Sonoma: Gary Scelzi preview

Scelzi Set to Defend Funny Car Title in Sonoma SONOMA, Calif. (July 28, 2004) - Gary Scelzi returns to his native California this weekend as defending Funny Car champion of the Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. And the ...

Scelzi Set to Defend Funny Car Title in Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. (July 28, 2004) - Gary Scelzi returns to his native California this weekend as defending Funny Car champion of the Fram-Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway. And the fan-friendly Fresnan who drives the HEMI-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus with the cool paint job is ready for the challenge.

When he won here last year he scored his first Funny Car victory after entering that class full-time with Don Schumacher Racing for 2003. He ended the tour sixth in points and he's already ahead of his game this season, having won the St. Louis event and becoming the first Funny Car driver to break the 330-mph mark with a 330.55 mph pass, backed up by a 330.15 lap, in Chicago in May.

The three-time Top Fuel champion is also higher in the point standings than he had been until 2003. He's fourth in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car rankings and has gone to three finals plus three semifinal rounds so far.

The man known as "Wild Thing" in his hometown is on a tear as he and young crew chief Mike Neff are fresh off a tough weekend at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., where Scelzi reached the semifinal and the team was only one of a handful who were able to negotiate somewhat successfully around the new rules mandated (including the 85-percent nitromethane mix, down from 90 percent) by NHRA following Denver, the first event of a three-race Western Swing.

Just 157 points out of the lead, 64 out of second place, and 55 from third, Scelzi is poised to make a move up the charts. "We've got a great hot rod going into Sonoma," he said. "With the exception of Denver, this West coast swing could be very positive for the HEMI Oakley Dodge team and it can be nothing to pick up another 40 or 60 points.

"It could also go either way. But, we just want to keep staying with the leaders and picking up on them a little bit at a time. There's a lot of racing left and a lot of things can happen between now and Pomona (season finale). And we know that.

"We are poised and we're ready," he added. "And we're comfortable with where we're at right now. We're going to learn something every single race, but we're not lost. I think our chances are as good as anybody's. Nobody is looking at us (as serious contenders for the crown) all that much, but I think they should be."

As for having an edge at Sonoma because of last year's win: "That doesn't mean anything," he said. "So many things have changed since then. I just know it's probably going to be warm and I feel pretty good about our warm weather tune-up. I know when it's cool that we can run with anybody. I think it's great that we're able to hang with these guys and qualify in the top half of the field," added Scelzi, who has qualified in the top half 10 times so far in 2003.

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Gary Scelzi , Don Schumacher , Mike Neff