Sonoma: Mopar eliminations summary

Johnson drives to another semifinal Scelzi wins first race as funny car driver SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 3, 2003) -- Allen Johnson once again made it to the semifinals, wrapping up a strong weekend for Mopar's Pro Stock program at the Fram Autolite...

Johnson drives to another semifinal
Scelzi wins first race as funny car driver

SONOMA, Calif. (Aug. 3, 2003) -- Allen Johnson once again made it to the semifinals, wrapping up a strong weekend for Mopar's Pro Stock program at the Fram Autolite NHRA Nationals at Infineon Raceway.

Mopar's Johnson, from Greeneville, Tenn., was just a little shy of advancing to the finals with his loss to Jeg Coughlin, Jr. A.J. logged a 6.838-second elapsed time at 201.73 mph, but it wasn't enough to beat out Coughlin's 6.828/202.03 combination. The Dodge Stratus pilot moved into the semifinals with a first round victory over fellow Mopar factory teammate Larry Morgan and a round two triumph over Mike Edwards.

"It was a another good day," Johnson said. "We've run pretty well here on the West Coast, and I think we're in good position to challenge for a top-five finish this season. The car was really strong in the front half of the track, and my driving been pretty consistent too."

Mopar's Gene Wilson is starting to put together the right pieces of the puzzle. After qualifying in eighth, the 2002 NHRA Rookie of the Year put away Ron Krisher in the first round of eliminations before losing to Greg Anderson in round two.

"These guys have been working so hard this week," Wilson said. "You can just see the confidence building over here, and our performances have matched. I think you'll see us make a move here in the second half of the season."

Larry Morgan continues to improve. The Newark, Ohio resident, qualified 11th this weekend, but fell to teammate Johnson in round one. It was the third time in the last three races that Morgan and Johnson have met during competition.

"I'm real happy with what we've been able to do recently," Morgan said. "I sure wish we didn't have to meet fellow Mopar's though. We seem to be running AJ a lot lately, but it's better than not running at all."

Greg Stanfield and his DBP Enterprises Dodge Neon lost to Jeg Coughlin, Jr., in the first round today.

Scelzi Wins First Funny Car Race; Bazemore Edges Closer...

Gary Scelzi and Schumacher Racing gave the Dodge Stratus its third victory of the season with an exciting closer against Dean Skuza. Scelzi, a California native, beat out Skuza with a 4.958-second elapsed time at 312.21 mph to 4.966-second lap at 306.74 mph

Scelzi advaced to the finals with victories over Schumacher Racing teammates Scotty Cannon in round one, Whit Bazemorein round two and John Force in the semifinal.

"I can't tell you how good this feels," Scelzi said. "The big question I've been facing for awhile now is with so many Top Fuel wins and so much success in that class, why in the world did I switch to Funny Car. But I know that it's much more than that. It takes a crew chief, a crew of talented people, a great sponsor, and lots of money to win in any category. Plus, since Day 1 here I've never felt so much support. These people believe in me.

"Jim Jannard is numb right now," Scelzi added. "He's gotten so close before with his cars but had never won. Talk about pressure. But this is a pressure-packed job and you have to deliver. We had a tough deal in Seattle but this is a team and you have to roll with it. The thing for me was that we were running so strong there and I know you only have so many chances to win these things. Its such a relief to have it carry over to here and there's no reason to think we'll let off from here on out."

When Arnie Karp red lit in the first round, Whit Bazemore easily advanced his Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus into the second round of Funny Car eliminations today, while points leader and No. 3 qualifier Tony Pedregon lost a pedaling contest to the No. 14 qualifier Keith Jackson.

Although Bazemore wasn't able to capitalize on Pedregon's first-round loss any further, as he then lost to teammate Gary Scelzi in the second round, he did make up 19 points to Pedregon and now is just 44 points behind for the POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car championship.

It was almost a repeat of events in Seattle last weekend, as Scelzi earned lane choice over Bazemore for the second round when he defeated his Oakley teammate Scotty Cannon with a 4.899/316.97 pass, the quickest and fastest of the round. Bazemore demonstrated the strength of the Don Schumacher Racing brain trust by posting a strong 4.924/311.77 for the second fastest and quickest of that round.

Amid renewed controversy over the lane-choice decision made last week, Scelzi's team selected the more favorable right lane. This was the race of the weekend. Would Bazemore advance and gain those coveted points on Pedregon? Would Scelzi advance to the semifinal en route to his first Funny Car victory?

One of the answers came at half-track when Bazemore got slightly out of the groove and spun the tires, scoring a 5.178/273.72 pass to Scelzi's straight and winning 4.975/309.77.

The important part of the other question was answered in the final round, when Gary Scelzi scored his first career Funny Car win in 22 events against Dean Skuza.

"We raced here and we raced last week too," said Bazemore. "They gave us lane choice last week. Today they didn't. Our Matco Tools Dodge went a little left and spun the tires and that's just the bottom line."

-Mopar.com-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Dean Skuza , Whit Bazemore , Gary Scelzi , Greg Anderson , Ron Krisher , Larry Morgan , Scotty Cannon , Gene Wilson , Greg Stanfield , Keith Jackson , Allen Johnson , Arnie Karp