SCELZI, SCHUMACHER, LINE AND SMITH CLAIM NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS Scelzi, Capps and Force to decide POWERade Funny Car championship Sunday POMONA, Calif. -- Funny Car points leader Gary Scelzi raced to the No.
SCELZI, SCHUMACHER, LINE AND SMITH CLAIM NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS
Scelzi, Capps and Force to decide POWERade Funny Car championship Sunday
POMONA, Calif. -- Funny Car points leader Gary Scelzi raced to the No. 1 qualifying position Saturday at Pomona Raceway and has the edge going into Sunday's three-way chase for the $400,000 NHRA POWERade world championship.
Scelzi clocked a performance of 4.696 seconds at 330.23 mph in his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to earn his sixth No. 1 award of the season and move into position to join Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers in NHRA history to win season titles in both nitro categories.
By virtue of his qualifying effort at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, Scelzi increased his series lead to eight over second-place driver Ron Capps, and 32 over third-place John Force, a 13-time world champion.
Force qualified sixth in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang and will face Scelzi-teammate Whit Bazemore in the first round, while Capps qualified 10th in his Brut Stratus and will meet Del Worsham in the opening round. Scelzi will race Tim Wilkerson, who anchors the quickest 16-car Funny Car lineup in history. Each round of Sunday's eliminations (11 a.m. start) is worth 20 points. The earliest Scelzi could face either Force or Capps would be in the final round. Force and Capps could meet in the semifinals.
"Right now we have to worry about us," said Scelzi, who claimed Top Fuel world championship titles in 1997, '98 and 2000. "I can't worry about what Bazemore is going to do or what Capps is going to do. If we win this race, we'll be the champions and that's what we're going to try to do, just like we went into Vegas and tried to do, and we came up a little bit short, and hopefully tomorrow we won't come up short. It's do or die now. I'm going to go up there and race Tim just like I raced everybody in qualifying. Do my best and if the car runs well and we all do our jobs, don't have any stupid breakage, hopefully we'll get some win lights."
Tony Schumacher, Jason Line and Matt Smith also were No. 1 qualifiers at the $1.7 million race, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Schumacher powered his U.S. Army dragster to a performance of 4.466 at 328.78 to take his 11th No. 1 position of the year in Top Fuel, a single-season record. The record was previously held by Gary Beck (1983) and Blaine Johnson (1996).
"You look at the names on the list of guys that have earned that many poles in a year and it's a pretty stout group," Schumacher said. "I know (my team) gets a kick out of being No. 1 and they deserve all the credit because they're the ones who gave me an awesome race car over and over again."
In Pro Stock, Line claimed his second top qualifying effort of the season and his fourth overall with a track record time of 6.677 at 206.83 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.
Despite setting the track record, Line says he isn't overconfident going into racing tomorrow and says Erica Enders' Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt, which qualified second with a 6.681 at 206.70, is perhaps the car to watch.
"I would have felt a lot better if we'd made at least three good runs," Line said. "We have our work cut out for us. Erica has certainly been the best and most consistent so far. She's made four good runs and I think her car looks the best right now - at least the happiest for this race track."
Smith earned the first No. 1 qualifying award of his career in Pro Stock Motorcycle by clocking a track-record time of 7.000 at 189.71 on his Red Line Oil Buell. Second place qualifier Andrew Hines will try to earn his second consecutive world championship title on his Screamin' Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. He leads teammate GT Tonglet by 51 points entering eliminations and needs to advance to the semifinals to secure the title.
"I know those top bikes are all fighting for the championship but if we run into them we're just going to treat them like anyone else and try to win," Smith said. "I'm not in the points race. Even if I win I can't get into the top 10 so we're just focused on winning the race and that's it."