Topeka: Gary Scelzi preview

SCELZI IS TWEAKED ABOUT THE MOPAR/OAKLEY DODGE AND HIS NEW VISION TOPEKA, Kan. (May 25, 2005)- Gary Scelzi is totally tweaked about the performance of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, as well as the...


TOPEKA, Kan. (May 25, 2005)- Gary Scelzi is totally tweaked about the performance of the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car in Columbus, Ohio, last weekend, as well as the new contact lenses he received there which he believes helped him with his reaction times.

He jumped from fifth into second in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car point standings as runner-up there, and is just 80 points out of first place. The Fresno, Calif., native is ready to attack the O'Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals this weekend at Heartland Park Topeka with the utmost confidence in not only his car but himself as well.

Scelzi nailed the starting lights in every round of final eliminations, with the exception of the final round against John Force, which he lost on a holeshot advantage. He's encouraged nonetheless and thanks Dr. Randy McLaughlin, Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at Ohio State University, for some of his newfound confidence.

Dr. McLaughlin is the primary vision consultant to the Ohio State University Athletic Department, which consists of 35 intercollegiate sports. OSU is known for its football teams and Dr. McLaughlin has been a consultant to Scelzi's sponsor Oakley regarding the design of its football shield.

"I had some concerns about my vision, which may have been affecting my reaction times," said Scelzi, the three-time Top Fuel champion who is seeking his first Funny Car crown. "So Paul LeSage (better known as 'Torch'), who works with Oakley's Mad Scientist Jim Jannard, suggested I visit Dr. McLaughlin, so I did.

"It turned out he was a drag-racing fan and a friend of Jannard's and he fitted me with these contact lenses and they really helped."

"During Gary's exam," said Dr. McLaughlin, who specializes in contact lens fitting and sports vision and has treated racing stars such as Danica Patrick and Bobby Rahal, "I detected a mixed astigmatic vision reduction in Gary's left eye, as well as a loss of focusing ability. Gary was fitted with a special hydrophilic toric contact lens to correct his vision problem in the left eye resulting in 20/15 visual acuity (better than 20/20!) in each eye. This also provided supreme fine depth perception (stereopis)."

Dr. McLaughin came to National Trail Raceway for qualifying to see the results first-hand: "A professional drag racer must have the best-corrected vision providing the quickest reaction time," he said. "I rode with the crew to the end of the track while Gary laid down a 4.83 to qualify! You talk about nervous! Gary was fired up because his reaction time was great!"

With a hot rod that's a rocket and clear vision, Scelzi is more than pumped to get on the quarter-mile in Topeka, no matter the weather or track conditions. "We're aiming for the win. In the last three races we have been in two finals and we want to continue this roll we're on. It doesn't matter if it's going to be hot or cold, because we have a great combination.

"We did a lot of work on the car," he added, "but the truth of the matter is I got contacts and I can see a lot more clearly.

"We're excited about going to Topeka because the Mopar/Oakley Dodge runs good in the heat and it runs good in the cold. And Topeka has special meaning to me because it's where I broke the Top Fuel record for most wins in a season, which was six at the time (Cory McClenathan, 1998). I won No. 7 (of nine) there back in 2000," he said.

Scelzi has five Funny Car wins under his belt since joining the class in 2002, but has not won that class at Heartland Park Topeka. He was the Top Fuel winner in 2000 and runner-up in 1997.

SCHEDULE: On Friday, May 27, professional qualifying sessions are at 4:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. On Saturday, May 28, pro sessions are scheduled for noon and 3 p.m. On Sunday, May 29, final eliminations begin at 11 a.m.

TELEVISION: On Saturday, May 28, ESPN will televise one hour of qualifying highlights at 8 p.m. (ET). On Sunday, May 29, ESPN2 will televise three hours of eliminations at 8 p.m. (ET). Also on Sunday, May 29, ESPN2 will televise NHRA 2Day, a 30-minute magazine show at 11:30 a.m. (ET).


* At the 2004 O'Reilly Summer Nationals, he qualified eighth, lost first round to Gary Densham

* Second in 2005 Funny Car points after eight races; has one win (Bristol); was low qualifier twice (Las Vegas and Atlanta)

* Has never won Funny Car at Heartland Park Topeka, has one Top Fuel win (2000) and one runner-up (1997)

* 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

* 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 five 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.


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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Scelzi , Bobby Rahal , Gary Densham , Cory McClenathan , Don Schumacher