Stratus to the seventh-qualified position. The 2002 NHRA Rookie of the Year clicked off a 6.816-second elapsed time 201.58 mph, setting up a round one match with Taylor Lastor.

"We've made a 180-degree turn with this program," said Wilson, after qualifying in the top half of the field for the first time this season. "We have a lot of confidence in the abilities of the guys in our engine shop. Larry Morgan and Bob Glidden, especially, have really been turning in the late hours to make sure this program picks up and succeeds. I believe we have just as good of a chance as any come Sunday afternoon."

"I'm trying to get back into the race day groove," Wilson added. "Sunday afternoon is so different from qualifying, so it takes a lot to take it to that next level."

Allen Johnson made a move during this morning session and captured the 15th slot, driving his Mopar Parts Dodge Stratus to a 6.832-second lap at 201.55 mph. The Tennessee resident, who made his way to the semifinals in last year's race, will take on Jeg Coughlin, Jr., in tomorrow's opening stanza.

"We just barely made it," Johnson said. "We aren't satisfied at all, especially since DA (Darrell Alderman) didn't get in. We learned something here this weekend and I think it will get us up there towards the top half of the field again. We'll go home and work on these motors."

"The left lane has been the best all weekend," Johnson continued. "On that last run however, the left seemed like it was the worst. It's anybody's guess as to which lane will be the best for tomorrow. Usually when the sun is out and it's hot, lane choice is a bog factor."

Three-time POWERade Pro Stock World Champion Darrell Alderman was on the outside looking in at the end of today's qualifying session. The 1991 U.S. Nationals winner logged a weekend best elapsed time if 6.849 seconds at 200.86 mph.

"We really shook the tires on that last one," Alderman said. "We really didn't run like I know this team is capable of this weekend. We'll take a look at the tune up and get them in Reading (Pa.) next weekend."

Scelzi Grabs Second and Bazemore Lands Third in Funny Car...

Scelzi led the Oakley-sponsored Dodge Stratus to the second-qualifying position with a 4.764-second elapsed time at 325.53 mph; the event's top speed thus far. Scelzi, who won at his home track in Sonoma, Calif., earlier this year, will match up with Del Worsham in round one.

"We have done a lot of testing and (team owner) Don Schumacher has spent a lot of money on Schumacher Racing. We're making these Dodge's perform like we want them to perform. We're still not happy yet, but we've had remarkable improvements in both cars. We have Whit (Bazemore) running for a World Championship and you have us winning races. And us taking home No. 1 qualifiers isn't out of the norm, and we just got nipped last night. We've learned a lot and we have a good combination now, and hopefully, by the end of the year, we'll have stuff figured out. So when we start next year, we'll start swinging that bat for the fence. You have to start early because normally everyone that wins a championship has a certain time that they stumble. All you can do is try and control it. We stumbled early, but now we're coming on strong. When we line up next to our competitors, especially those Edsels, and let them know that they've got a race on their hands, they really notice."

"(Crew chief) Mike Neff and the team has been so good to me since the beginning," Scelzi continued. "They treated me like I was an All Star and it's made me comfortable sooner. The car does what it's supposed to do -- it responds. It 's fun to drive. When you know you don't have to man handle it, or stage it crooked, that gives a driver confidence. When the driver has confidence, and the car is fast, those are two deadly combinations."

The Matco Tools Dodge Stratus of Bazemore also put together a strong-qualifying effort this weekend. The local hero from Indianapolis landed a 4.767-second pass at 323.74 mph. Bazemore will face off against Tim Wilkerson in the first round of eliminations tomorrow.

In the Budweiser Shootout earlier today, Bazemore lost to John Force in the round of four despite running a quick 4.909-second elapsed time 291.32 mph. Bazemore won his first round match on a holeshot over Tommy Johnson, Jr.

"We're close," said Bazemore, who is chasing front-runner Tony Pedregon for the championship. "We feel good with where we are in the Matco Tools Dodge. We're not quite there, and it's just disappointing today to not win the Bud Shootout. We're in a good position with our main focus being on tomorrow. Our last run of a 4.81 was kind of what we we're looking for. We wanted to run that a round earlier though. The car has been very consistent and the guys are doing a great job. We look good for tomorrow."

"It got a little hotter than we would have liked for tomorrow," Bazemore continued. "I think the forecast is more of the same, and with the Dodge Stratus body that we have, we think we have a shot at it. I wouldn't trade this seat for any other car out here."

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Darrell Alderman , Warren Johnson , Tony Pedregon , Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Larry Morgan , Bob Glidden , Gene Wilson , Tim Wilkerson , Allen Johnson , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff