Scelzi reaches semis in difficult Seattle race KENT, Wash. (July 25, 2004) - It was a difficult race all-around this weekend, with the 85-percent nitromethane rule, a new Goodyear tire and newly-mandated tire pressures on top of racing on a ...
Scelzi reaches semis in difficult Seattle race
KENT, Wash. (July 25, 2004) - It was a difficult race all-around this weekend, with the 85-percent nitromethane rule, a new Goodyear tire and newly-mandated tire pressures on top of racing on a resurfaced race track and extremely hot conditions. Another wrench was thrown in the mix today when a canopy of clouds covered the track for early eliminations and temperatures dropped nearly 25 degrees from the day before. Then, just before the semi-final round, the sun popped out to additionally confound the crew chiefs.
Gary Scelzi and his HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car tuned by Mike Neff were ably prepared for the challenges, as Scelzi plowed through the field to reach the semifinal round for the sixth time this season in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
The Fresno native first dismissed Bob Gilbertson, then John Force's teammate Gary Densham, before facing John Force in the semis. Scelzi had enjoyed a winning record against Force in his two years in the Funny Car category (5-2), but today the statistics changed to 5-3, as Force took the win light ahead of Scelzi with a 4.952/314.24 to Scelzi's 5.013/295.92.
"Well, we had a slight glitch which caused the blower belt to break," he said. "Even at that, we were just about a hundredth (of a second) behind at every incremental. But we didn't smoke the tires. With all the changes we had to make, and with the 85-percent rule, the new tire, the extreme heat, the coolness today, I think Mike Neff and these guys did a great job. I'm not unhappy at all."
Scelzi remained fourth in the point standings, but closed the gap slightly to his teammate Whit Bazemore in third (55 points behind) and on Del Worsham, who lost to Force in the quarter-final (64 points back of Worsham). Following Force's win today, Scelzi is 157 points out of the lead.
With Gary Densham (sixth in points) and Eric Medlen (fifth) losing in the second round, Scelzi earned some breathing space. "We got another 20 points on Densham and Medlen," he said. "That's what we want to do. We want to distance ourselves from the pack. And we don't want the leaders to get too far away. With the exception of Force, we're OK. We picked up 20 points on Worsham. I think it was a great weekend, all in all. I'm looking forward to going to Sonoma."
As for the change in conditions before the semis: "We knew what we needed to do because we had been running in that heat (the last two days) and it wasn't quite as bad as it had been. We did what we thought was right and it wasn't. It's just one of those things. It was a good race, we were right with them, we just didn't get the win light.
"From the second round on it was swing for the fence," he added. "We knew against Densham we had to bring out the big guns, because with (crew chief) Jimmy Prock you never know what he could do. He could do a lot of damage. We weren't taking him lightly, just like we weren't taking John Force lightly.
"You want to get John when he doesn't have a breath of air in him. You want to just hammer him. They're on their game right now; they're going to be dangerous from here on out."
Mike Neff survived the weekend, despite all that was thrown at the crew chiefs. "It was definitely the most challenging weekend in a long time," he said. We didn't really have the best car, but we learned a lot, we were making progress. The last race there against Force was a close race, but it just spun the tires down track and blew the blower belt off it. All in all, I'm really satisfied with the progress that we made for as difficult a weekend as it was. To go the so semis and basically finish third place here for the weekend as far as the points go, we're satisfied with that."
Next up is the Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., July 30-Aug. 1.