AAA Auto Club Finals
by Susan Wade, Mike Aiello; Photos by Roger Richards, Marty
SUNDAY FINAL - SCELZI AND HINES WIN POWERADE
WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLES; Schumacher, Pedregon, Coughlin and Schnitz
are winners at Auto Club NHRA Finals
(11-6-2005) - Gary Scelzi and Andrew Hines clinched
POWERade world championship season titles Sunday at the Auto Club NHRA
Finals at Pomona Raceway.
Tony Schumacher, Tony Pedregon, Jeg Coughlin and Ryan Schnitz were race
winners in their categories at the $1.7 million race, the final of 23
events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Three-time Top Fuel champion Scelzi added his first Funny Car season
title and joined drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers
in NHRA history to win world championship titles in both nitro categories.
Hines raced to his second consecutive POWERade world championship in
Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Scelzi lost in the second round, but so did his closest championship
opponents, Ron Capps and John Force. Scelzi won the title by eight points
over Capps for the narrowest margin of victory in history for a Funny
“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.”
Hines earned the championship in the two-wheel category after he won
his first round meeting with Chris Rivas and closest points challenger
GT Tonglet was upset by Mike Berry in the opening round.
“Winning this year is definitely better than last year,”
Hines said. “It was certainly a lot tougher to win races this
year because there were about 10 bikes that could win races. I’m
just happy to be able to do this for Harley-Davidson and the Vance &
set single-season records for consecutive victories (five), consecutive
finals (seven) and consecutive round wins (20) in taking his 30th career
Top Fuel victory by outrunning Melanie Troxel in the final. Troxel fouled
at the start in her Skull Gear/Torco Race Fuels dragster and Schumacher
powered to a 4.496 at 324.36 in his U.S. Army dragster to take his ninth
victory of the season.
“With the momentum we have right now I really don't want to stop
racing,” said Schumacher, who clinched his third world championship
title two weeks earlier in Las Vegas. “At the same time I'm glad
to have a break. I'm tired. I want to go home and play with my kids
and watch them grow for a few months.”
Schumacher also added a record for largest margin of victory for a Top
Fuel championship (415 points).
“It was really big for this team to win five in a row and get
that record,” Schumacher said. “It just became a goal they
set for themselves and they wanted it. I had the pressure of not letting
them down because they gave me a great car every round. It was a tough
day. Melanie was anxious to get her first win and she was running great
all day. Larry (Dixon) was tough. It was (crew chief Dick) LaHaie's
last race and they were going for broke. Brandon had run a 4.4-(second)
pass. This was a tough win to get, so it's even more satisfying.”
claimed his second victory of the season in Funny Car and 29th of his
career, powering his Q-Racing Chevy Monte Carlo to a 4.751 at 319.22
to defeat Eric Medlen, whose Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang lost traction
at the start.
“This is exactly the way you want to finish a year,” said
Pedregon, who moved from ninth to seventh in the standings. “This
is like a good day fishing for a drag racer. We beat some big names
and maybe spoiled it for some people when I beat John in the second
round, but we came here to win and that's what we did.”
His biggest round win of the day came in the second when he used a holeshot
start to defeat his former team owner. Pedregon drove for Force from
1996 until 2003 and won the Funny Car championship in his final season
at Force Racing.
“I felt some big emotion when I beat John,” Pedregon said.
“I knew what it meant for him and we all know he gave me my start.
I spent a lot of time with him, a lot of my life, and it was bittersweet
knocking him out of the title, but if I didn't give him 100-percent
he would have been mad at me. That's the way he is.”
Medlens chances for victory were cut thin when his Mustang plunged into
the sand traps at the end of the track in his semifinal win over Tommy
Johnson Jr. Medlen wasn’t injured in the incident, but his car
suffered major damage. His team was joined by crews from the other two
Force Racing teams, for a major thrash to repair the car. They made
it to the starting line for the final, and made an attempt.
ended a two-year winless drought in Pro Stock when Tom Martino turned
on the red light at the start of the all-Dodge final. It was Coughlin’s
34th career victory and the first Pro Stock victory for Schumacher Racing.
It was the first final round for Martino since 2001.
“We had a good run today and it's all because of (crew chief)
Bob Glidden and the crew,” said Coughlin, who drove his JEGS Mail
Order Dodge Stratus to early round wins over Allen Johnson, Greg Anderson
and Jason Line. “The guys deserved this. If effort won trophies
we'd have earned a bunch of them this year. It's been about one year
since this team was formed and I know the crew guys and Bob haven't
had many days off, and their days are usually 14-16 hours long. So naturally
they're very, very excited.”
Schnitz earned the automatic victory - a category-best third win of
the season - on his Muzzy.com Buell in Pro Stock Motorcycle when newly
crowned champ Hines fouled at the start on his Screamin Eagle Vance
& Hines Harley-Davidson.
win is every bit as special as the first two, maybe even more, because
this is Pomona,” Schnitz said. “Winning the finals and putting
your name with the other riders who have won here is really something.
I'm excited about the performance of this team and the momentum we have.
We need a marketing partner to sponsor this bike and that's what we'll
spend our time in the off-season trying to find. I hope this win and
having more wins than everyone else in the class will get us some extra
The 2006 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series opens Feb. 9-12 with the CARQUEST
Auto Parts Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona.
d v e r t i s e m e n t
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Sunday's final results from the 41st annual Automobile Club of Southern
California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway. The $1.7 million race is the
final of 23 in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- Tony Schumacher, 4.496 seconds, 324.36
mph def. Melanie Troxel, foul.
Funny Car -- Tony Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.751,
319.22 def. Eric Medlen, Ford Mustang, 14.598, 68.73.
Pro Stock -- Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Stratus, 6.722, 204.73
def. Tom Martino, Stratus, foul.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 8.126,
121.69 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, foul.
Top Alcohol Dragster -- Bill Reichert, 5.270, 274.33
def. Steve Torrence, 5.304, 270.92.
Top Alcohol Funny Car -- Steve Gasparrelli, Pontiac Firebird,
6.460, 166.39 def. David Ray, Dodge Avenger, foul.
Competition Eliminator -- Chuck Smithfield, Chevy Beretta,
7.542, 179.88 def. Jirka Kaplan, '23-T Ford, 7.013, 194.77.
Super Stock -- Gary Stinnett, Chevy Camaro, 9.360,
140.40 def. Jimmy DeFrank, Pontiac Grand Am, 9.017, 149.85.
Stock Eliminator -- Rusty Hall, Ford Mustang, 10.770,
119.04 def. Ken Etter, Plymouth Volare, 11.706, 111.90.
Super Comp -- Rick Beckstrom, Dragster, 8.889, 170.90
def. Kevin Kleineweber, Dragster, 8.873, 158.37.
Super Gas -- Mike Blodgett Jr., Chevy Vega, 9.896,
137.22 def. Loreen Johnson, Pontiac Grand Prix, 9.894, 153.20.
Summit Super Pro -- Jackie Jones, Dragster, 8.239,
149.30 def. Chris Reynolds, Dragster, 7.837, 167.03.
Summit Pro -- Mark Simonian, Chevy Camaro, 10.645,
125.58 def. Rod Johnson, Chevy Nova, 12.657, 101.47.
Summit Sportsman -- Kyle Roberts, Chevy Camaro, 13.540,
97.53 def. Ray Baumgardner, Pontiac Firebird, 12.980, 104.42.
Summit Bike/Sled -- Roy Nealy Jr., Suzuki, 8.614, 144.66
def. Donnie Durenberger, Suzuki, 9.614, 134.22.
d v e r t i s e m e n t
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Final round-by-round results from the 41st annual Automobile Club
of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway, the final of 23
events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series:
ROUND ONE -- Larry Dixon, 4.534, 325.22 def. Cory McClenathan,
5.361, 208.36; Morgan Lucas, 4.528, 324.59 def. Doug Herbert, 4.553,
319.60; David Grubnic, 4.528, 327.66 def. Rod Fuller, 4.512, 325.45;
Brandon Bernstein, 4.498, 327.82 def. Doug Kalitta, 5.382, 204.17; Tony
Schumacher, 4.486, 326.63 def. John Smith, foul; Melanie Troxel, 4.510,
328.22 def. Doug Foley, 4.741, 284.21; David Baca, 4.509, 321.88 def.
Jack Beckman, 6.799, 141.71; Clay Millican, 4.566, 324.20 def. Scott
Kalitta, 10.030, 74.68;
QUARTERFINALS -- Troxel, 4.535, 325.92 def. Lucas,
9.342, 94.89; Baca, 4.599, 290.57 def. Millican, 4.628, 311.92; Bernstein,
4.512, 321.50 def. Grubnic, 4.577, 321.04; Schumacher, 4.513, 324.67
def. Dixon, 4.672, 298.73;
SEMIFINALS -- Troxel, 4.525, 328.14 def. Baca, 4.622,
310.70; Schumacher, 4.528, 321.65 def. Bernstein, 9.232, 87.77;
FINAL -- Schumacher, 4.496, 324.36 def. Troxel, foul.
ROUND ONE -- Ron Capps, Dodge Stratus, 4.765, 326.56
def. Del Worsham, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.866, 325.45; Robert Hight, Ford
Mustang, 4.734, 329.42 def. Bob Gilbertson, Monte Carlo, 4.776, 320.97;
Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.748, 328.14 def. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo,
4.811, 322.65; Cruz Pedregon,
Monte Carlo, 4.775, 325.37 def. Jim Head, Stratus, 4.827, 323.04; Gary
Scelzi, Stratus, 4.735, 329.91 def. Tim Wilkerson, Monte Carlo, 4.856,
299.80; Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.750, 320.43 def. Frank Pedregon,
Stratus, 4.917, 288.52; John Force, Mustang, 4.790, 315.34 def. Whit
Bazemore, Stratus, broke; Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.761, 325.37
def. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, broke;
QUARTERFINALS -- C. Pedregon, 4.756, 329.26 def. Capps,
5.456, 245.27; Medlen, 4.745, 324.44 def. Hight, 4.773, 329.99; Johnson
Jr., 4.794, 327.11 def. Scelzi, 4.807, 326.16; T. Pedregon, 4.778, 316.75
def. Force, 4.752, 323.27;
SEMIFINALS -- T. Pedregon, 4.739, 324.83 def. C. Pedregon,
4.872, 323.04; Medlen, 4.740, 321.65 def. Johnson Jr., 4.771, 326.24;
FINAL -- T. Pedregon, 4.751, 319.22 def. Medlen, 14.598,
ROUND ONE -- Mark Pawuk, Pontiac GTO, 6.770, 204.35
def. Mike Thomas, Dodge Stratus, 6.744, 205.01; Richie Stevens, Stratus,
6.724, 204.91 def. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.859, 178.05; Jeg Coughlin,
Stratus, 6.739, 204.82 def. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.783, 203.80; Kurt
Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.748, 205.72 def. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.756,
205.22; Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.702, 205.66 def.
Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.735, 206.76; Rickie Smith, Cobalt, 6.767, 204.05
def. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.755, 204.51; Jason Line, GTO, 6.731, 205.10
def. Bob Panella, Cobalt, 6.755, 204.73; Tom Martino, Stratus, 6.738,
205.47 def. Erica Enders, Cobalt, 6.735, 205.72;
QUARTERFINALS -- K. Johnson, 6.744, 205.98 def. Smith,
9.642, 90.54; Line, 6.750, 204.14 def. Pawuk, 8.165, 115.09; Martino,
6.750, 205.16 def. Stevens, 6.743, 204.17; Coughlin, 6.742, 205.13 def.
Anderson, 6.717, 205.47;
SEMIFINALS -- Martino, 6.741, 205.63 def. K. Johnson,
foul; Coughlin, 6.733, 204.42 def. Line, foul;
FINAL -- Coughlin, 6.722, 204.73 def. Martino, foul.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
ROUND ONE -- Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.285, 182.58 def.
Wesley Wells, Suzuki, 7.384, 176.81; Mike Berry, Kawasaki, 7.160, 186.98
def. GT Tonglet, Harley-Davidson, 7.254, 182.55; Michael Phillips, Suzuki,
7.198, 187.36 def. Matt Smith, 7.162, 184.35; Ryan Schnitz, 7.196, 180.74
def. Tom Bradford, 7.272, 183.54; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.100,
187.89 def. Chris Rivas, foul;
Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.210, 178.85 def. Matt Guidera, 7.260, 176.95;
Chip Ellis, 7.171, 181.54 def. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.221, 185.28; Antron
Brown, Suzuki, 7.195, 181.06 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.206, 184.40;
QUARTERFINALS -- Treble, 7.264, 178.83 def. Phillips,
7.330, 180.40; Schnitz, 7.136, 185.77 def. Brown, 7.290, 176.05; Ellis,
7.298, 166.33 def. Sampey, foul; Hines, 7.171, 185.72 def. Berry, foul;
SEMIFINALS -- Hines, 7.119, 187.89 def. Ellis, 7.174,
183.02; Schnitz, 7.175, 183.84 def. Treble, 7.247, 182.43;
FINAL -- Schnitz, 8.126, 121.69 def. Hines, foul.
Point standings (top 10) for NHRA professional categories following
the 41st annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at
Pomona Raceway, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade
Drag Racing Series -
1. Tony Schumacher, 1,981; 2. Larry Dixon, 1,566; 3. Doug Kalitta, 1,538;
4. David Grubnic, 1,407; 5. Morgan Lucas, 1,357; 6. Doug Herbert, 1,353;
7. Brandon Bernstein, 1,344; 8. Scott Kalitta, 1,142; 9. Cory McClenathan,
1,096; 10. Rod Fuller, 801.
1. Gary Scelzi, 1,516; 2. Ron Capps, 1,508; 3. John Force, 1,484; 4.
Eric Medlen, 1,411; 5. Robert Hight, 1,379; 6. Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,294;
7. Tony Pedregon, 1,239; 8. Del Worsham, 1,208; 9. Whit Bazemore, 1,192;
10. Cruz Pedregon, 1,074.
1. Greg Anderson, 1,904; 2. Kurt Johnson, 1,700; 3. Jason Line, 1,599;
4. Warren Johnson, 1,488; 5. Dave Connolly, 1,294; 6. Jeg Coughlin,
1,143; 7. Greg Stanfield, 1,076; 8. Richie Stevens, 1,061; 9. Ron Krisher,
1,058; 10. Jim Yates, 951.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Andrew Hines, 1,100; 2. GT Tonglet, 989; 3. Angelle Sampey, 965;
4. Ryan Schnitz, 959; 5. Chip Ellis, 943; 6. Antron Brown, 901; 7. Craig
Treble, 788; 8. Geno Scali, 768; 9. Steve Johnson, 742; 10. Karen Stoffer,
(11-7-2005) - What did two of our Pomona finalists
have in common? The answer is a lot of sand in the car. (Motel6 Vision)
d v e r t i s e m e n t
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SUNDAY NOTES - Scelzi
prevails, Hines doubles up, farewell Dick LaHaie, Coughlin leaving,
Force looks ahead...
'Weird moment' marks title -- Gary Scelzi said he
rode "big emotional swings" before his triumphant moment during
Sunday's second round.
drag racer from Fresno, California, who said he left the Top Fuel class
because the dragsters "were trying to kill me," carved a rich,
new life in the Funny Car division and his name in the drag-racing records
books. He became only the second driver in sanctioning-body history
to win championships in both nitro categories and gave Dodge its first
Funny Car championship since Frank Hawley's in 1983. It also marked
the first time a team has won the Top Fuel and Funny Car titles in the
His heart went on an emotional roller-coaster ride in a matter of six
seconds. After closest contender Ron Capps, his Don Schumacher Racing
teammate, was a Cruz Pedregon victim, he lost to Tommy Johnson Jr.,
leaving the door open for 13-time champion John Force to vault from
third place to another series title. Then Force spoiled his own chances
by being late on the light, with a .096-second reaction time to Tony
Pedregon's .053. Force's exit gave Scelzi his first Funny Car championship
to go with the three he earned in the Top Fuel class (1997, 1998, 2000).
"I was numb. I never saw Tommy on the run," Scelzi said.
He said he looked for the win light and didn't see it. Team track specialist
Lanny Miglizzi broke the news to him: "We didn't win."
Said Scelzi, "I thought we left the door open again. Those guys
are dangerous. Then I sat there and watched Force get beat. I wasn't
sure he really got beat. Everybody was kind of quiet. It was a weird
A half-hour later, Scelzi said he still was numb. He said this championship
was different: "I've never had so much pressure, where everything
meant so much, than this one."
He said of knocking John Force from the Funny Car throne, "Everybody
gets in a Funny Car to try to beat John Force. That's your whole goal.
When Don Schumacher put together a Funny Car team, this is why he did
it -- to go after Force and those guys, because they are the absolute
best team in all of motorsports. John is hurting right now, but he's
He said advice from Hawley during qualifying rekindled his competitive
passion. He said he told himself, "You'd better quit trying to
be calm and get your ass in gear and go up there and try to mow this
thing down or you're going to be calm and watching somebody else take
that trophy you want so bad. So I was pretty jacked up."
day -- Tony Pedregon said, "I had a great day -- a little
irony and a lot of drama" after winning his second race this season.
"We're hitting our stride at the right time," Pedregon said.
"To be a part of the drama of the championship probably topped
what I did two years ago."
He said when he crossed the finish line against Force in the second
round, dashing his mentor's hopes of a 14th championship for himself
and a 15th for his organization, "I felt like I had just won the
championship or won my first race. I got emotional because I have a
lot of respect for John."
He was No. 1 qualifier here with the track-record elapsed time at the
Winternationals in February but Tommy Johnson won the race. "Earlier
this year," Pedregon said, "there was some unfinished business.
We went though a learning process after that and had a tough summer.
It tested our mettle." But he said crew chief Dickie Venables is
"doing everything I knew he could do. We do it together. "
And she said he and teammate brother Cruz "have a lot to look
forward to for next year."
take -- Team owner Don Schumacher had a dominating day, with
Scelzi winning the Funny Car championship, his two dragster drivers
(Tony Schumacher and Melanie Troxel) facing off in the Top Fuel final,
and Jeg Coughlin reaching the Pro Stock final).
