WINNINGEST ST. LOUIS CHAMPION SCELZI READY TO REPEAT MADISON, Ill. (June 21, 2005) - No other Funny Car or Top Fuel driver has a record to match Gary Scelzi's on Gateway International Raceway's quarter mile. The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge...
WINNINGEST ST. LOUIS CHAMPION SCELZI READY TO REPEAT
MADISON, Ill. (June 21, 2005) - No other Funny Car or Top Fuel driver has a record to match Gary Scelzi's on Gateway International Raceway's quarter mile. The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car has three Top Fuel wins here (1998, '99 and '00), one Funny Car title (2004), one Top Fuel runner-up (1997) and a stunning four No. 1 qualifiers (1997, '99, '01, '04). He also holds the Funny Car ET and speed track records of 4.724 seconds and 330.23 mph, set last year.
His 2004 Funny Car victory, however, was marred by the death of his good friend, Top Fuel driver Darrell Russell. "I've had a lot of good things happen here to me in St. Louis, but losing Darrell Russell was definitely one of the worst experiences of my life," he said.
"It's just something we're going to have to deal with and continue on."
The three-time Top Fuel champion's focus this weekend at the last event of the second three-race swing of the season, is to gain valuable points as he continues to carve away at John Force's points lead. Scelzi is just 62 markers behind Force in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship after 11 races.
He gained two points last week in Englishtown, N.J. by out-qualifying the 13-time champion after both went out in the second round. Scelzi maintains a winning record against Force: 9-8 in round wins, and 3-1 in final round victories.
Force's teammate Robert Hight is also in the mix for the crown, in third, and gained 17 points on Scelzi by advancing to the semifinal round in Englishtown after qualifying eighth.
"If that's as bad as it gets, and we know we're going to have highs and lows," said Scelzi, who is seeking his first Funny Car championship, "there's very little damage done. We actually picked up a couple of points on Force, lost some to Hight, but it wasn't a bad weekend.
"If we can score or stay the same from now on, there won't be any damage. We're hoping we can pick some up. We're sure that somewhere down the line we're going to lose some points too. It's going to be a little bit of a roller coaster. We just have to not let the roller coaster go too far to the bottom."
Racing at night has worked well for the Mopar/Oakley Dodge team tuned by Mike Neff. "It's really neat for the fans, it's neat for the drivers," said Scelzi. "The Mopar/Oakley Dodge guys always seem to do their best work after the sun goes down."
On Friday, June 24, professional qualifying sessions are at 5 and 8 p.m. On Saturday, June 25, pro qualifying continues at 5 and 8 p.m. On Sunday, June 26, final pro eliminations begin at 4:30 p.m.
On Saturday, June 25, ESPN2 will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at midnight (ET). On Sunday, June 26, ESPN2 will televise three hours of elimination highlights beginning at 9 p.m. (ET).
GARY SCELZI QUICK FACTS:
* At the 2004 NHRA Nationals at Gateway, he qualified No. 1, won his fourth career race at this track
* Second in 2005 Funny Car points after 11 races; has two wins (Bristol and Chicago); was low qualifier twice (Las Vegas and Atlanta)
* Won Top Fuel here three times, Funny Car once, has four No. 1 qualifiers here. Winningest St. Louis driver
* Is first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph barrier (330.15 mph at Route 66 Raceway in 2004)
* Career Funny Car bests: 4.717-second ET (Pomona '05), 331.53 mph (Pomona '05)
* Third in 2004 Funny Car points, with three wins in six final rounds
* Qualified in top five nine times in 2004, No. 1 once
* 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 six Funny Car wins, 25 Top Fuel wins
* Sixth in 2003 Funny Car points, his first full season in that class
* 2005 is his third 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 has a winning record against the 13-time Funny Car champion John Force: 9-8, 3-1 in final rounds.