Scelzi continues climb up the points ladder with quarterfinals run
Chicago, Sunday: Four-time NHRA champion and Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car driver Gary Scelzi exited in the quarterfinals today at the Route 66 NHRA Nationals, but the Fresno, Calif., native emerged from the hot, humid and rainy weekend encouraged by the improving performance of his Hemi-powered dragster.
The Don Schumacher Racing driver, coming off his best performance of the year (a semifinals appearance at Topeka), posted his best qualifying effort of ’08, lining up in the No. 6 spot at Route 66 Raceway. His solid quarterfinals Joliet outing brought him to the cusp of the top 10 in the NHRA POWERade Funny Car points standings.
Scelzi faced his friend and former crew chief, Mike Neff, in the opening stanza. He beat his former tuner with a pass of 4.897/312.21 to Neff’s 4.966/307.44 and set up a second-round match with another JFR driver, Ashley Force, in the quarterfinals. Scelzi had the advantage off the line over Force, recording a .083 reaction time to Force’s .113, but near half-track he went into tire shake on his HEMI-powered Charger, ending his chances for a repeat win in front of team owner Don Schumacher’s home crowd.
Although his day ended sooner than he would have liked, the “Wild Thing” was unbowed and highly enthused about the performance of his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T.
“We did great in qualifying this weekend and we figured out how to get this car to go on Friday night runs,” remarked Scelzi. “It’s running very well. I know we can run in the heat. I’m a little stunned at what happened today. I’m a little shocked. But I think we’re going to be fine, and it’s not too late in the season. That’s a good thing.”
Scelzi added, “We thought we were OK after first round, but with that long delay, I don’t know if the track was a little bit weaker or what. It was way out there when it knocked the tires off. It’s unfortunate, but, by our calculations, it looks like we’re about eight points out of the top 10. The car looks like it’s turned the corner.”
Scelzi moved up to the 11th spot and is just eight points out of the top 10.
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