He said Scelzi's Funny Car championship was even more satisfying than
his son's three Top Fuel titles.
"My son has won three championships, and that has been an amazing
experience with the U.S. Army guys. But to unseat John Force, this is
the big one, plain and simple," Schumacher said. "There's
nobody out here who has been better than John. And Gary got it done."
He praised Neff, calling him "the foundation of my operation,
along with Alan Johnson." He said, "Gary stepped up to the
plate. He's in the record book now. They've had some hiccups and had
some tough times, but they've come back swinging, trying to take away
the championship from the best racer out here, and that's John Force."
Coughlin leaving -- For Jeg Coughlin, winning the
Pro Stock final was more significant than halting a 49-race drought.
It was his last race -- for at least awhile.
"I made a decision earlier in the year, probably late summer,"
he said. "I wasn't up for another transition." As for crew
chief Bob Glidden and the crew, he said, "I felt I drove my heart
out for them, and they've done their best."
He said he doesn't have any specific plans, although he has turned down
offers from "some top teams" to race next year.
"Will I be back next year? I'm not 100 percent certain," Coughlin
said. "I'm not looking to get behind a wheel next year."
He said Glidden and the team, who worked late into Saturday night to
replace an engine, "worked their hearts out this weekend. If effort
was worth anything, they would be at the top of the pack."
He said, "Getting the first Pro Stock win for Don Schumacher Racing
is rewarding," adding that all day long he benefited from "that
cagey veteran tuning" of Glidden's.
He said eliminating Summit Racing Equipment teammates Greg Anderson
and Jason Line in the second round and semifinals was especially sweet.
"Again, Greg was the pinnacle of the class. We sneaked by him by
3-thousandths. That was a big break for us. They make very few mistakes
on the track."
Coughlin said Glidden and the crew have invested so much in the Schumacher
Racing program. "It has been about 365 days since they started
this program, with very, very few days that they haven't worked 12-14-15
hours a day." Coughlin said Glidden "was very emotional"
following Coughlin's first victory since the fall Chicago race of 2003.
miracle -- It was thanks to an incredible thrash by the John
Force Racing mechanics and the incredible length of the program that
Eric Medlen even could bring his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang to the
starting line for his final-round match-up against Tony Pedregon. But
the Funny Car showdown between Pedregon and his former clutch specialist
who replaced him in the cockpit of the championship car was anticlimactic.
Pedregon won easily with a 4.751-second elapsed time at 319.22 mph.
Medlen limped to a 14.598/68.73, his car mortally wounded by a blast
into the sand pit in the semifinals that was so hard it broke the chassis.
"This caps probably the most disappointing day," Medlen's
father and crew chief, John Medlen, said immediately after the incident.
Following the final round, Eric Medlen said, "Our only chance was
if something happened to [Pedregon's] car. We took our chance."
the record book - When Tony Schumacher ran a 4.496-second elapsed
time at 324.36 mph as teammate Melanie Troxel red-lit in the final,
he set three more Top Fuel records.
The U.S Army Dragster driver recorded his fifth consecutive victory,
made his seventh straight final-round appearance, and claimed his 20th
straight elimination-round win. He also established the largest margin
of victory for a Top Fuel series title (415 points).
"All that work is done -- 23 times," he said, pondering the
magnitude of what the group has achieved this year.
"I can't wait to get started for next season. On the other hand,
I can't wait to stop," he said. "I'm going to do as little
as I have to -- not to get out of work, but I want to watch my daughter
Schumacher plays in an adult hockey league. And he said he's going to
go back home to the Chicago area, to the rink, and enjoy participating
in a contact sport. "I'm going to knock some people down who have
no idea why I'm so angry," he joked.
Of his U.S. Army Dragster team, Schumacher said, "There's never
been a team like it." He said fans and observers think that with
such success as they have enjoyed "People think you start your
own demise." But he assured that won't happen with him and his
Alan Johnson-led crew.
Hines likes '05 better -- Pro Stock Motorcycle's Andrew
Hines said his second straight series championship caps a weekend that
was "definitely better than the last" trip to Pomona Raceway.
"I got beat in the first round on a holeshot by my teammate here
last year," he said, referring to GT Tonglet's victory.
He reached the final round Sunday against Ryan Schnitz but made a mistake
again. I was amped up for the final but was a little too quick. He and
Schnitz both red-lit, but Hines' fould start of minus-.011 was worse
than Schnitz's minus-.010.
Hines said that he "was nervous before [teammate and closest rival]
GT [Tonglet] went down the track" in the first round. He said,
"I've been wanting this championship since last year. I was like
Ron Capps -- ready to throw up at any moment. My mindset was that the
championship was wrapped up. I was ready. I knew what I had to do. All
in all, it was a good year. I wish I had done a little better, but I'll
He said that Pro Stock Bike competition is much tougher than when championship-winning
brother Matt was riding. "I'm still trying to follow in his footsteps,
but he's definitely pushing me," Andrew Hines said.
said -- Gary Scelzi was quick to give crew chief Mike Neff
full credit for making the team successful, saying, "We've had
a hell of race car and a hell of a tuner."
He acknowledged that team owner Don Schumacher "took the leash
off us and left us alone. You gave us a checkbook, and we used the hell
out of it."
But he said he had had his eye on Neff as the man he would like to
have as his crew chief someday -- a year before he joined Schumacher
"I was observing from the ropes and pit area, watching how everybody
works and how they made their approaches. I ended up spending a lot
of time with Mike after qualifying. I really came to like his philosophy.
I realized how much drive he had and how bad he wants to do this and
how he's not afraid. Alan Johnson showed the same traits. I saw in him
the want to treat his people right, to not beat anybody down, to do
the best he can do." Scelzi said Neff "is almost like a therapist,
Neff said the championship "means everything. We've been pretty
new at this. It just didn't seem possible . . . that we realistically
had a chance to beat Austin Coil and Bernie [Fedderly]. Last year was
a pretty big confidence-booster. Coming into this year, I started to
believe we did have what it takes to do it.
"I'm still not real satisfied with our performance on Sundays,"
Neff said. "The end result is that after 23 races, we still had
more points than the other drivers. It's just exciting for Don Schumacher
and his organization."
gracious in defeat -- Cruz Pedregon took Ron Capps out of championship
contention with a 4.756/329.26 performance to Capps' 5.456/245.27. Then
Tommy Johnson Jr., who won on this track in the season-opener, hit the
big target -- Scelzi -- and eliminated him by two-hundredths of a second
with a 4.794/327.11 to Scelzi's 4.807/326.16.
But Force, who needed to last two rounds more than Capps and Scelzi
to repeat as championship, failed to capitalize on his improbable gifts.
Tony Pedregon delivered the decisive blow, on a holeshot. Pedregon,
who dethroned Force for the title in 2003, won Sunday with a 4.750-second
E.T. at 320.43 mph to his former boss' 4.790/315.34.
Force was gracious as the crown passed to the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus
"We did all we can do. I got whupped," Force said at the top
end following his run. He congratulated Gary Scelzi and said, "When
you win it, you earn it. God bless Gary Scelzi."
Later, he said, "It's kind of simple. We lost. Gary Scelzi won.
I tip my hat to Ron Capps and Gary Scelzi for a great effort. We did
everything we could to prepare. Turns out, we didn't need the national
record. They tried to give [the championship] to us but, bottom line,
I couldn't take advantage of it.
"My guys are all trying to make me feel better, but it is what
it is. We just got whupped. That's all," he said.
Naturally, he already has 2006 in mind. "Our race cars are good.
The stuff we've learned in the last two weeks since Vegas I'm really
excited about," Force said. "We've got a new Mustang coming.
My sponsors have been rallying around me. I'll live with it over the
winter, losing my championship. It'll be a long off-season, but I definitely
want [the championship] back. The biggest thing I can take out of here,
since we didn't win the championship, is that my Next Generation drivers
-- Eric [Medlen], Robert [Hight], [daughter] Ashley, my girls Brittany
and Courtney, they all made me proud this season. Other than that, all
I can say is that tomorrow we'll go to work getting ready for next year."
Love ya, but got to take you out -- While much was
made of Tony Pedregon's departure from John Force Racing in 2003 to
start his own Q Racing team, Pedregon showed Sunday just how much affection
and respect he has for his former mentor.
When he beat Force, he handed the championship to Gary Scelzi. It was
almost like a "This is going to hurt me worse than it will you"
His voice wavering, Pedregon expressed "love till the end"
for Force and said, "I feel for John. I know what Scelzi feels
Then he deflected the sentiment with humor, sending a message to Scelzi's
boss: "Don Schumacher, I'll give you my address. I'm expecting
Ace react -- Ron Capps said after knowing he would finish second
in the final standings for the third time in his career, "There's
a big sort of relief that's come over us. It's been wearing, just wearing.
I never thought it would be as big a deal as it turned out to be. I
knew it would be a big deal. But I had no idea how big."
