NHRA Communications FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ENNIS, Texas -- Sportsman champion Gary Scelzi will replace the late Blaine Johnson as driver of the Johnson Racing Top Fuel dragster on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series starting in 1997, team...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
ENNIS, Texas -- Sportsman champion Gary Scelzi will replace the late Blaine Johnson as driver of the Johnson Racing Top Fuel dragster on the NHRA Winston Drag Racing Series starting in 1997, team owner Alan Johnson announced Friday.
R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. will sponsor the family-operated team under the Team Winston banner. It's the first major sponsor ever for Johnson Racing.
Alan Johnson, older brother of Blaine Johnson, will continue as team owner and crew chief.
Scelzi, 36, from Fresno, Calif., has six career victories in NHRA Alcohol racing, with three in both Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car. He won the NHRA Pacific Division championship this season in Top Alcohol Dragster.
"The minute Alan asked me, I told him I would drive for him with or without a sponsor," Scelzi said. "And now with Winston on board, it's the ideal situation.
"I'm with the best sponsor in motorsports and the best tuner in NHRA Winston Drag Racing. What more could I ask? The only drawback is the way it happened."
Blaine Johnson was killed in a qualifying crash Aug. 31 during the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. He led the NHRA Winston Top Fuel point standings when he died.
"No one will ever replace Blaine," Alan Johnson said. "But I do see similar qualities in Gary. He's proven himself in the Alcohol ranks, and he certainly shows the potential to be a champion. That's what this whole thing is about for our entire team, winning the NHRA Winston Top Fuel championship in 1997."
Whit Bazemore will continue to drive the Funny Car sponsored by R.J. Reynolds in 1997, also under the Team Winston brand. Bazemore and Jim Head are teammates this season for R.J. Reynolds' Smokin' Joe's Racing, with Head in a Top Fuel dragster.
-- Paul Kelly NHRA Communications