Pomona: Gary Scelzi Saturday summary

Scelzi Is No.1 Qualifier In Pomona POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2007) - Four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi is starting off the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series with a bang, by qualifying No. 1 for the first time since 2005 at the CARQUEST Auto...

Scelzi Is No.1 Qualifier In Pomona

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 10, 2007) - Four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi is starting off the 2007 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series with a bang, by qualifying No. 1 for the first time since 2005 at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals today at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.

Scelzi drove the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car to a 4.692-second pass at a career-best 333.49 mph in the quickest field in NHRA history, to claim his second No. 1 spot at this event, the sixth at this track, and the 43rd of his career. The last time Scelzi qualified No. 1 was in 2005 at Pomona, the year he won his first Funny Car championship.

His other consistent passes this weekend included a 4.728/330.80, a 4.726/328.54 and a 4.754/330.07.

"To have a race car go down the race track four times and not run any slower than 4.75 (-second elapsed time) is phenomenal," he said. "Every time we've done that in the past - and I probably shouldn't even say this - we've had a really good car on Sunday. And Mike (Neff, crew chief) is trying not to get caught up and run the big numbers. He's just trying to be consistent and pick at it.

"He keeps telling me, even in Phoenix testing (in January), 'Baby steps, Gary, baby steps, that's all I'm doing. I don't want to hear what everybody else runs, just baby steps.'"

Today's final qualifying session was a dramatic one as 14-time Funny Car champion John Force made it into the field in the final pass, bumping out his daughter and Funny Car rookie Ashley Force. Then Ashley ripped down the track to finally qualify No. 15. The other drama included Kenny Bernstein, in his return to Funny Car, posting a good pass but failing to qualify.

"It's funny," said Scelzi, "because we were listening to all the drama that was going on with Funny Car. I mean, Ashley and Force not qualified and Bernstein just missing. This is some exciting stuff, even for a guy that's involved in it. And they said, 'Hey, you might want to get into the car, you're like four pairs back. So then Aaron Brooks, our assistant crew chief, gets on his radio and he says, 'Hey, Zippy (Neff), the air's getting better, we got about five minutes. Do you want to slow the blower down?' And Zippy goes, 'Nah, leave it alone.' So, I said, Well, this thing's either going to be good or it's going to be our first tire smoker. And it was a good one."

Scelzi faces Jim Head in the opening round of eliminations on Sunday, which will air at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

-credit: dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jim Head , Kenny Bernstein , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Ashley Force