He said after beating Del Worsham in the first round he experienced
"a big letdown" but felt that "we need to concentrate
on the second round, but a lot of that [stress] was gone." He said
he was "shocked" that his Brut Dodge smoked the tires.
"I don't think we've done that in a long time with this Brut Dodge.
Not for five or six races," he said, "so that was surprising.
I wasn't ready for it. But now that everything is over, as time passes,
it hurts a little worse that we were that close. On the other hand,
we finished second and the Brut guys are already pumped about next year
and we're already talking about how excited we are for next year. So
He said that when he lost to Cruz Pedregon, "my heart sank."
She said that for a fraction of a second he didn't see Pedregon, "and
I was in the mode of 'OK, let's win this round,' and then he came flying
by. My first reaction was like, 'Oh my gosh.' It scared the heck out
"When he crossed the finish line," Capps said, "I was
coasting down there, and the emotions were just hard to take. I didn't
want to shut the car off. I just wanted to keep it running and just
drive it back here to the pit area."
The most stress throughout all this championship showdown, he said,
came in anticipating the match-up against Worsham. "All night and
all this morning, knowing we were going to run Del Worsham, was probably
the most stressful I'd been -- all night and all morning, just thinking
about how good he is and how good that team is."
Ed "The Ace
McCulloch, Capps' crew chief, said his feelings were mixed Sunday afternoon.
"One side of me, I'm really disappointed. The other side of me,
we've had a good year," he said. "I've said this all along:
We weren't supposed to be here anyway. I wish we could've gone ahead
and done it, but we didn't.
"I'm happy and proud for Zippy [Mike Neff] and Scelzi and that
team. They did a great job," McCulloch said. "I guess the
most gratifying thing is today when we went out the agony only lasted
about three minutes, because everybody else went out in the same
round. At least we didn't have to wait and agonize over it."
Bazemore tries -- Although Whit Bazemore had no chance
to win the Funny Car series championship, he said he was disappointed
he and his Matco Tools Dodge Stratus couldn't play a significant role
in the outcome.
perennial rival John Force in the first round, Bazemore smoked the tires
early in the run and lurched to the right, across the center line for
a disqualification. Force's car also moved to the left and brushed the
center line, but he took the round-win with a 4.790-second elapsed time
at 315.34 mph.
"It wasn't what we expected at all," Bazemore said. "Everyone
on the Matco Tools team, we were really fired up today and I can't tell
you how much I wanted to win that round. This year we took away from
our teammates' ability to win the championship a couple of times and
today I wanted to give it back to them by beating Force.
"The car smoked the tires twice. We pedaled it and Force's team
went down the track and that's it," he said.
"Our car just took a violent right turn out there. There's something
really wrong with that chassis. I don't know what it is. We came here
without having tested it since it's been front-halved from Murf McKinney
(Lafayette, Indiana-based chassis builder).
He said the consequences could have been worse and vowed never to take
an untested chassis into action. "In the future, we'll never do
that again, run an untested chassis, ever," Bazemore said. "We
were lucky to qualify, quite honestly. In the very first run after 150
feet it turned hard left and we fought it the whole way -- and we were
very, very fortunate that we didn't smoke the tires then. And last night
it did the exact same thing, only when we corrected it, it unloaded
the rear a little bit and it made us smoke the tires. So when you're
on the limit, you can't have a car that you have to drive that hard.
It just doesn't work in this sport."
He said he and his team plans to have a new car next year. "That's
going to help," Bazemore said. "We're going to have to really
assess our performance this year and all aspects of it, assess it and
do what we have to do to get ourselves on the same level as our teammates."
repeats title -- Andrew Hines clinched his second straight
Pro Stock Motorcycle series championship in the first round, as Mike
Berry upset GT Tonglet, Hines' Harley-Davidson teammate, and Hines advanced
past red-lighting Chris Rivas with a 7.100-second pass.
By the time Angelle Sampey came to the starting line she knew second
place was within reach. She responded with a 7.210-second, 178.85-mph
ride, hoping to keep her "Top-2" streak alive. The U.S. Army
Suzuki rider has finished no worse than second in the previous seven
Starting-line drama -- Once again, Ron Capps had a
little starting-line drama at Pomona Raceway. In the February Winternationals,
in his debut for Don Schumacher Racing in the Brut Dodge Stratus, Capps
was unable to make a first-round run because a mechanical failure triggered
an oil leak. In these Auto Club of Southern California Finals, he was
No. 10 qualifier and at the mercy of Del Worsham, who had lane choice.
Worsham started in the left lane and switched to the right at the last
However, the move didn't faze Capps. He got the jump on the starting
line against Worsham and upset the Checker Schuck's Kragen Chevy Monte
Carlo driver and No. 7 qualifier with a 4.765-second elapsed time at
326.56 mph. Worsham clocked a 4.866/325.45.
upset -- In one of two first-round upsets in Pro Stock, Tom
Martino eliminated No. 2 qualifier Erica Enders on a holeshot. The New
Jersey driver, making his first appearance in final eliminations since
the 2003 Gainesville event, used an .005-second reaction time en route
to a winning 6.738-second elapsed time at 205.47 mph. Enders, who had
an .053-second light, ran a 6.735/205.72.
Then, another sense, the Houston rookie upset Martino and his team owner,
Larry Morgan. As they got out of their cars, Enders -- referring to
his reaction time -- reportedly said to Martino, "Nice guess."
He took offense at her remark and began arguing with her, and Morgan
joined in the heated conversation.
No. 9 Mark Pawuk had a perfect light, the first of his career, against
No. 8 Mike Thomas, who was substituting for the injured Kenny Korestsky.
Pawuk ran a 6.770/204.35 against Thomas' 6.744/205.01.
"He was living right today," Thomas said. Said crew chief
Eddie Guarnaccia, "There's not much you can do against a .000 light."
Farewell, Dick LaHaie -- Dick LaHaie put his last tune-up
in Larry Dixon's Miller Lite/Ameriquest Dragster Sunday.
The veteran crew chief, who tuned both Dixon and Scott Kalitta to back-to-back
Top Fuel titles and was the1987 Top Fuel driving champion himself, said
at the previous race, at Las Vegas, that he planned to retire at the
close of this season.
LaHaie, who said he plans to continue to build custom hot rods at his
Michigan home, indicated he won't be hanging out at the races. "I'm
not a good spectator," he said.
Dixon advanced to the quarterfinals Sunday, defeating Cory McClenathan.
But he couldn't stop the Tony Schumacher tide in Round 2, although he
got off the starting line quicker than the U.S. Army Dragster that claimed
its third series championship.
LaHaie's last run with Dixon officially was a 4.672-second effort at
298.73 mph. Schumacher won the round with a 4.513/324.67. After that
run, Jon Oberhofer and Rahn Tobler from Kalitta Motorsports were the
among the first to congratulate him for his service to the sport.
Before the first round, LaHaie said he certainly was emotional, but
he kept his feelings in check. "Emotions -- are you kidding? After
47 years of this, of course there are emotions," he said. "All's
I ever wanted to do was go race, and we're going to do that right now."
This season, Dixon earned three victories in seven final-round appearances.
LaHaie leaves the team with Dixon the winningest active Top Fuel driver
with 38 career victories.
"We won Indy and that was definitely the highlight of the season,"
Dixon said. "Our crew chief (Dick LaHaie) is retiring, and I think
he's had one of the best runs in drag racing history. I was glad to
be a part for one of those segments."
d v e r t i s e m e n t
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SUNDAY - SCELZI EARNS
POWERADE WORLD CHAMPIONSHIP TITLE IN FUNNY CAR
- 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.
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
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SATURDAY - SCELZI, SCHUMACHER, LINE AND
SMITH CLAIM NO. 1 QUALIFYING POSITIONS AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS; Scelzi,
Capps and Force to decide POWERade Funny Car championship Sunday
Funny Car points leader Gary Scelzi raced to the No. 1 qualifying position
Saturday at Pomona Raceway and has the edge going into Sunday’s
three-way chase for the $400,000 NHRA POWERade world championship.
Scelzi clocked a performance of 4.696 seconds at 330.23 mph in his
Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to earn his sixth No. 1 award of the season
and move into position to join Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers in
NHRA history to win season titles in both nitro categories.
By virtue of his qualifying effort at the Auto Club NHRA Finals, Scelzi
increased his series lead to eight over second-place driver Ron Capps,
and 32 over third-place John Force, a 13-time world champion.
Force qualified sixth in his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang and
will face Scelzi-teammate Whit Bazemore in the first round, while Capps
qualified 10th in his Brut Stratus and will meet Del Worsham in the
opening round. Scelzi will race Tim Wilkerson, who anchors the quickest
16-car Funny Car lineup in history. Each round of Sunday’s eliminations
(11 a.m. start) is worth 20 points. The earliest Scelzi could face either
Force or Capps would be in the final round. Force and Capps could meet
in the semifinals.
