Scelzi Doubles Pp in Vegas
Courtesy of Judy Stropus
LAS VEGAS -- Gary Scelzi will double up this weekend at the NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, driving his usual mount, the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car, in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, as well as an Alcohol Funny Car in the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series.
"I'll be doing double duty and that's going to be exciting," said the three-time Top Fuel champion who is seeking his first Fuel Funny Car crown. "I haven't driven an Alcohol Funny Car in nine years, but the priority is the Mopar/Oakley Dodge. That's the car we need to win in and the other one is just fun. And it's only a one-race deal.
"I'm looking forward to this weekend. A lot of people from my hometown of Fresno will be here and it would be nice to make a move in the points," said Scelzi, who is 10th in the NHRA POWERade Funny Car point rankings after four races.
Scelzi is the only driver to have won in all four of NHRA's top classes - Top Fuel Dragster, Top Fuel Funny Car, Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car - and was in a battle for the Top Fuel Funny Car championship at the end of 2004. He admits he's having a slow start this season, having won only three rounds so far, after establishing his career-best speed and ET at the opening race, of 4.717 at 331.53 mph.
"Our Mopar/Oakley Dodge has been good all year," he said. "We've just had no racing luck. I'm not making any excuses. It'll change. I've seen these movies before."
Scelzi is the defending Funny Car champion of last season's second race at The Strip in October, where he beat John Force, against whom he still holds the lead in round wins, 9-7. Spring conditions this weekend just may match those of last fall.
"I'm assuming it's going to be pretty cool. Normally, it's still fairly cool in Vegas this time of year, even with the sun out. And we know we can run as hard as anybody," he said.
"Vegas is a great race track. We really look forward to coming here, because you know what you've got. (Owner) Bruton Smith spares no expense. At some of these other race tracks we go to you pray for overcast skies because if the sun is out they're just lousy. Bruton's tracks aren't that way.
"We're ready. We're 10th in the points, 93 behind (teammate Whit) Bazemore in second. It's not that far. We're going to be all right. There are 19 more races to go. We're counting."
As for the Meer Capital Partners (based in Newport Beach, Calif.) Top Alcohol Dragster he'll drive this weekend: "When I was with (crew chief) Alan Johnson in Funny Car in 2002 and we needed a new car I sent (chassis builder) Brad Hadman some money to build us a new Fuel Funny Car and this car is actually that car. When Alan and I split the sheets I kept the car and about eight months later Ron Meer bought it and made an Alcohol Funny Car out of it.
"Meer and (crew chief/general manager) Bob DeVour weren't sure who they were going to put in the car in Vegas. They've had a couple of different drivers in it. The driver they finally decided on has his own car and can't drive it in Vegas. Since they're from California they wanted to run the car here, so I said I would do it. When I went to asphalt in NHRA in 1984 Bob DeVour was my crew chief. So it will be kind of a neat reunion and he wanted to see if I could still do it.
"The last time I drove an Alcohol Funny Car was in several divisional races in Division 7 in 1996 and in the World Finals.
"I'm not sure if I know how to drive this thing and actually shift it," he laughed. "These cars are a lot of fun to drive. They shake very violently, you have to shift them twice and you have to shift them at the right rpm. You leave at 6000 rpm and you shift twice between 9500 and 10,000 rpm and shift points are really critical.
"I wish we could go test it somewhere before we get thrown right into the heat of qualifying. But that's OK."
For the record, Scelzi did receive clearance from his sponsors Mopar, Oakley, team owner Don Schumacher, crew chief Mike Neff and NHRA Director of Competition Graham Light before accepting the ride.
GARY SCELZI QUICK FACTS:
* At the 2004 Las Vegas Summitracing.com NHRA Nationals, he qualified fourth, lost second round to Phil Burkart
* 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 four 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 have a winning record against the 12-time Funny Car champion John Force: 9-7.