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Sun, 6 Nov 2005, 07:29 PM

Scelzi Earns POWERade World Championship Title in Funny Car
Courtesy of NHRA Communications
Photo copyright 2005 Auto Imagery, Inc.

POMONA, Calif. -- Gary Scelzi won the POWERade world championship title in Funny Car Sunday at Pomona Raceway by eight points over teammate Ron Capps and in the process became the second driver in NHRA history to earn championships in both nitro categories.

Tom Compton, Gary Scelzi and Ben Reiling
Scelzi and Capps each lost in the second round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals and briefly opened the door for 13-time world champ John Force to reclaim the title. However, Force lost on a holeshot to former teammate Tony Pedregon later in the same round, and instantly made Scelzi the champ in the closest margin of victory for a Funny Car world champion in NHRA history.

"To win a Funny Car championship racing the guys we've had to race this year is just incredible," said Scelzi, who joins Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers to win championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. "My big concern was not letting (my crew) down because they mean so much to me. I am just numb right now because this is so different than the other three. I've never had so much pressure where everything meant so much."

Scelzi drove his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to three victories in five final rounds and claimed six No. 1 qualifying positions en route to the championship. It is the first Funny Car championship for Dodge since 1983 (Frank Hawley, Dodge Charger). It is the fourth NHRA world championship and first in Funny Car for team owner Don Schumacher, who became the first team owner to claim championships in both nitro categories in the same season.

Scelzi, who won Top Fuel championships in 1997, '98 and 2000, moved to Funny Car in 2002 in large part to be able to try and defeat Force, who dominated the 7,000 horsepower category during the 1990s. By winning the title, Scelzi is the first driver to win the championship for a team not owned by Force since 1992 (Cruz Pedregon).

"We've had a consistent race car all year long, and a great tuner doing it," Scelzi said. "I can't say enough about Mike Neff (crew chief) and this team. It's been a hell of a ride."

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