“Right now we have to worry about us,” said Scelzi, who
claimed Top Fuel world championship titles in 1997, '98 and 2000. “I
can't worry about what Bazemore is going to do or what Capps is going
to do. If we win this race, we'll be the champions and that's what we're
going to try to do, just like we went into Vegas and tried to do, and
we came up a little bit short, and hopefully tomorrow we won't come
up short. It's do or die now. I'm going to go up there and race Tim
just like I raced everybody in qualifying. Do my best and if the car
runs well and we all do our jobs, don't have any stupid breakage, hopefully
we'll get some win lights.”
Tony Schumacher, Jason Line and Matt Smith also were No. 1 qualifiers
at the $1.7 million race, the final of 23 events in the $50 million
NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
powered his U.S. Army dragster to a performance of 4.466 at 328.78 to
take his 11th No. 1 position of the year in Top Fuel, a single-season
record. The record was previously held by Gary Beck (1983) and Blaine
“You look at the names on the list of guys that have earned that
many poles in a year and it's a pretty stout group,” Schumacher
said. “I know (my team) gets a kick out of being No. 1 and they
deserve all the credit because they're the ones who gave me an awesome
race car over and over again.”
In Pro Stock, Line claimed his second top qualifying effort of the
season and his fourth overall with a track record time of 6.677 at 206.83
in his Summit Racing Pontiac GTO.
setting the track record, Line says he isn’t overconfident going
into racing tomorrow and says Erica Enders’ Slammers Ultimate
Milk Chevy Cobalt, which qualified second with a 6.681 at 206.70, is
perhaps the car to watch.
“I would have felt a lot better if we'd made at least three good
runs,” Line said. “We have our work cut out for us. Erica
has certainly been the best and most consistent so far. She's made four
good runs and I think her car looks the best right now - at least the
happiest for this race track.”
Smith earned the first No. 1 qualifying award of his career in Pro
Stock Motorcycle by clocking a track-record time of 7.000 at 189.71
on his Red Line Oil Buell. Second place qualifier Andrew Hines will
try to earn his second consecutive world championship title on his Screamin’
Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson. He leads teammate GT Tonglet
by 51 points entering eliminations and needs to advance to the semifinals
to secure the title.
know those top bikes are all fighting for the championship but if we
run into them we're just going to treat them like anyone else and try
to win,” Smith said. “I'm not in the points race. Even if
I win I can't get into the top 10 so we're just focused on winning the
race and that's it.”
First-round pairings for professional eliminations Sunday for the
41st annual Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals at Pomona
Raceway, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag
Racing Series. Pairings based on results in qualifying, which ended
Top Fuel -- 1. Tony Schumacher, 4.466 seconds, 328.78
mph vs. 16. John Smith, 4.621, 321.81; 2. Melanie Troxel, 4.473, 329.83
vs. 15. Doug Foley, 4.607, 315.64; 3. David Baca, 4.485, 324.28 vs.
14. Jack Beckman, 4.590, 319.67; 4. Brandon Bernstein, 4.491, 328.14
vs. 13. Doug Kalitta, 4.555, 326.24; 5. Rod Fuller, 4.501, 327.35 vs.
12. David Grubnic, 4.543, 330.96; 6. Clay Millican, 4.503, 326.08 vs.
11. Scott Kalitta, 4.542, 328.86; 7. Morgan Lucas, 4.503, 327.03 vs.
10. Doug Herbert, 4.537, 321.19; 8. Larry Dixon, 4.522, 326.79 vs. 9.
Cory McClenathan, 4.534, 324.20.
Funny Car -- 1. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Stratus, 4.696,
330.23 vs. 16. Tim Wilkerson, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.828, 315.12; 2. Cruz
Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.708, 328.94 vs. 15. Jim Head, Stratus, 4.822,
323.89; 3. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.710, 329.99 vs. 14. Frank Pedregon,
Stratus, 4.816, 278.23; 4. Eric Medlen, Ford Mustang, 4.715, 328.06
vs. 13. Tony Bartone, Monte Carlo, 4.815, 321.88; 5. Robert Hight, Mustang,
4.716, 330.80 vs. 12. Bob Gilbertson, Monte Carlo, 4.803, 320.13; 6.
John Force, Mustang, 4.716, 325.53 vs. 11. Whit Bazemore, Stratus, 4.800,
323.27; 7. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 4.730, 331.36 vs. 10. Ron Capps,
Stratus, 4.768, 326.63; 8. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.735, 324.20
vs. 9. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.751, 329.26.
Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.677, 206.83
vs. 16. Bob Panella, Chevy Cobalt, 6.721, 205.57; 2. Erica Enders, Cobalt,
6.681, 206.70 vs. 15. Tom Martino, Dodge Stratus, 6.718, 206.13; 3.
Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.683, 207.62 vs. 14. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.717,
205.63; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.685, 207.08 vs. 13. Warren Johnson,
GTO, 6.717, 207.15; 5. Jeg Coughlin, Stratus, 6.704, 206.16 vs. 12.
Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.716, 204.48; 6. Rickie Smith, Cobalt, 6.705,
205.85 vs. 11. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.715, 205.51; 7. Richie Stevens,
Stratus, 6.707, 205.60 vs. 10. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.715, 206.26; 8.
Mike Thomas, Stratus, 6.708, 205.41 vs. 9. Mark Pawuk, GTO, 6.712, 205.79.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.000,
189.82 vs. 16. Michael Phillips, Suzuki, 7.218, 188.02; 2. Andrew Hines,
Harley-Davidson, 7.039, 191.57 vs. 15. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.198, 185.89;
3. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.047, 190.30 vs. 14. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.190,
187.44; 4. Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 7.063, 187.91 vs. 13. Tom Bradford,
Buell, 7.168, 191.38; 5. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.074, 190.11 vs. 12.
Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.152, 186.90; 6. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.089,
188.31 vs. 11. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.146, 183.99; 7. GT Tonglet, Harley-Davidson,
7.129, 189.39 vs. 10. Mike Berry, Kawasaki, 7.145, 186.10; 8. Wesley
Wells, Suzuki, 7.135, 188.67 vs. 9. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.139, 188.10.
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SATURDAY NOTES - The Funny
Car stage is set, Schumacher No. 1 again, four in 4.4s, Smith playing
The matchups -- If the Funny Car field had remained
the same as it was after Friday's qualifying session, John Force would
have faced Ron Capps in Round 1. But Force will go against rival Whit
Bazemore, teammate of points leader Gary Scelzi.
Scelzi entered this event a mere two points in front of his own teammate
Ron Capps and 28 points ahead of Force.
Bazemore said, "It's what we wish for, and it's good. We're fighting
our car a little bit, but we've got a great team, a great bunch of guys.
It's just up to all of us on the Matco Tools team to rise to the occasion
and help one of our teammates clinch the championship tomorrow.
"Obviously, it's all on the line, and for me it's a perfect scenario,"
he said. "[When] we came into the race, we wanted to race Force.
We wanted to race him in the final, but the first rounds, same difference.
We'll take it. It's good."
Capps was a little disappointed about drawing an opponent as strong
as Del Worsham in the first round.
is definitely not the guy you want to pull, but you look at any in the
top 16 and there is not one guy in there you'd rather have," Capps
said. "Ace and I talked earlier. All year long, every race we've
won it's been hard-fought, and we've had to race the best of them every
run, so I'd almost rather have it this way, I guess."
Capps is the No. 1 qualifier, and Worsham is No. 7. "Definitely
lane choice for the first round was important. Qualifying is over. It's
Sunday we concentrate on and we won't have lane choice. If you would
have asked anybody on Friday, the right lane was pretty much junk, compared
to the left lane and yet the right lane came around.
"Hopefully nothing happens during Top Fuel and the lanes stay
pretty even like they are, because guys are running pretty good in both
lanes and we have a shot with Worsham, both having a good lane under
Force, meanwhile, said he's "really excited. All three of my cars
performed (qualifying 4-5-6, all at 4.71 seconds). No records were set
out there, but my car was flying until it dropped a cylinder just before
He said he still plans to go for the national elapsed-time record, if
game plan? We're still looking at the record if the weather’s
there, because it'll run," Force said. "It ran the fastest
half-track speed in my career tonight (268.49 mph at the eighth-mile,
better than the 268.01 he ran at half-track in setting the current NHRA
record of 4.665 seconds). It was really truckin'. It felt like it's
supposed to feel.
"Bottom line, we're going up tomorrow and, I don't know -- I've
just got a lot of confidence about these three cars," he said of
the Castrol/Auto Club Ford Mustangs. "We're on opposite sides of
the ladder so we don't have to listen to all the crap. We're just going
to go out and race and, bottom line, we're planning on winning."
You've been a great audience -- Gary Scelzi sounded
more like a stand-up performer at The Comedy Store than a man poised
to win his first Funny Car championship and pro fourth series title
The No. 1 Funny Car qualifier and points leader said he was "hungry."
Turns out he didn't mean for the championship. "All I had a was
hot dog at lunch," he wisecracked.
at the top of the order, he said, carries no magic. "All it means
is that we did what we came here to do." He knows that No. 16 qualifier
Tim Wilkerson, an independent single-team owner/driver who has struggled
weekend long and made the field in his last chance Saturday night, loves
nothing more than to upset favorites. "That is a car that has beat
big dogs before," Scelzi said of Wilkerson's Levi, Ray & Shoup
Chevy Monte Carlo.
