SCELZI MAKE A LITTLE MORE HISTORY

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Gary Scelzi's Oakley Time Bomb Dodge Stratus Funny Car continues to soar into the record books. Scelzi demolished his previous national top-speed record of 328.06 mph, set here in the spring, with a blistering 329.18-mph run in today's second round of final eliminations. He also posted his personal-best Funny Car elapsed time of 4.738-seconds in that pass. In the Funny Car first round of the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, No. 4 qualifier Scelzi defeated Cruz Pedregon with a 4.768-second lap at 328.70 mph. This speed backed up his 329.18-mph speed for a national record in the second round against Del Worsham. Scelzi's match-up with Phil Burkart Jr. in the semifinal, unfortunately, didn't follow the trend, as an ignition problem resulted in a slower 4.842/314.90 pass and the three-time Top Fuel champion lost to Burkart's 4.776/319.75. The Fresno native hangs on to eighth place in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings, and is now closer to reaching his goal of ending his first full season in Funny Car competition in the top five. He's just seven points behind seventh-place Tommy Johnson Jr., 75 in back of Ron Capps and 170 behind Del Worsham. "We've got the whole page in National Dragster with the fastest run in history in Funny Car," he said. "That felt good. We probably could've gotten the E.T. record too, but I was rolling it in deeper; we needed to get a good reaction time because we were running so well. You've just got to do that because everybody in Funny Car does that. "All in all, it was a great weekend," he added. "We had an ignition problem in the semis. We've had a lot of ignition problems. So we're going to go back to the shop. We're going to find out if we've got a bad ground or something else because this can't keep happening. A lot of teams are having problems with ignition, so we don't know what it is. Other than that, we've got a very fast hot rod." Scelzi's crew chief Mike Neff doesn't think running 330 mph this season is out of the realm of possibility. But first we asked him how he makes this Oakley Dodge go so fast. "I think the big part of it is our Dodge body," he replied. "That thing has to be pretty good to allow us to go that fast. This track was exceptionally good, and we were able to run a lot faster to half-track. From there to the finish line is where the big speeds come from. And when you can run that hard early, it just carries it on all the way through the rest of the run." As for a 330 in the future? "I think we can do it," said Neff. "I'm pretty sure. We're real close. that can certainly happen here before the year's over with." Scelzi's not as confident. "I don't know about this year," he said. "This is a pretty fast race track. It just depends on what happens. I don't think Reading (Pa., next weekend) can stand it because that track isn't as good as here. I don't know about Dallas. I don't think it can happen in Vegas; possibly Pomona. I don't know. It doesn't matter. We've got it pretty much out of reach right now. But if Mike Neff says it can be done, he's the man who knows." It's to no one's surprise that the last six races of this 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Funny Car season are proving to be an exciting competition between two pro racers going for the crown. Whit Bazemore earned the points lead in that category for the first time in his career last week in Memphis and this weekend it's Tony Pedregon back up front. Expect a continuation of this see-saw season as the series winds down, with four events left. No. 1 qualifier Bazemore, driving the Matco Tools Iron Eagle Dodge Stratus, knew he had a tough opponent in the first round in Cory Lee here at Route 66 Raceway in final eliminations. He even said so after becoming low qualifier last night. What he wasn't ready for was a first-round loss to the No. 16 qualifier. Bazemore launched at the lights a tad quicker than Lee (.092 to .093 reaction time), then got out of the groove and moved to the centerline. The car shut off at the top end and Bazemore coasted across the finish line with a 5.172-second elapsed time at 235.67 mph to Lee's winning 4.960/304.12. "It's just a frustrating loss for the Matco Tools Dodge team," said Bazemore. "It's just part of racing. It shook itself out of the groove a little bit and I just couldn't get it back. It wouldn't come back. The track was so good, for a moment I thought maybe it won't matter because we would probably have good traction out there. It went down that way for a while and then around half track it just blew the tires off. "We had a parts failure that Lee (Beard, crew chief) thinks if that hadn't happened we may still have been able to win. But the car shut itself off and I'm not so sure (we could have won) because we were awfully close to the center line. It's entirely possible that we were going to tag a cone or something. We were probably a little bit out of control there. Anyway, it's what happens. We'll regroup and go to Reading next week and try to have a better weekend there." After arriving at Route 66 Raceway this weekend in the points lead by seven points, Bazemore leaves with a 69-point deficit to Tony Pedregon, who won the event. "Things change so quickly in this sport. We went from wishing the season was over yesterday to wishing today we had 10 or 20 more races to go," said a disappointed Bazemore.
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