Joliet II: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi says Records may not fall at Route 66 JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 29, 2004) - Gary Scelzi is the baddest dude on the quarter-mile when it comes to record speeds, having set a Funny Car national record of 330.55 mph at Route 66 Raceway in May in...

Scelzi says Records may not fall at Route 66

JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 29, 2004) - Gary Scelzi is the baddest dude on the quarter-mile when it comes to record speeds, having set a Funny Car national record of 330.55 mph at Route 66 Raceway in May in his slick HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus. That surpassed his own previous national record of 329.18 mph, which bettered the 328.06-mph record he held before.

He became the first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph mark that May day in Joliet.

Will Scelzi and the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge team set new records this weekend at the ultra-quick, super-smooth, and outrageously-fast Route 66 Raceway at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals? It's hard to tell. Since that time, the NHRA has lowered the percentage of nitromethane allowed to 85 from 90, and the teams are making only gradual steps to return to record speeds.

In fact, since that rule was put in place at the Seattle race in July, John Force has gotten the closest with a 324.20-mph run at the Texas Motorplex last weekend. Gary Scelzi's fastest speed of 321.50 mph came in the race immediately after Seattle, in Sonoma, Calif. His speed last week in Texas was a nearly-similar 321.42 mph. He did, however, post a 325.77-mph pass during testing at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

As for elapsed times, Scelzi's teammate Whit Bazemore still holds the national Funny Car ET record, set here in May, of 4.713 seconds. The closest anyone has come to that ET under the 85 percent rule was a 4.749 set by Force at the U.S. Nationals. Scelzi's career quickest is a 4.724, and his quickest so far on 85 percent is a 4.830, established at the Texas Motorplex, although he did go 4.770 during the IRP test.

"I don't think you're going to see records fall here at Route 66 Raceway," said Scelzi, the three-time Top Fuel champion who is seeking his first Funny Car crown. "I think you may see mid- to low 4.70s, but I could be wrong. It just depends on the weather. I think we're not quite where we were with the 90 percent.

"We probably will be by the time we get to Pomona (Calif., the season finale in November) or the first of next year," he added. "I think we're still going to be off a little bit. You may see a 4.73-second ET, maybe .72 at best, but I don't think you're going to see the record fall this weekend. As for speeds, we may see a 326, 327. I don't think we're back to where we need to be yet."

The Fresno, Calif., native, however, is back to one of his favorite race tracks. "This is one of the absolute best non-Bruton Smith-owned race tracks around. Don (Schumacher, team owner) is from here, Schumacher Electric is from here (in Mt. Prospect, Ill.). We'll have a lot of people here. We're excited about coming back to Chicago.

"We'll find out just how fast 85 percent will go. There won't be any question, because everybody will have it right on the limiter."

Scelzi stands second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship, 228 points behind John Force, against whom he holds a 7-5 career win-loss record. He plans to up that record as he aims to knock Force out of the championship chase this year.

SCHEDULE
On Friday, Oct. 1, professional qualifying sessions are at 3:30 and 6:30 p.m. On Saturday, Oct. 2, pro qualifying sessions continue at 12:15 and 3 p.m. On Sunday, Oct. 3, pre-race ceremonies are at 10 a.m. Final eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION
On Saturday, Oct. 2, ESPN2 will televise two hours of qualifying highlights at 4 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, Oct. 3, ESPN2 will broadcast NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute weekly news magazine show, at noon (ET). On Sunday, Oct. 3, ESPN2 will televise two hours of eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET).

GARY SCELZI QUICK FACTS:

* At the 2003 CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals, Scelzi qualified No. 4, lost in semis to Phil Burkart Jr.

* Holds national Funny Car top-speed record of 330.55 mph, set at Rte. 66 in May '04. He demolished his own previous national record of 329.18 mph, which he had set in 2003 at Route 66 Raceway

* Is first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph barrier (Route 66 Raceway in 2004)

* Has won once at Rte. 66 in Top Fuel ('00), and scored two runner-up finishes in TF ('98, '01)

* Second in 2004 Funny Car points after 19 events, is 228 points out of the lead

* Age 44, born and raised in Fresno, Calif., where he lives with wife Julianne and sons Dominic and Giovanni

* Runs Scelzi Enterprises, a custom truck body design and manufacturing business in Fresno with his two brothers

* Is a three-time Top Fuel Dragster champion

* Won his first Top Fuel crown as a rookie

* Has two Funny Car wins, 25 Top Fuel wins

* Sixth in 2003 Funny Car points, his first full season in that class

* 2004 is his second straight season racing for Don Schumacher Racing

* Is the only NHRA driver to have won in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car. He accomplished this feat at Infineon Raceway in 2003

* Is one of the few Funny Car drivers who have a winning record against the 12-time Funny Car champion John Force: 7-5.

-csr-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Phil Burkart , Don Schumacher