Sonoma: Gary Scelzi final summary

Scelzi runs strong to Sonoma Semis, loses to Force SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 1, 2004) - With early-morning clouds covering the quarter-mile at Infineon Raceway this morning, first-round Funny Car elapsed times and speeds were impressive. In defeating...

Scelzi runs strong to Sonoma Semis, loses to Force

SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 1, 2004) - With early-morning clouds covering the quarter-mile at Infineon Raceway this morning, first-round Funny Car elapsed times and speeds were impressive. In defeating Tony Bartone, Gary Scelzi pulled out the second quickest ET of that round, a 4.843, and the fastest speed of 321.50 mph to Bartone's 4.869/313.80.

As the sun burned off the haze for the second round, elapsed times and speeds diminished, but Scelzi and the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus did their jobs, dismissing Cruz Pedregon with a 4.902/310.13 pass to Pedregon's 5.226/230.88, marking again the second quickest ET of the round.

Fresno native and defending Fram-Autolite Nationals Funny Car champion Scelzi found himself facing 12-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force in the semifinal for the ninth time in his Funny Car career, holding a 5-3 advantage going in. Scelzi launched first at the starting lights with a .082 reaction time to Force's .100, but loss of tire traction at 200 feet resulted in a 6.767/133.43 lap for Scelzi versus a blistering 4.857-second elapsed time at 322.42 mph for Force.

Make it 5-4, for the record.

Points-wise, Scelzi hangs on to fourth place in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings, with 951. He's just 21 points out of third, 35 short of second, and 181 behind leader John Force, who fouled out in the final today against Tim Wilkerson.

"Force is stretching his legs out a long way right now and that's dangerous," said Scelzi, "because once they get on a roll like that, they're tough to beat. And there was no way we were going to try to run an .85. We were going to try to run a low .90 just like we did the round before. We weren't going to chance it, especially watching the cars in front of us.

"Tim Wilkerson ran a 5.10 and Tony Pedregon ran a 5.20, and the dragsters were smoking the tires. Nobody was running really well in that round. The 114-degree track temperature we thought was going to be a big factor and John made us all look like monkeys, just like he did in Seattle (last week) in the final when he ran a 4.85 (at the first event held under the new 85-percent nitromethane rule).

"My hat's off to him," Scelzi remarked. "You run like that, it's a race for second place.

"We've just got to keep doing what we've been doing and try to figure out how to go a little quicker in the heat safely," he added. "Our car just got fast early, it shook and then it smoked the tires. That's Mike's job to figure that part out. All I can do is drive it as best I can. We've got the power, we just have to figure out how to control it when it gets hot."

Where he stands in the points rankings is not an issue at this stage, but with only eight events left, it will soon become one. "I've been 220 points behind going to the U.S. Nationals in Top Fuel and ended up winning the championship," he said. "But time is running out, so we're very aware of that. We're not going to hold our heads down. If we can't win a world championship down the line, then we're going to try to get second. We're going to try do as well as we can and win as many races as we can."

"The track got hotter and we didn't have the right setup to get it through that critical area where it makes the transition and the clutch starts coming in and accelerating the car, "explained crew chief Mike Neff. "It just got the wheel speed up and it couldn't hang on.

"We thought we could run an .88 or .89. The run Force and his team made was very impressive and they have a better handle on it than we do. We're as good as anybody else is, but we're not as good as they are."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Tony Bartone , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Cruz Pedregon , Tim Wilkerson