Scelzi out in First Round at Route 66 Raceway JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 3, 2004) - With the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series winding down to its last four races (including today's), Gary Scelzi's exit in the first round of eliminations today in...
Scelzi out in First Round at Route 66 Raceway
JOLIET, Ill. (Oct. 3, 2004) - With the 2004 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series winding down to its last four races (including today's), Gary Scelzi's exit in the first round of eliminations today in the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals was not what he or the team expected.
Route 66 Raceway is famous for its ultra-quick, super-fast surface, and it's where the slick HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge rocket helped Scelzi become the first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph mark here in May and set a Funny Car national speed record of 330.25 mph. Although Scelzi did not believe that, under the new 85-percent nitromethane rule, the Funny Cars would be able to break that record, he was considered a favorite to win here.
The team searched for the right setup under the new rules on this smooth quarter-mile. Scelzi qualified No. 7 by virtue of his first pass down the track (4.827/324.59), then struggled through the next two sessions (the second one was cancelled because of rain) under nearly perfect 50-degree, sunny conditions.
Temperatures turned slightly warmer for Sunday's eliminations, but it didn't help Scelzi's results in the first round against Jerry Toliver, when he lost traction at the hit of the throttle and coasted to a losing 7.419-second pass at 116.43 mph to Toliver's winning 5.084/273.22.
"I don't know what it is," said the three-time Top Fuel champion seeking his first Funny Car crown. "These are optimum conditions - the race track, the weather, everything - and for some reason we just couldn't make this thing work. We slowed everything down and slid it down there to a 4.82 (in qualifying), but it just wouldn't repeat, for whatever reason. That's why we're going to stay here and test on Monday.
"I don't have any answers. I don't have a magic wand to know what to do to fix it."
Scelzi's chances to claim his first Funny Car championship in only his second full season in that class were dashed today, as he fell to third place after Del Worsham won the event and points leader John Force, surprisingly, set a new national elapsed-time record, collecting 20 bonus points. Force's record 4.665-second run in today's first round of eliminations also produced a national record speed of 333.58 mph, breaking both Scelzi's speed record as well as teammate Whit Bazemore's elapsed-time record (4.713).
Worsham is the only driver remaining who has a mathematical chance of beating Force for the title. Scelzi will be battling with Worsham, his teammate Whit Bazemore (who also lost in the first round), Eric Medlen and Gary Densham for second place, as the series heads to Reading, Pa., this weekend to make up for the rain-postponed Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.