Reporter's Notes from Chicago
By Susan Wade
Photos by Ron Lewis
SCELZI'S KEEPING COUNT
Maybe nobody else would admit to it, but Funny
Car driver Gary Scelzi said he's counting points.
"As tight as Funny Car is right now in points,"
he said before the Route 66 Raceway action began,
"one hiccup and you can go from fourth to eighth
or ninth. And vice versa. We've made a little
bit of a climb in the ladder after Atlanta (from
eighth to fifth). We're only 11
out of fourth. First place is only 97 points
ahead of us."
Despite raising his own national speed record
to 330.55 mph at Joliet, Scelzi dropped two
places in the standings. He's only nine points
behind sixth-place Gary Densham and 127 off
leader and teammate Whit Bazemore's pace.
"Yes, we are counting. Everybody says they're not counting. I'm telling
you, we're looking at every aspect there is. That's why I'm talking
about the 20 bonus points for the e.t. record. There's probably three or
four teams that can set the e.t. record and I feel that we're one of
Bazemore left the Route 66 Nationals with the honor -- and the points to
knock off six-race leader Del Worsham -- with his semifinal dash of
4.713 seconds at 333.25, the quickest and fastest in Funny Car history.
Scelzi said he was convinced that his Hemi-powered Oakley Dodge Stratus
had more in it than 330.55. "There was more left. It could have run 333
tonight, no exaggeration, 332 or 333. Tomorrow, who knows what the
conditions are going to be like," he said after his Friday night run
that came after storms chased away most of the fans. "If it's cool then
we can run faster than 330. It's possible."
He didn't get much of chance to find out. He said he didn't know right
away why he struck the tires in his opening-round upset loss to Tony
Bartone. "The motor rpm dropped off, and the fuel pressure dropped off
drastically. When it did, it shook the tire. . . . I know it wasn't the
clutch, so that's a plus. . . . We'll go to Topeka and we'll be quick
and fast again."
Reflecting on his ultra-fast run Friday night, he credited co-crew chief
Dan Olson, who tuned Tony Schumacher's dragster when he posted his first
330-mph run, and is co-crew chief on Scelzi's Dodge for his first 330-
"Mike Neff and Dan Olson have worked really hard to make this car really consistent,"
Scelzi said. "We've changed our fuel system,
we've changed our engine combination completely
from what it was last year when we ran 329 mph
- from bigger fuel pumps to different slide
valves, to this hootenanny to that thingamajigger
to a completely different clutch. We made major
changes this year, and to run as well as we're
running, I'm really amazed and I'm very happy."