Joliet II: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi all amped up about Funny Car title chase JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 28, 2005) - Gallons of adrenaline seem to be coursing through Gary Scelzi's veins these last few NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series races, as the man known as "Wild Thing" in his...

Scelzi all amped up about Funny Car title chase

JOLIET, Ill. (Sept. 28, 2005) - Gallons of adrenaline seem to be coursing through Gary Scelzi's veins these last few NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series races, as the man known as "Wild Thing" in his native Fresno, Calif., is on a natural high about his No. 1 status in the Funny Car championship chase.

As the series heads to Route 66 Raceway this weekend for the Ameriquest Mortgage NHRA Nationals, the first of the last four events of the 2005 season, the driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car finds himself 26 points in front of Robert Hight, 31 ahead of John Force, 76 over Eric Medlen and 82 ahead of his teammate Ron Capps.

This has got to be the closest and most exciting battle for a championship the NHRA has ever seen!

It's the first time since Scelzi entered the Funny Car class in 2002 after garnering three Top Fuel championships that he's led the class through two straight events, and he's thriving on the pressure to win his first Funny Car crown and become only the second driver to have won titles in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Kenny Bernstein is the first.

"My mother and father-in-law came over last night, and I said to them, Finally, on Sunday at Reading (Pa. where he padded his lead from one point to 26) I said to myself, You know what? You're not nervous, you like this stuff, you love this pressure," said Scelzi.

"This is when I seem to rise to the occasion. I'm excited about it. I'm ready to go to these next four races. If it were up to me, we could just do them all in a row."

Racing at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., this weekend, just outside of Chicago, merely adds to the rush. It's where Scelzi was the first to break the Funny Car 330-mph barrier in 2004, and where he won Funny Car in June, in Top Fuel in 2000 and was runner-up in 1998 and 2000 (1).

"I am really looking forward to Chicago because we ran very well here earlier in the year," said Scelzi of his victory over Medlen, "and we've always done well here.

"Chicago is one of those race tracks that you love to go to. It's just incredible. The weather should be outstanding."

At a track famous for delivering national records, the 20 bonus points for a backed-up national elapsed-time record would help any of the top five Funny Car contenders in the title chase, but the NHRA-mandated rev limiter this season could be the spoiler.

"The rev limiter is going to put a damper on those 20 bonus points," said Scelzi. "Realistically, there are four cars - ours, Hight's, Medlen's and Force's - that could reset that national record. But I don't think it's going to happen, because this rev limiter just won't let it happen. That's my opinion.

"When a car revs up and accelerates hard early it gets on the rev limiter sooner, which the Mopar/Oakley Dodge seems to do, and that's going to be a problem. I'm not sure how (crew chief) Mike Neff is going to deal with that this weekend, but it's definitely not a plus. It's more of a hindrance than anything."

As for the postponement of the Dallas event because of Hurricane Rita: "I think it was a great call by the NHRA," Scelzi said, "and they made the call early enough because it was a Category 4 hurricane. That's nothing to mess with, especially with what happened in Louisiana. It was also 100 degrees in Dallas. We have another two weeks now to hope that it cools down some."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight , Mike Neff