Don Schumacher Racing teammate Whit Bazemore will meet John Force, the
No. 3 driver in the standings who is going for his 14th championship.
This would be a timely chance for Bazemore to pay Scelzi back for helping
him Seattle. (Bazemore was in the championship chase that year, and
when he and Scelzi met, Scelzi had lane choice but ended up in the clearly
Scelzi's take on that was "It could, but Whit doesn't like me
so I'm not going to count on it. No -- Whit and I get along fine.
"But I'm not worried about what Whit's going to do, what Capps
is going to do. I'm worried about what we're going to do," Scelzi
said. "The Mopar/Oakley Dodge needs to win this race. If it does
that, I don't give a damn about what the other ones do, to be honest
with you. I'm not being rude. I'm not worried about them. I'm not going
to get caught up in all the baloney. I'm going to hit the gas the best
I can. If the car runs well and I do my job, we should win. If we don't,
Scelzi said his routine Saturday night is have dinner at the Italian
restaurant in Ontario where he has dined every night here this week,
then "kiss my kids, crawl my butt to bed, wake up in the morning
at 6. And I'm going to walk this whole facility, like every morning."
Then, the waggish Scelzi said he will "say good morning to Rick
[Stewart], the starter, and slip a hundred-dollar bill in his pocket."
As Scelzi might say . . . Thank you very much. Next show at 11 a.m.
Lucky Eleven -- Tony Schumacher blasted to the head
of the Top Fuel lineup Saturday with a 4.466-second elapsed time at
328.78 mph. In doing so, he set another single-season class record for
most No. 1 qualifying positions with 11. That erased a mark that had
stood for nearly a decade, since the late Blaine Johnson -- brother
of Schumacher crew chief Alan Johnson -- did it in 1996. Gary Beck,
who was low-qualifier 11 times in 1983, had shared the distinction with
"The 11 thing -- that's fantastic," Schumacher said. "It
has never been done before. That's amazing. Last race in Vegas, we ran
a 4.49, but it was in the second round of the Bud Shootout and didn't
Schumacher has the chance Sunday to set four other records: most consecutive
victories in a single season in Top Fuel (5), the most consecutive rounds
won in Top Fuel (20), the most consecutive final rounds in Top Fuel
(7), and the largest margin of victory for a POWERade Top Fuel championship.
Schumacher to Funny Car? -- Scott Kalitta made the
word official that he will drive a Funny Car in 2006. Three-time and
reigning Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher said he will do so, too --
but not next year.
"It won't be soon, but it'll definitely happen," Schumacher
said. "This is too good of a team. You don't walk away from something
this good. I want to run a Funny Car, because I have my sights set on
doing that. [Dragsters and] Funny Cars -- I love 'em both. They're both
animals. I don’t want to leave my career and not be able to drive
He said his U.S. Army team should be even more experienced and stronger
next season. "These guys are the best," he said. "I'm
proud to drive for them. No one is even thinking of leaving. So next
year we're going to come back stronger."
He said crew chief Alan Johnson "tried some things on that last
run. I hope I didn't cost my team 25-grand on that." He was referring
to the Full Throttle crew challenge. "My guys deserve it."
Four at 4.4 -- Tony Schumacher teammate Melanie Troxel
used her final qualifying chance to jump to the No. 2 spot in the Skull
Gear/Torco Dragster with a run of 4.473 seconds at 329.83 mph. No. 3
David Baca and No. 4 Brandon Bernstein, Friday's low qualifier, were
the only others in the field of 16 who ran in the 4.4-second range.
'Absolutely fun' -- Tony Schumacher, who sewed up the
Top Fuel championship at Ls Vegas in the previous race, said Sunday's
action will be "fun -- absolutely fun."
He said of the championship, "We've locked it up and it's over."
However, he said his work isn't done. "The winning comes from within.
It isn't a trophy. We want o win the race, man."
He said "absolutely fun" might not be how his Funny Car teammate
Ron Capps is anticipating it.
"Capps is freakin' out," Schumacher said. But he said he
would tell Capps the same thing he told a group of young adults: "You
don't think about it. There's nothing you can do. There's not one thought
that could go through your head that can help your reaction time. When
the lights come on, react." He told the kids that driving a dragster
is "like survival" but that a driver should always remember
one piece of advice: "Enjoy the moment."
As for this year's Funny Car chase, Schumacher said, "Merry Christmas
-- whoever wins this race wins the championship."
Winning a championship is a tricky proposition, he said. "You
can have the most perfect car in the world and have the blower belt
pop off or [have some other mechanical problem] . . . and all of a sudden
you're not the world champion." Added Schumacher, "When I
crashed and it put me out (in 2000), was it fair we finished No. 2 because
I had a broken leg because I flew over the wall? I don't know."
Smith in spoiler mode -- Because his performance has
no championship implications, Pro Stock Motorcycle low qualifier Matt
Smith really has nothing to lose. "If I win this race, I still
won't make it in the top 10," he said.
After keeping his career-first No. 1 status with Friday's track-record
7.000-second pass, the King, North Carolina, rider indicated he would
enjoy the spoiler's role, saying he'd be happy "if we can spoil
one of them other bike's [chances]."
Line leads Pro Stock lineup -- Jason Line won't be
facing Summit Racing Equipment teammate and three-time champion Greg
Anderson in the Pro Stock final round like he did at this race last
year. They're on the same side of the ladder, with Line leading the
16-car field with the Pomona Raceway-record 6.677-second elapsed time
he clocked Friday and Anderson is fourth at 6.685.
The 204 runner-up said he isn't using this performance to learn anything
that will hep him get a jump on the competition early next year. "We
just want to win the race. We're probably greedy, but that's what we
get paid to do."
He said his No. 1 position means that "we just happened to make
one decent run that was better than everybody else's, but we don't have
a handle on it, by any means.
"I'd have felt better if we had made four great runs or at least
three of them," Line said. Then he said of No. 2 Erica Enders,
"Erica has definitely run the best, as far most consistent. She
has made four decent runs. Right now her car . . . certainly looks the
happiest n this race track."
Line and his crew had to work into the night Friday to fix the damage
from his landing in the sand pit after he took the top spot.
"That was kind of a mess," he said, adding that Gary Hansen
of Hansen Race cars here in the area helped the team fix the new Pontiac
GTO. "There was major damage to the front end," Line said.
FRIDAY - SCELZI, BERNSTEIN, LINE AND
SMITH LEAD QUALIFYING AT AUTO CLUB NHRA FINALS AT POMONA RACEWAY
(11-4-2005) - Gary Scelzi raced to the qualifying
lead Friday at Pomona Raceway and gained the early advantage in the
closest Funny Car championship chase in NHRA history.
Scelzi powered his Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus to a 4.696 second run
at 329.18 mph at the Auto Club NHRA Finals to move in front of title
challengers John Force, who qualified eighth in his Castrol GTX Start
Up Ford Mustang, and Ron Capps, who was ninth in his Brut Stratus.
“Yesterday I was nervous because if you go for the throat in the
first session and smoke the tires then it seems like you're playing
catch-up the rest of the weekend," Scelzi said. “But we ran
a safe 4.77 and that allowed Zippy (crew chief Mike Neff) to go for
it tonight. That was a good run and it's important to be ahead of John
and Ron just for the message it sends them.”
Scelzi leads Capps by two points and Force is 28 points back in third
place in the deciding race for the $400,000 POWERade world championship
in the 7,000 horsepower category.
“I've been on edge since Indy, a lot more than I ever was with
my other championship runs, because we're up against the 13-time champ
and it's been such a battle,” Scelzi said. “But today I
was walking up the staging lanes and I saw Frank Hawley and he told
me, 'Scelzi, I don't need to tell you how to drive. All you need to
do is remember why you started drag racing in the first place, and that
was to have fun.' Ever since then my mind has been right and we're just
going to try our best and enjoy the ride. Whatever happens, happens.”
Brandon Bernstein, Jason Line and Matt Smith also were qualifying leaders
at the $1.7 million race, the final of 23 events in the $50 million
NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.
Bernstein was quickest in Top Fuel, as he drove his Budweiser/Lucas
Oil dragster to a 4.491 at 325.45.
looks like the other top teams were really shooting for it tonight,
especially after they saw us go out there and run a 4.49,” Bernstein
said. “It either got too cold out or they just pushed it a little
too hard because no one was able to pass us. That kind of surprised
If Bernstein holds on it would be his third No. 1 qualifying effort
of a season that has had its share of ups and downs for the second-generation
“Our season hasn't been the best,” he said. “It would
mean everything for our guys if we could head into the offseason and
get ready for next year with a win here. We've performed well here in
the past and Tim (Richards, crew chief) has a good track record here.”
Line clocked a track record time of 6.677 at 206.62 in his Summit Racing
Pontiac GTO to lead Pro Stock qualifying and then took a wild ride in
the shut down area following the run.
“It was a good lap, but I felt that given the conditions, somebody
should have been able to go quicker than that,” Line said. “We
thought we could go 6.65 but for the most part the run felt pretty good.
