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Sun, 18 May 2003, 06:23 PM

Scelzi Runs Fastest Funny Car Speed Ever
Courtesy of Judy Stropus

Advances to 2nd Round in E'Town

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. -- Gary Scelzi rocketed his Oakley Dodge Stratus R/T Funny Car to the fastest Funny Car speed ever recorded, 326.95 miles an hour, in the first round of final eliminations, to defeat his teammate Scotty Cannon. Scelzi posted an elapsed time of 4.831 seconds to Cannon's tire-smoking 12.543/75.91, and advanced to the second round to face Tony Pedregon.

Scelzi would have liked nothing better than to beat points leader Pedregon, which would help his teammate Whit Bazemore, second in the standings, in the points chase. He couldn't do Baze the favor or back up his speed for a national record, as Scelzi smoked the tires at the hit of the throttle. Pedregon cruised to a 4.799/322.04 victory.

With his No. 8 qualifying position and advancing to the second round, Scelzi has moved into the top 10 in the POWERade Drag Racing Series point standings, and now stands No. 9.

"They don't give us any points for speed, but it's great for Dodge and Terry DeKoninck (Mopar aerodynamics engineer) and all the other engineers at Dodge," Scelzi said. "It makes us feel good about all the work that they've done in the wind tunnel and all the work that Lee Beard (Bazemore's crew chief) and Mike Neff (Scelzi's crew chief) have done. We knew it could do those things. We thought it would happen sooner, but it did happen. It outran the other guys by a bunch, and that's what we've been trying to do - hurt their feelings.

The left lane proved to be least favorite as the day wore on. "We lost lane choice and that was very critical," said Scelzi. "When I was backing up from the burnout the tires were picking up pieces of concrete and evidently the tires were still not real clean, although the guys tried to wipe them. That's what happens when you lose lane choice.

"A lot of this plays into the factor of going in deep -- trying to shorten the race track. If I hadn't gone deep against Scotty there's a good chance we could have had lane choice against Tony Pedregon and put him over there. It's one of those things. It's unfortunate; it happens. If your aunt had a beard she'd be your uncle, most of the time.

"But our car does what it's supposed to do. It's reacting right. The speed thing is not a fluke. It'll continue to do that. We took one on the chin today and we didn't lose to a crummy car, that's for sure."

Facing your teammate is never easy, and this was the first match-up for the Oakley duo since they became teammates at the beginning of 2003. "Scotty and I are friends," commented Scelzi. "We knew we'd have an Oakley car in the second round; we didn't know who it was going to be. There's no games with Scotty. It's just like racing Whit. Sometimes it's almost too relaxing, because you know there's not going to be any hassle. But there are bragging rights, so I'm up one to Scotty.

"The good news is we're no longer out of the top 10. We've cracked it and we're No. 9 and we're hopefully moving our way up the ladder. It's a beautiful thing."

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