Reporter's Notes from Chicago

By Susan Wade
Photos by Ron Lewis


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
points 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 them."

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- mph pass.

"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."

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