JOLIET, Ill. - The more Gary Scelzi competes in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing, the more his name will be stamped on the record books. The three-time Top Fuel champion made the move from the dragsters to the Funny Car category before the 2002 season.
JOLIET, Ill. - The more Gary Scelzi competes in NHRA POWERade Drag Racing, the more his name will be stamped on the record books. The three-time Top Fuel champion made the move from the dragsters to the Funny Car category before the 2002 season. While that is not uncommon in drag racing, Scelzi could soon join an elite group of NHRA drivers who have won in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Only 12 racers in more than 50 years of NHRA drag racing have claimed victories in both nitro categories. Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Tom McEwen, Jim Head, Frank Hawley, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Mark Oswald, Scott Kalitta, Gene Snow, Mike Dunn and Ed McCulloch have each taken home event trophies in Top Fuel and Funny Car.
Scelzi could be lucky No. 13 in that group if he can take the Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car to winner's circle. He would like nothing more than for that to happen during the sixth annual Lucas Oil Route 66 NHRA Nationals, May 29-June 1, at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill. Larry Dixon, Del Worsham, Bruce Allen and Angelle Savoie are the defending winners of the $1.8 million race. It is the 10th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
"I think it would be great to join that list of drivers, but I really don't look at records or accomplishments you get on paper," Scelzi said. "I don't want to be the 13th driver in this group for me, but I want to join that list for (sponsor) Jim Jannard. I want to get on that list for (crew chief) Mike Neff because I know this team can win and deserves to win.
"I've never looked at records, even when I was driving Top Fuel. I was happy that I was No. 5 on the list of career Top Fuel wins, but that was before (Miller Lite dragster driver) Larry Dixon decided to take over the world and knock me off that list."
Scelzi has been to the final round in Chicago three times, earning one victory at the fall race in 2000. The win wasn't easy, however. Scelzi crashed his Top Fuel car in qualifying and came back to win the race on Sunday in a back-up car. Even though he had a bad experience at Route 66 Raceway, he is still looking forward to being at the track.
"I don't blame any of the tracks that I've had accidents on," Scelzi said. "Otherwise I would be mad at a few of them. Route 66 Raceway is one of the top three tracks we race at. It would become even more special if I could get this Oakley Dodge a win there. I know this team will earn a victory and I know I'll be in the driver's seat. If it happens in Chicago, great. If not, I am not going to stress. I am the kind of guy who is always motivated to win, no matter what is on the line and no matter where we are racing."
There is one accomplishment that Scelzi would like to reach before he retires in the future.
"There are six race tracks (Gainesville, Fla., Las Vegas, Bristol, Tenn., Englishtown, N.J., Denver, Sonoma, Calif.) that I have not won at yet and that is something I would like to do," Scelzi said. "As far as matching other drivers' accomplishments, that is not something I have even thought about. The very idea that you would say my name with that list of greats like Kenny and Don is strange. Those guys are my idols and if you said my name with them it would make me giggle and ask the question of 'Who doesn't belong in this group?' Some people don't think that way, but that's how I really see it."
A victory in Funny Car would give Scelzi another title as well. He currently is the only NHRA driver in history to win the Rookie of the Year and the Top Fuel titles in the same year. He can also become the only NHRA driver in history to win a race in the four fastest categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car.
"That might be one record that will stand for a long time because I don't see a lot drivers going in that direction," Scelzi said. "The one thing I thought I would never see again would be someone to win the Rookie of the Year and the Top Fuel title in the same year. That was before (Budweiser dragster driver) Brandon Bernstein started racing. So we'll see what happens with that. But at least I will always be the first one to claim that accomplishment."