Seattle: Gary Scelzi preview

SCELZI IN CLOSE FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE KENT, Wash. (July 20, 2005) - Gary Scelzi finds himself very close to the top of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings in his hunt for his first Funny Car crown to go with...


KENT, Wash. (July 20, 2005) - Gary Scelzi finds himself very close to the top of the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings in his hunt for his first Funny Car crown to go with his three Top Fuel titles after last weekend's Mopar Mile-High Nationals in Denver. The driver of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus Funny Car is nipping at the heels of not only 13-time champion John Force, but Force's teammate Robert Hight as well.

Scelzi may have lost some ground to Hight after Hight won the Denver race, dropping to third out of second, but Scelzi's semifinal appearance has placed him just 14 points behind Force in second and 36 points out of the lead, as the NHRA series heads to Pacific Raceways this weekend for the second event of the Western Swing.

The Fresno, Calif., native is also looking over his shoulder, as his teammate Ron Capps is right behind, in fourth, 45 points back.

Coming off the torturous mile-high mountain at Bandimere Speedway is a relief for most of the NHRA regulars, including Scelzi, who has two Top Fuel wins at Pacific Raceways, in 2000 and '01, a runner-up finish in 1997, one Funny Car top qualifier ('03) and three No. 1s in Top Fuel ('97, '00, '01). He still holds the Top Fuel ET record here, of 4.512 seconds, set in 2001.

"We get back to our normal combination on the Mopar/Oakley Dodge in Seattle," Scelzi says. "I feel very fortunate coming out of Denver with my skin. Now we go back to our regular tune-up, and pretty much at all the race tracks from here on out we've run pretty well in the past couple of years. We'll make no major changes like we did in Denver, and it's good to be back to sea level.

"The weather should be great. The trees here put off a lot of oxygen, and the surface is a whole lot better now that they've redone it."

The Funny Car championship chase has heated up in the past few races, making this season arguably one of the most competitive in NHRA's history. "It's game on," says Scelzi. "The war is just starting to get good. And it's exciting. Robert (Hight) and (crew chief) Jimmy Prock have been outstanding. And I'm telling you, Force and (crew chief Austin) Coil are not going to be idling much longer. Those guys are going to be breaking out of their slump. And this is going to be at least a four-car race and it should be more than that by Indy (U.S. Nationals on Labor Day).

"Everybody was talking about this championship being between Force and me. They'd better not forget about Capps and Robert Hight. Now that Hight is in the lead, Capps is just a couple of rounds behind me, and I'm still saying the guys with 200 points behind us can still make the move. But time is running out for them; they need to make it soon."


* Third in 2005 Funny Car points after 13 races; has two wins (Bristol and Chicago); was low qualifier three times (Las Vegas, Atlanta and St. Louis)

* Is in fierce battle with 13-time champion John Force and rookie Robert Hight for 2005 Funny Car crown; just 14 points behind Force, 36 behind leader Hight

* Qualified fourth at the 2004 CARQUEST NHRA Nationals; lost semis to John Force

* Top Fuel winner here in 2000 and 2001

* No. 1 qualifier here in FC in 2003, in TF in 1997, 2000 and 2001

* Is a member of the largest team in NHRA pro history: Don Schumacher Racing, with nine teams - two in Top Fuel, three in Funny Car, two in Pro Stock, two in Pro Stock Motorcycle (all four pro categories)

* Is first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph barrier (330.15 mph at Route 66 Raceway in 2004)

* Career Funny Car bests: 4.717-second ET (Pomona '05), 331.53 mph (Pomona '05)

* Third in 2004 Funny Car points, with three wins in six final rounds

* Qualified in top five nine times in 2004, No. 1 once

* Age 44, born and raised in Fresno, Calif., where he lives with wife Julianne and sons Dominic and Giovanni

* Dominic, 8, races Junior Sprints

* Runs Scelzi Enterprises, a custom truck body design and manufacturing business in Fresno with his two brothers

* Is a three-time Top Fuel Dragster champion

* Won his first Top Fuel crown as a rookie

* Has six Funny Car wins, 25 Top Fuel wins

* Sixth in 2003 Funny Car points, his first full season in that class

* 2005 is his third straight season racing for Don Schumacher Racing

* Is the only NHRA driver to have won in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car. He accomplished this feat at Infineon Raceway in 2003

* Is one of the few Funny Car drivers who has a winning record against the 13-time Funny Car champion John Force: 9-8, 3-1 in final rounds

* Wants to become only the second driver to have won championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Kenny Bernstein is the first


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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher , Robert Hight