Pomona: Don Schumacher Racing Saturday summary

Bazemore qualifies 2nd, Scelzi 5th, Cannon 15th in Pomona. In third round of qualifying, GARY SCELZI, in the OAKLEY TIME BOMB DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR, posted a strong 4.818-second pass to put him into fifth place with one round of qualifying...

Bazemore qualifies 2nd, Scelzi 5th, Cannon 15th in Pomona.

In third round of qualifying, GARY SCELZI, in the OAKLEY TIME BOMB DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR, posted a strong 4.818-second pass to put him into fifth place with one round of qualifying to go. However, his half-track speed of 264 mph was a clear indicator that he was on one heck of a lap before the engine let go at 900 feet on the quarter-mile track.

SCELZI: "It was incredible. We were talking this morning that we were going to try to run a .70 and then when the sun came out, Mike (Neff, crew chief) said, 'You know I'm going to pull it back, I'm going to try to run a low .80 flat, .82, .83. Let's go down the race track again and forget those .70s. and then (Tony) Pedregon ran a .76, right in front of us. The next thing you know, right before we started, the box opened up, he sped the timers up, which releases the clutch faster, and I think he figured let's go see what this thing will do. And it stuck; this thing was motivating. It was on when the big red Oakley O was saying, Oh, no, here we go. It's just awesome. Then all of a sudden -- there wasn't much warning, it just went flat for a second and bang. The potential is there and it was plenty safe. We're going to come back, and put a different body on it. We'll repair this one tonight and we'll go run the gray one. We will run a brand new Dodge Stratus with paint on it in the next round, one of the spares for Baze and me. I don't know what happened. Something had to have happened with an intake failure for an explosion like that."

OAKLEY'S PROFESSIONAL RACING CYCLES DIVISION HOSTED A GROUP OF PROFESSIONAL CYCLISTS TODAY, including Floyd Landis, four-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong's right-hand man and a professional road cyclist for USPS; Brian Lopes, two-time world mountain-bike champion, considered to be the fastest mountain-biker in the world; Chann McRae, reigning U.S. National Road Cycling Champion; Jay Baush, former pro surfer, also right-hand man to Channa McRae; Kyle Strait, 15-year-old free-ride mountain biker, who appeared in five videos, considered to be the future of mountain biking. All were turned on by Lance Armstrong, who visited his first NHRA drag race in 2002, and urged his friends and teammates to check it out. We're told that Landis is now totally into NHRA drag racing.

FUNNY CAR FINAL QUALIFYING NOTES AND QUOTES

WHIT BAZEMORE, MATCO TOOLS IRON EAGLE DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR, qualified second with a 4.766-second, 325.69 mph pass, the best speed of the round: "We're real happy. Technically, it was our fourth run this weekend, but it was more like our second because we had some component problems on the Matco Tools Dodge Thursday and Friday. Those were kind of wasted opportunities. So we came out today with our first run with the car right and we ran an .83, which is a good baseline run. And then Lee Beard and the Matco Tools team did their magic and we stepped up to a .76, which is outstanding. It's the second fastest speed we had, fastest for a Dodge, and it's the first race of the year. So we're pretty happy. Tomorrow is a different day. "We're going to try to push the envelope. The car didn't run well down there, believe it or not. It had a little tire spin and it lost a little power. I think the potential is there with this Dodge body and because of it. Today is special because Oakley, which sponsors world-class athletes all over the world, brought some professional road cyclists, professional mountain bikers and free-style guys. So, as a bike geek, which I am, it's very cool to have these guys come and hang out and experience NHRA drag racing."

CHANN MCRAE, REIGNING U.S. NATIONAL ROAD CYCLING CHAMPION: WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS EXPERIENCE? "It's something else. I've never witnessed so much power right in front of my face. I'm just honored to be here at the season opener and watch these guys do their thing. It's incredible; it's cool."

JAY BAUSH, FORMER PRO SUFER, ALSO RIGHT-HAND MAN TO MCRAE: "It was a rush, being in the middle there (at the starting line). It was a great experience, definitely. I'm glad I came and experienced it and see what these guys are all about; it was awesome. I'll definitely be back."

LEE BEARD, BAZEMORE'S CREW CHIEF: "It's a real tribute to the team, coming from the top with Don Schumacher and his motivation to go out and find the proper financing and get all of the right people in here. Putting Dan Olson over on the Funny Car side this year is going to pay some big benefits. With the new Dodge Stratus body and the entire program things are coming into place real fast for us. On Thursday and Friday we had some ignition problems we couldn't identify until Friday evening, but we were able to locate them and fix them, come back today, and put down two pretty decent runs; an .83 in the heat of the day, we were happy with that, and a .76 at 325 mph; obviously we're happy with that. I'm sure after we look at the computer data we'll find that we left a little on the table and be able to say that we could go quicker and faster, but we'll just live with that right now."

DAN OLSON, CO-CREW CHIEF ON SCELZI'S AND BAZEMORE'S CARS: "Both these guys (Neff and Beard) are doing a great job; I'm just here trying to give them a hand."

GARY SCELZI, OAKELY TIME BOMB DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR, again scored his personal best in a Funny Car, with a final pass of 4.790 seconds at 322.58 mph, qualifying fifth in his first race for Don Schumacher Racing: "This is exciting. I told everybody in Phoenix (testing) how well we gelled and how well I thought this team was going to be. We came in here, first round today we had a supercharger explosion, we had a parts failure, messed up the Dodge Stratus body, we had to change bodies, we had to get it fit, service the car, change motors, do all these things. It was just like clockwork. I was so relaxed, so calm when we pulled up to the starting line. I asked Mike Neff, 'Hey do you want to go to the finish line?' He said, 'Hell, yeah, I want to go the finish line. It'll go; nothing to worry about.' And that breathes confidence in me when I know that I've got the best guys working on my car, I know they don't miss a beat, they check and they double-check. it makes a driver relax. That's how I can do my job on the starting line and do my job down the race track. And it was so smooth. I really didn't even think it was a .79. It just kind of cruised on down there and just kept pulling the way it's supposed to do. I sound like a kid that's just opened all his Christmas presents. Every day it's Christmas again. Every time I hit the gas in this thing it seems like my personal best. And Mike Neff -- I said it before, guys, I hope everybody is listening -- they're going to hear a lot from him this year and this Team Oakley Dodge."

MIKE NEFF, SCELZI'S CREW CHIEF: 'We're really happy to finally break into the 4.70s here at a national event. We couldn't be happier right now; going down the track four times, improving each time, excactly what our goal was. Gary is doing a great job, my crew is doing an outstanding job. I couldn't be any happier than I am right now with the way things are going so far." DID YOU EXPECT THIS? "Yes, I did. I was on an actually better run the run before, so if we didn't run in the 4.70s I was definitely going to be disappointed. I'm happy."

SCOTTY CANNON, OAKLEY TIME BOMB FUNNY CAR, made it into the field on his final run, in 15th, with a 4.890/313.88 lap. His first round saw a good pass, but in the next two he experienced mechanical problems. He will face his teammate Whit Bazemore in the first round: "We're fortunate to be in the field. We may have found something in the last run; I don't know, it didn't blow up. It didn't blow up in the first run either when we got here, so we're not sure. We need a couple of more runs to see. I've got to run Bazemore in the first round tomorrow; that's one of our guys. We have everything to gain, nothing to lose. I'm pretty sure they know that. All I can do is tell them good luck, so we're going to let it all hang out. If it makes it, it may not be pretty."

-dsr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Whit Bazemore , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff