SCELZI, TODD AND ANDERSON EARN VICTORIES AT CARQUEST WINTERNATIONALS POMONA, Calif. -- Four-time series champion Gary Scelzi quickly erased memories of a disappointing 2006 season by winning Sunday's CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals after ...
SCELZI, TODD AND ANDERSON EARN VICTORIES AT CARQUEST WINTERNATIONALS
POMONA, Calif. -- Four-time series champion Gary Scelzi quickly erased memories of a disappointing 2006 season by winning Sunday's CARQUEST Auto Parts Winternationals after final-round opponent Robert Hight crossed the centerline.
Reigning Rookie of the Year J.R. Todd also found Pomona's winner's circle, while three-time Pro Stock champ Greg Anderson successfully defended this race title from one year ago.
After it appeared that Hight had beaten Scelzi for the Funny Car title, NHRA officials quickly determined that Hight's Auto Club Ford Mustang touched the centerline, resulting in automatic disqualification per NHRA rule. It was Scelzi's 34th NHRA win and ninth in Funny Car.
It was a well deserved victory for Scelzi's team as the four-time series champion had trouble with his parachutes in the semifinals and ended up in the sandtrap. As his final-round run of 4.716 at 332.26 mph proved, the crew got his Mopar Oakley Dodge Charger R/T repaired in time.
"We didn't think we had anything for [them] in the final," Scelzi said. "We thought we'd try to run a high 4.6 and see what happened. I didn't see him until 700 feet and then he just went right by me. I saw the win light in his lane and it was a letdown. The guys on the radio told me he beat me on a holeshot and here I was thinking I'd cut a good light. Then they said he was DQ'd and I thought that was a really cruel joke to play on me."
After a dramatic day of qualifying on Saturday, both John and Ashley Force lost in the opening round.
Todd's victory was his fourth in 20 career Top Fuel starts. This one was extremely impressive as he followed up a 4.699-second, first-round pass on a freshly-washed track with a pair of 4.47s and a 4.482 at 324.98 mph in the final round.
"I never expected things to happen as suddenly as it has for me," Todd said. "It's pretty surprising to me, to be honest. When you have a guy like [crew chief] Jimmy Walsh in your corner you're going to be good. That guy is the first one in the shop every day and the last one to leave each night. He's relentless."
Last July in Denver, Todd became the first African-American to win a Top Fuel race. Since then he has won four times in five final rounds in those 12 starts.
"Last year was kind of a Cinderella deal for us but by the end of the year we weren't surprised by our performance any more," he said. "This year we're for real and I think all the other teams know that now."
After struggling at times last year with his starting line procedures, Anderson was impressive here with a .020-second reaction time average on the day. In the final he powered his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO to a 6.651 at 207.05, while Stanfield trailed all the way with a 7.001 at 163.65, also in a GTO.
"It just shows how messed up in the head you can get at times because I haven't driven like this in two years," Anderson said. "This place is magic for me. That was our sixth win here. When it's 60 degrees like it was today we just love it because you can pour all your power into the track and show off what you built over the winter. It looks like we did just a little bit better job than everyone else."
The NHRA POWERade Series Countdown to the Championship continues with the Checker Schuck's Kragen NHRA Nationals, Feb. 23-25 at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.