Reading: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi's rocketship could take off at Reading READING, Pa. (Sept. 10, 2003) - It may not be totally out of the question that Gary Scelzi's Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus rocketship, which holds the national NHRA Funny Car top-speed record of ...

Scelzi's rocketship could take off at Reading

READING, Pa. (Sept. 10, 2003) - It may not be totally out of the question that Gary Scelzi's Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus rocketship, which holds the national NHRA Funny Car top-speed record of 328.06 mph as well as a number of track records and fastest event speeds, could take off into the stratosphere this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway. The track that is famous for the great air that the surrounding trees produce, which results in record-breaking runs, is perfect for Scelzi's crew chief and horsepower maestro, Mike Neff.

In the last four races of Scelzi's first full season in NHRA Nitro Funny Car competition, the three-time Top Fuel champion has qualified in the top five four times, including two No. 1s, a No. 5 and No. 2 at the U.S. Nationals last week. He turned one of those into his first Nitro Funny Car win at Sonoma this year, and he's aiming for another one at Maple Grove.

After running so strong at the U.S. Nationals last week, the mystery of why he lost in the first round to eventual event winner Tim Wilkerson was solved and Scelzi's looking forward to continuing his streak this weekend. "We found our problem that bit us first round at Indy," he says. "We had a spark plug break and that's why it dropped a cylinder. So knowing that - because it was a big unknown until Monday when we found the problem - our Oakley Time Bomb shouldn't change its performance and it's been extremely fast the last four races. That should continue on, especially at a race track like this.

"It's a really fast race track. From all reports on the weather it looks like it's going to be a really fast one again," he adds.

Following a season that started out strong, was a struggle in the middle, and now is healthy again, Scelzi finds himself eighth in the point standings, with No. 1 out of reach with six races remaining. "Our goal is to finish in the top five," says the Fresno, Calif., resident. "In order to do that we're going to have to go rounds and we're going to have to win some races. And I think we're on target to do all those things because our car's performance level has risen."

After 17 races, Scelzi is 53 points behind seventh-place Tommy Johnson Jr., 60 behind Ron Capps in sixth, and 194 out of fifth place (Del Worsham).

Scelzi's Top Fuel career brought him two wins at Maple Grove, in 1998 and 2001, and a runner-up finish in 2000, and he was low qualifier twice in 1998 and 1999. This is his first visit here behind the wheel of a Nitro Funny Car.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , Ron Capps , Gary Scelzi , Tim Wilkerson , Mike Neff , Tommy Johnson Jr.