Championship Drag Racing

NHRA Nationals
Las Vegas, NV
(April 6-9)

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Gary Scelzi
Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger

Scelzi victim of lane choice

Las Vegas, Sunday: As No. 12 qualifier, reigning NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car champion Gary Scelzi fell victim today to lack of lane choice in the opening round of eliminations at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The four-time NHRA pro champion lost to Tommy Johnson Jr. when the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T lost traction mid-track, resulting in a 7.641-second elapsed time at 111.22 mph to Johnson's winning 4.820/327.27.

Scelzi was first off the line when he nailed an .052 (of a second) reaction time, versus Johnson's .077 (.000 is perfect), but it wasn't enough to earn the win when the tires lost grip and Scelzi slowed to the finish line.

"The right lane today wasn't a good lane for the Funny Cars," said the Fresno, Calif., native, "or even for the Top Fuel cars, as only two in each class advanced to the second round out of that lane.

"Unfortunately, lane choice at this track proved to be critical. The left lane was quite a bit better today.

"With the way we've been struggling with the setup this season (three first-round losses, including today's, and one DNQ), it didn't help to have to go down a lane that was very tricky.

"Just about everyone in this sport has gone through these difficult times at some point in their careers, champions or no champions. Look at Robert Hight, look at (defending Top Fuel champion) Tony Schumacher, who's had four early-round losses in five races this season. And how about 13-time Funny Car champion John Force? He went out in the first round 10 times in 2005, but he was still in contention for the championship at the final event.

"Even 'Snake' (Don Prudhomme) came over with words of encouragement for us, because he's been there too.

"So, we're going to test here on Monday, and we are going to work our butts off until we get this Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger sorted out and get right back into it. It's still early in the season. There's a lot of races left."

Scelzi dropped to 14th in Funny Car points.

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