I doubt that number will hold up. If we get conditions tomorrow as good
as they were today, then there are a lot of cars that will be able to
pick it up.”
The parachutes on Line’s car failed to deploy after the run and
his car plunged into the sand traps at the end of the track.
“We have some work to do on the car,” said Line, who was
not injured in the incident. “The front end is a little torn up
and the engine probably has to come out, but we’ll make it. It
could be worse. By the time I realized the parachutes didn’t open
I was running out of race track. I tried to slow down and keep it straight,
but we made it exciting for a few seconds.”
Smith raced to the qualifying lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle with a track
record performance of 7.000 at 189.71 on his Red Line Oil Buell. The
time was the third-quickest in NHRA history.
“I got to the other end and they said I'd run a 7-flat,”
Smith said. “I was like, 'Wow, that's really cool.' Then they
said it was a seven-flat with a zero. I was thinking if I'd just tucked
a little tighter I'd be in the six-second club right now. I guess we'll
have to do it tomorrow. The national record (6.968 seconds, Andrew Hines,
Sonoma, Calif., July 2005) is probably just out of reach but I believe
we can run a 6.98 or 6.99 in the morning session.”
Qualifying continues Saturday with sessions at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Results Friday after qualifying for the 41st annual Auto Club NHRA
Finals at Pomona Raceway, final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA
POWERade Drag Racing Series:
Top Fuel -- 1. Brandon Bernstein, 4.491 seconds, 325.45
mph; 2. Rod Fuller, 4.501, 327.35; 3. Tony Schumacher, 4.504, 328.78;
4. Melanie Troxel, 4.534, 326.63; 5. Doug Herbert, 4.537, 321.19; 6.
Larry Dixon, 4.549, 324.20; 7. Doug Kalitta, 4.573, 324.75; 8. Clay
Millican, 4.578, 319.90; 9. Morgan Lucas, 4.597, 283.49; 10. Cory McClenathan,
4.601, 323.81; 11. Doug Foley, 4.607, 315.64; 12. John Smith, 4.621,
321.81; 13. Bobby Lagana Jr., 4.673, 315.05; 14. Mike Strasburg, 4.673,
298.01; 15. Scott Weis, 4.748, 281.30; 16. Joe Hartley, 4.856, 271.73.
Funny Car -- 1. Gary Scelzi, Dodge Stratus, 4.696,
329.18; 2. Tony Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.710, 329.99; 3. Cruz
Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.714, 328.94; 4. Eric Medlen, Ford Mustang,
4.715, 328.06; 5. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.735, 318.24; 6. Robert
Hight, Mustang, 4.745, 323.66; 7. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 4.750, 328.54;
8. John Force, Mustang, 4.761, 325.53; 9. Ron Capps, Stratus, 4.768,
326.63; 10. Tommy Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.795, 321.81; 11. Whit
Bazemore, Stratus, 4.800, 323.27; 12. Frank Pedregon, Stratus, 4.816,
278.23; 13. Jim Head, Stratus, 4.822, 323.89; 14. Terry Haddock, Pontiac
Firebird, 4.840, 310.48; 15. Bob Bode, Firebird, 4.845, 259.21; 16.
Jack Wyatt, Firebird, 4.847, 309.77.
Pro Stock -- 1. Jason Line, Pontiac GTO, 6.677, 206.83;
2. Kurt Johnson, Chevy Cobalt, 6.683, 207.62; 3. Erica Enders, Cobalt,
6.683, 206.70; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.685, 206.83; 5. Jeg Coughlin,
Dodge Stratus, 6.704, 205.79; 6. Rickie Smith, Cobalt, 6.705, 205.79;
7. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.707, 205.60; 8. Mike Thomas, Stratus,
6.708, 205.41; 9. Mark Pawuk, GTO, 6.712, 205.47; 10. Dave Connolly,
Cobalt, 6.715, 205.51; 11. Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.716, 204.48; 12.
Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.717, 207.15; 13. Larry Morgan, Stratus, 6.717,
205.63; 14. Bob Panella, Cobalt, 6.721, 205.57; 15. Tom Martino, Stratus,
6.724, 206.13; 16. Dave Howard, Cobalt, 6.725, 205.32.
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.000,
189.82; 2. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 7.039, 191.57; 3. Ryan Schnitz,
Buell, 7.063, 187.91; 4. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.075, 190.11; 5. Chip
Ellis, Buell, 7.079, 188.94; 6. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.089, 187.60;
7. GT Tonglet, Harley-Davidson, 7.129, 189.39; 8. Wesley Wells, Suzuki,
7.135, 188.67; 9. Craig Treble, Suzuki, 7.139, 188.10; 10. Steve Johnson,
Suzuki, 7.152, 186.48; 11. Mike Berry, Kawasaki, 7.155, 185.21; 12.
Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.190, 186.43; 13. Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.198, 185.89;
14. Matt Guidera, Buell, 7.205, 183.99; 15. Michael Phillips, Suzuki,
7.218, 188.02; 16. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.221, 185.41.
FRIDAY NOTES - Force, Capps and Scelzi
Make Early Field, Line Goes Long, Don't Talk to Zippy, Smith Looking
to Settle Indy Score...
Tire shake shakes Capps -- Ron Capps dropped from
third to ninth Friday after the second session of qualifying, as his
Don Schumacher Racing-owned Brut Dodge Stratus experienced tire shake.
"When we rolled up, nobody had made it down the right lane up
to that point. And it's just hard to tell whether it's the cars or the
track at that point," he said. "But we still felt confident
we could run a low (4).70 and improve on our (4).76, but in that run
it just shook real hard and it wasn't going to make it through.
"Both mine and Scelzi's [car] rattled pretty good last night but
made it through it. But that run, mine just didn't make it," Capps
said. "It rattled and went into tire shake. It's unfortunate, because
the air conditions were pretty good, but we'll be OK.
"Tomorrow," Capps said, "we run after the dragsters,
and I think it's going to be a great session. A lot of things are going
to mix up so we'll see what happens."
Capps entered this event, the final one of 23 on the Powerade Series
schedule, just two points behind leader Gary Scelzi.
in hunting mode -- John Force got only half of what he wanted
He didn't reset the national record, an achievement he said he thought
he would need to earn his 14th Funny Car driving championship and 15th
as a team owner. However, he put his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang into the16-car
field. He closed Friday in the eighth position, despite having to attempt
his run twice because of a Christmas tree malfunction.
"We didn't go for the record. The conditions weren't there. We
set it up to get into the show," Force said. "Then it started
cooling down and we had that [timing system] malfunction that put us
back [in the pits]. We really didn’t know what to do. Do we put
a clutch in it? No. Just get in the show. So all we did was change the
oil in it, cool it down and drag it back up there. Basically, you got
to be in the show to have a shot and now we're in the show. This would
be a bad time for John Force not to qualify."
He appears on his way to extending to 369 the record number of consecutive
events for which he has qualified a Castrol GTX Funny Car. It has been
23 years since he failed to make a starting lineup. That was at the
Force said that Saturday night he is "goin' hunting. It's that
simple. We're going after that record."
As for points leader Gary Scelzi taking the provisional No. 1 spot Friday,
Force said, "I congratulate him for running that 4.69. They told
us they were going to try to shoot a number. But now we're ready. We
know the body works. We're not afraid of it. We come across the scale,
we're a lot lighter but we're not so light that we have to worry about
getting tossed [for being under the 2,400-pound minimum]. We're going
to shoot it out there tomorrow."
Notable 'have nots' -- Still unqualified in the Funny Car class
after two of four sessions are Tim Wilkerson, Bob Gilbertson, Tony Bartone,
and Phil Burkart.
Pomona trend -- Jason Line, driver of the Summit Racing Equipment
Pontiac GTO, is following Funny Car driver Tony Pedregon's cue. He became
the provisional No. 1 Pro Stock qualifier with a track-record 6.677
seconds at 206.83 mph and ended up in the sand pit when his parachutes
didn't open at the end of the run. Pedregon did the same -- except the
sand pit was mud when he was there during the February Winternationals.
Line said he would spend the night helping his crew repair the body
damage and would be "cleaning the dirt out of my lungs and the
car." He said the front-end damage was fixable, "cosmetic,
for the most part," although it would take a few extra hours Friday
night. "The engine probably has to come out," he said.
He mockingly pretended he didn't know who was responsible for folding
and packing his parachutes (himself) but said he thought the culprit
likely was a mechanical failure of some kind.
"The 'chutes didn't come out," Line said. "By the time
I realized it, you're eating up a lot of ground fast."
He said Anderson "asked what in the hell I was doing. Nah -- he
asked if I was all right."
The excursion into the sand, he insisted, wasn't a protest against team
owner Ken Black. The Las Vegas builder had treated Line's and teammate
Greg Anderson's crew and families to a Hawaiian vacation last fall after
Anderson won his second straight championship. Anderson clinched his
third title at the previous race, but they all agreed that they wouldn't
take any more surf-and-beach trips. They thought that might have been
a distraction to their operation, for this season started out on a sour
"We definitely don't want to go [to Hawaii]," Line said.
