Scelzi and HEMI Oakley Dodge aim for Pomona win FRESNO, Calif. (Feb. 16, 2003) - Now that the pre-season testing is over, Gary Scelzi is on a fast track to win the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season opener at Pomona Raceway this weekend in...
Scelzi and HEMI Oakley Dodge aim for Pomona win
FRESNO, Calif. (Feb. 16, 2003) - Now that the pre-season testing is over, Gary Scelzi is on a fast track to win the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series season opener at Pomona Raceway this weekend in his HEMI Oakley Dodge Funny Car. Entering his second full tour in the Funny Car category driving for Don Schumacher Racing, the Fresno native has already demonstrated he has the credentials to be a serious contender for the 2004 Funny Car crown.
Tuned by crew chief Mike Neff, Scelzi's HEMI Oakley Dodge set the quarter-mile on fire in 2003, claiming six track speed records, recording the five fastest speeds in NHRA history, and establishing Scelzi as the fastest Funny Car driver on the planet after posting a national top-speed record of 329.18 mph at Joliet, Ill., in September. This could be the year that Scelzi breaks the 330-mph barrier, and Pomona just might be the site of that achievement.
"We ran 328.38 mph at Pomona last year (in the final event)," said Scelzi. "It just depends on conditions. It's very possible to run 330 there. We'll just have to wait and see. Conditions are a major factor."
Winning the race, however, is Scelzi's priority. "We're going to Pomona to run whatever we can run to win the race. If 330 comes up on the scoreboard then that's great. But, we're not going there just to run 330; we're going there to win the race. That's our plan. The first thing is to get the car qualified in the top half of the field and then take it one round at a time."
Scelzi, who finished sixth in the 2003 Funny Car point standings, completed productive test sessions at The Strip in Las Vegas and Firebird Raceway in Phoenix this month with two all-new chassis in preparation for 2004. "I thought the tests went extremely well," he said. "We tried an awful lot of new stuff. We went into heavy test mode to get as much done as we possibly could as quick as we possibly could. We tried a variety of different clutch combinations, fuel system combinations, etc. Some worked, some didn't. We tried both chassis, and it looks like both chassis are going to be great.
"Obviously, Las Vegas was an outstanding race track. Firebird was less than marginal. But we also have never really had a tune-up for a marginal race track. But we learned a lot and as bad as the conditions were we were still able to go down the race track. And we ended up running 4.87 at 319 mph on Tuesday." The team stayed at Firebird beyond the official Feb. 6-8 test weekend, where Scelzi had posted the second-best run to his teammate Whit Bazemore (4.929/309.98) of 4.938/290.38.
"We've got a pretty good baseline going into Pomona," he added. "We feel really good that we have a go-to combination if we get in trouble. Obviously we're going to try to run low 4.70s, maybe even high .60s in Pomona if the weather and the track conditions show that it can do that. We feel we have a combination that can do that."
Scelzi is eager to get the 2004 NHRA POWERade season started after undergoing knee surgery during the winter. "I'm ready to go," he said. "My leg is in good shape, my attitude is in great shape, and, obviously the HEMI Oakley is ready to rock and roll.
"We feel that we prepared ourselves extremely well over the winter. And Mike and all the guys on the team have built the absolute lightest, neatest, cleanest race car that you could possibly have. And hopefully all our pieces and parts are in the right order. We'll find out when we hit the gas on Thursday."
The first qualifying session will be held on Thursday, Feb. 19, at 3 p.m. Another qualifying session is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20, at 3 p.m., followed by the final two qualifying rounds on Saturday, Feb. 21, beginning at noon. Final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 22.