Joliet: Gary Scelzi final summary

SCELZI WINS CHICAGO JOLIET, Ill. (June 10, 2007) - Gary Scelzi blew them away again in Chicago by winning his second Funny Car national event at Route 66 Raceway and the 10th of his Funny Car career. His 35th overall career victory also tied him...


JOLIET, Ill. (June 10, 2007) - Gary Scelzi blew them away again in Chicago by winning his second Funny Car national event at Route 66 Raceway and the 10th of his Funny Car career. His 35th overall career victory also tied him with Big Daddy Don Garlits in 13th on the all-time win list, regardless of category. This win also moved him into third in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Funny Car point standings.

Driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T, Scelzi met up with his teammate Ron Capps for the fourth time in a final round. They are now tied 2-2 following Scelzi's stunning win by four feet over the Funny Car points leader: 4.838/321.42 to 4.850/318.39. Reaction times were nearly identical: .081 for Scelzi, .078 for Capps.

Scelzi first received a gimme in the opening round when Bob Gilbertson broke on the starting line. Scelzi still charged to the finish to a 4.892-second pass at 318.09 mph, earning him lane choice for the second round against Tommy Johnson Jr.

In that contest, Scelzi pulled out a near perfect reaction time, a .013 (.000 is perfect) and eliminated T.J. with a 4.886/318.99.

"Today, the track was definitely better than it had been all weekend in qualifying and nobody can tell me they didn't do anything different, because they did something different," said Scelzi, who was critical of the track surface preparation during qualifying. "We were very careful. We tried to only run what we thought the track would hold. And we were very conservative going off the concrete to the asphalt, taking a lot of timing out. But we made it to the final.

"(Crew chief) Mike Neff and I were talking up there in the lounge and we said, 'Wait a minute, Capps and those guys have been quicker than us all day long. We've been going down the race track and we kind of know what everybody is doing because we are all talking.' And Zippy (Neff) said, 'Man, I hate to throw it away'. I said, Who cares, we made it to the final, we're going to be third in points no matter what happens. Let's go and see if we can throw something at them. So we stepped on it from half-track on because that's where our car normally really thumps.

"I was able to leave with Capps because he's awesome on the tree. We were pretty equal and when we got off the concrete onto the asphalt that's where the big dog started to eat. We were actually still a little bit conservative. We thought about going out there and trying to run a .75 and just go out there and hurt their feelings, but we didn't want to throw it away. So, we thought, Well, let's just get after it a little bit. We'll see if it sticks and if it does it will be a hell of a race, and it was.

"The lanes were equal, I wasn't too concerned about that. I tell you what did concern me, in second round I went up there against Tommy Johnson and I had to pull my head down to see the tree while we were parked. When I put my head down, my head sock went into my left eye, and I went, Oh, and I blinked right when I staged. I hit the gas and I completely screwed up a red light. I had an .013 light and that should have been our demise right there. But, the drag racing gods smiled on us and they let us get away with one stupid mistake and that's what you need. You need that lucky round, and that was something. I'm not here to tell you, Boy, that was a great light by me, 'cause that was an idiotic move by me and I'm the first one to tell you."

Team owner Don Schumacher was happy to have his three Funny Cars in the semifinal round and then two in the final. "That was a great win for that Mopar/Oakley team," he said. "They really deserved it. They worked real hard, qualified No. 1 and ran well every round. Ace (crew chief Ed McCulloch) and Ron Capps were actually running better than they were until the final, and Zippy and Gary really did it to them. It was a great win for Gary, great runner-up for Ron and Ace. The teams are really doing a fantastic job."

Another enthusiastic fan in the audience was Scelzi's 10-year-old son Dominic, himself a Mini-Sprint racer, who demonstrated the media training he's received from his dad. "I knew he had it in him," said Dominic. "I was a little scared because he only got down in the night session (in qualifying) and that was when the track was perfect and he just came out here and did what he always does."

Said Mike Neff: "It was a good day, we didn't smoke the tires on Sunday, finally, so that felt good. We stepped it up when we had to against Capps. They definitely had us covered and we just wanted to give them a good race, and we got a little fortunate and it worked out."

Next up is the ProCare RX NHRA Nationals in Englishtown, N.J., June 22-24.

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bob Gilbertson , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Tommy Johnson , Don Garlits , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff , Tommy Johnson Jr.