GARY SCELZI, OAKLEY TIME BOMB DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR, was NHRA's guest at a media conference today at Pomona Raceway. Following are highlights from that conference: WITH 25 PRO WINS UNDER YOUR BELT, AND THE WAY YOUR PRE-SEASON TESTING ...
GARY SCELZI, OAKLEY TIME BOMB DODGE STRATUS R/T FUNNY CAR, was NHRA's guest at a media conference today at Pomona Raceway. Following are highlights from that conference:
WITH 25 PRO WINS UNDER YOUR BELT, AND THE WAY YOUR PRE-SEASON TESTING HAS BEEN GOING, YOU'LL PROBABLY ADD TO THAT WIN LIST THIS YEAR: "I can't tell you how excited I am to be with Don Schumacher Racing and obviously a great sponsor like Oakley. And then to bring Dodge into this mix is really an accomplishment. We made 20 runs in Phoenix testing. I ran several 4.80s, ran a 4.80 flat at 320 mph, which again is my personal best. It seems every time I drive one of (the) Mike Neff-prepared cars I do my personal best (in a Funny Car). We're really looking forward to being here in Pomona. I had a lot of success here. I really consider this my home track even though I'm from Central California. This place has been the kindest. Our big goal right now is to get the car qualified and get it in the show early, because you can't win if you don't qualify. I think you're going to see big things from the Schumacher camp this year, especially in Funny Car. We've got a great amount of brain trust, which is what championship teams [have] when you get them all to work together. And what we saw in Phoenix, from Scotty's (Cannon) team to Tony's (Schumacher) team, all the crew chiefs conferring, working on a game plan and making the car go down the race track, that's what's so important. And, like I said, (we were) running effortlessly 4.80s. So it gave me a lot of confidence as a driver. Everybody that knows me can [hear] it in my voice, see it in my step and see it in my smile. It's legit, it's big, and I'm looking for great things this year."
ON HOW THE TEAM IS WORKING TOGETHER: "What's neat about what's going on now is that (crew chief) Mike Neff and (Whit Bazemore's crew chief) Lee Beard and Dan Olson (co-crew chief on both cars) [are working together]. These guys have all run Funny Cars before, so there's not a whole lot of guesswork. They understand the balance, they understand the car being stable. And the new Dodge Stratus body... In Phoenix Bazemore and I were both oversteering the car toward the finish line, because it actually goes where you turn it on the top end. So that was a little learning experience. But I feel a lot more comfortable. My team knows where they're at. When they have confidence about them and Mike is such a calm guy it naturally comes off on to me. And I've been in just about every situation there is to be. I've been on fire, I've been upside down. I've won races, I've done a lot of different things. So, to be with people that are calm and knowing where they're at gives me a lot of confidence. And, Funny Car is so deep in talent, that if we can get in the show then we can worry about winning. But right now the main focus is to get that car down the race track, get it from A to B, run maybe a low to mid 4.80 and get in the show; then we can race somebody."
COMPARE (FORMER CREW CHIEF) ALAN JOHNSON TO MIKE NEFF: "Neff shows no excitement whatsoever. He's a great communicator. I think they're both great minds in their own way. What I really enjoy about Mike is every night (during testing) he talks to the crew and talks to me; he has a group meeting. It reminds me a lot of what I heard about Vince Lombardi, or Joe Gibbs. One thing (you need) to be successful and to have chemistry in a camp is you have to have discussion, and you need to have everyone's views open. Mike is a young crew chief who's wanting to make his mark and I think he's very capable of winning a championship. But the neat thing is they're all communicating. But anyone on our team, including Josh (Adams), who does the tires and rims, mounts and balances them, can ask questions about the tune-up; so there's room for growth. And that's where our future crew chiefs are going to come from. Besides that, everyone in the different fields in our team, from the tires to the cylinder heads to the guy that repairs the body, all are experts in their field. And if they all communicate with Mike, he's getting a lot of input instead of one guy having to watch everything. And I think that's going to be a key to our success and I'm really excited about it. I just hope that everything happens early because I'm an Italian and I'm impatient."
OTHER NOTABLE PRE-EVENT QUOTES:
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DRAGSTER AND THE FUNNY CAR? "The Funny Car you actually have to manhandle a lot more. But the car that I'm driving is not as bad as I thought it was going to be. There's a lot less driving involved than I had anticipated. It responds very well. You still have to be very much on top of the car because some of the race tracks we go to have very little racing groove and the dragster was pretty simple to keep in the groove. It didn't want to move around a lot. I've used this quote before: A Funny car is worse than a terrorist because at least you can negotiate with a terrorist."
ON BEING WITH THE LARGEST TEAM IN NHRA PRO RACING THIS YEAR: "It's kind of like being a part of history. What's so exciting is to have an organization like this that Don Schumacher has assembled and have an operation that's comparable to a (Roger) Penske or a (Chip) Ganassi team. We've got the beautiful shop at Indy that houses all the teams, with blower dynos, clutch dynos, flow benches. You go into our engine assembly room and it's like shopping at Wal-Mart. Top to bottom there's crankshafts, cylinder heads, engine blocks. Whatever you need you pick off the shelf, put in your basket and go assemble. That's outstanding."
HOW HAPPY ARE YOU TO BE WITH THIS TEAM? "I look like I'm doing a dental commercial, because I'm all teeth. It's just legit and it's for real."