"If we started the year out this lousy, we need to be in the shop,
Won't be enough? -- Line said his track-record elapsed
time "was a good lap" but guessed that it won't keep in the
top position Saturday. "I doubt it," he said. "Somebody
should be able to go faster."
Technically, Kurt Johnson did. He set the track speed mark Friday at
207.62 mph in his ACDelco Chevy Cobalt.
But Line said "there's definitely room for more" from the
Pro Stock frontrunners.
Baby boom -- Jason Line is in third place in the Pro
Stock standings, but he certainly could have used the $400,000 that
teammate Greg Anderson will be presented Monday evening at the sanctioning
body's awards ceremony. He could use it to add a room to his Terrell,
North Carolina, home. It's an addition he might need for all the baby
clothes and items he and wife Cindy have been receiving.
They're expecting their first child in January. And friends in Las Vegas
gave them a baby shower. So did friends in California before the start
of this weekend's event.
He said they are grateful for the outpouring of affection and all the
thoughtful gifts, but they received so much that they have made arrangements
to send them home in the team hauler.
Drought since Denver -- Brandon Bernstein is in line to claim
his first No. 1 Top Fuel qualifier award since the July race at Denver.
The Budweiser/Lucas Oil Dragster driver said, "Our season hasn't
been the best. We've had highs and lows. It would mean everything to
our team to win and build for '06. It's always nice to win the last
one." He said crew chief Tim Richards is "doing a lot of research"
with the dragster's clutch and engine. "We need to be more consistent,"
advice to heart -- Gary Scelzi said his 4.696-second, 329.18-mph
pass in the Schumacher Racing Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus that swiped
the Funny Car low-qualifier honor from Robert Hight partly was the result
of some sage advice from Frank Hawley.
"Yesterday I was nervous, because things can happen. I've seen
them happen. If you go for the throat on the first run and you smoke
the tires, then you start chasing. If a stupid part breaks or you have
a mental lapse, you could end up not racing on Sunday. And then what
kind of a championship is this?" he said. "So it was really
important to get the car qualified."
He said since the U.S. Nationals in September -- five races ago --
"I don't feel like I've really been on my game." The three-time
Top Fuel champion said, "I've been tense, more so than all the
Then along came a wise longtime friend while Scelzi and crew were in
the staging lanes before this second of four qualifying runs. He's Frank
Hawley, the former driver and motivational expert/driving school owner,
someone who had helped Scelzi in 1998.
Scelzi said he told Hawley that he had been "edgy" and "nervous."
He said, "I haven't the normal, goofy Scelzi. It just seems like
I'm putting so much into this, because you don't know when you're going
to get a chance to get a shot a championship. You've worked your whole
life for it. It makes it worse when you're going against a 13-time champion.
And Ron Capps, he just doesn't have the ring yet but he's more than
Hawley reminded him that he has forgotten that he's a drag racer "because
it's fun, because you love doing this. You just need to relax and get
the attitude nobody's going to beat you. It doesn't matter what anybody
thinks. Just go in there, because you're in the car -- you're in control."
Scelzi said he followed Hawley's advice.
"Frank didn't tell me anything I didn't know," Scelzi said.
"I just had forgotten what this is all about."
So is Scelzi having fun? "I think I am now," he said. "You
get caught up in this. Everybody gets in this whirlwind. You can't get
caught up in this, because you'll make mistakes.
"I'm just going to go up there and hit the gas and see if it's
my time or it's not."
He said he's not planning to take a class at Frank Hawley's drag-racing
school. He joked that Hawley said, "You don't drive that good.
I just told you that so you'd make a good run. After Sunday, I'm going
to tell you how bad you are and maybe you should take classes."
Weight, records Force's concern -- John Force's strategy
of weighing the decals for his car in an effort to shed excess pounds,
even ounces, from his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang didn't surprise Gary
"When your car's overweight, that’s important. Ours isn't,"
he said. "So I'm eating cheeseburgers."
He said Force is right, though. But he said he really doesn't concentrate
on what others are doing. "I don't look at the ladder until Saturday
He said Force's talk about lowering his own national speed record was
an attempt "to get more press, because that record thing was a
longshot." Said Scelzi, "I don't think you can set a national
record with the rev limiter. That's the one key element. In Chicago,
we were in a mineshaft. This place is good, but it's not quite as smooth.
Conditions aren't as good. I'm not saying it can't happen, but it'll
take an act of Congress.
"John may seem like he's desperate but he's not. If John Force
happens to win the Powerade championship this year, I don't think anyone
would be shocked. I think the big shock is that Capps or myself can
beat him. And I'm not just saying that. That guy has won too many championships.
And last time I checked, he had a pulse."
says it all -- Mike Neff, Gary Sclezi's crew chief on the Mopar/Oakley
Dodge Stratus Funny Car, has a message for everyone: "Don't talk
to me." He had a T-shirt made Thursday night with the slogan on
it, but the ink was too strong and the smell of it was bothering him.
So he didn't wear it Friday.
"Mike's a quiet guy," Scelzi said. "We've roped our pit
area off from hospitality. We want our guys, myself, and Mike to do
our normal thing. People may think that's rude, but there are too many
hangers-on, too many distractions, too many things that we don't want
to bother us. We know what got us here. Let us sink or swim on our own."
Setting the record straight -- Gary Scelzi said Friday
he is not going to quit if he wins the Funny Car championship and becomes
the only driver besides Kenny Bernstein to win titles in both Top Fuel
and Funny Car. "My contract is up at the end of next year,"
he said, adding that he will evaluate his options later, around the
time of the Labor Day weekend U.S. Nationals.
Pro Stock's Jason Line tried to put to rest rumors that he will bolt
Greg Anderson's operation in 2006. "I'm going to work for Greg
until he fires me," Line said. He said he has made no secret that
he doesn't want to drive forever. "If I quit driving, I'd still
work for Greg."
A matter of time -- Gary Scelzi has a 9-8 career record
against John Force, who has won the championship 13 times and as owner
or driver for all but one year since 1990. But Scelzi said he's not
impressed with the rare feat: "If you race Force long enough you
won't have a winning record against Force."
Smith Goes to The Top -- Matt Smith took the Torco/G-Squared
S&S Buell to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle order Friday with
a track-record 7.000 elapsed time at 189.82 mph.
"We always like to disrupt the Harley deal," the King, North
Carolina, rider said. "Being the No. 1 qualifier is a dream come
true. That's what we're striving for. Hopefully tomorrow we can do that.
He said he's not certain the time will hold up. Five other riders --
Andrew Hines, top Thursday qualifier Ryan Schnitz, Antron Brown, former
Pomona Raceway record-holder Chip Ellis, and Angelle Sampey -- also
ran in the 7.0-second range.
"We'll go the last pair out, so somebody has a chance to do that
before us," Smith said.
Smith, who was declared the winner at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis,
only to have his first victory rescinded because videotape showed Steve
Johnson clearly the winner, said, "We put our Indy motor back in
-- and just got it back fresh -- and our Indy tune-up back in, and we're
out here flying."
Winning, he said, might make up for his disappointment at Indianapolis.
"Indy was a sting. It was my mess-up," he said. "But
we're going to try to win this last race and end the year on a good
He said he responded with "Cool!" to the news that he ran
a 7-second-flat pass. When he found out the E.T. was 7.00 with a zero
in the thousandths column, he said, "You're kidding me!"
"I don't know if there's a possibility of breaking the national
record here. That'd have to be a 6.96, but we can definitely get in
the 6s, I think. We can probably run a (6.) 98 or .99. That's what we're
going to strive for tomorrow." The bikes are scheduled to run at
11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, and Smith said, "11, that's going
to be our best session."
Andrew Hines owns the national time record, a 6.968 seconds he set July
30 at Sonoma, California. The Harley-Davidson rider, who leads the standings
by 47 points, also has the national speed record at 197.45 mph, which
posted March 19 at Gainesville, Florida.
absent -- Mike Ashley isn't racing his Skull Gear/Torco Race
Fuels Chevy Monte Carlo for the Checker Schucks Kragen team this weekend.
He's in northern Florida, participating with local Pro Mod racers in
a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society. Ashley's father, Kenny,
is in treatment for prostate cancer.
He had made the commitment to sponsor Roger McCombs RV Super Center
before he finalized the Funny Car agreement with the Worsham family.
McCombs reportedly plans to race in the NHRA Pro Stock class in 2006
with backing from Route 66, a national network of RV dealerships.
Ashley, the two-time NHRA Pro Modified champion, announced Friday that
he will campaign a 23-race Funny Car schedule in 2006.
"I'm realistic and I'm new at Funny Car," Ashley said. "I
have a lot learn, and our team is only five races old. However, I only
know one way of thinking, whether pulling into the gates of a race or
opening a season, and that is to go for the top spot. I can promise
you 23 times this year we will aim to win, and our goal is to compete
for a championship. Working with the Worshams has proven to be a wise
choice, and I am confident that our ongoing relationship will yield
performance gains for all of the team cars over the winter."
Skull Gear owner Evan Knoll said Ashley "is first class by any
standards. The brand recognition that he has created for our company
Mark Oswald tunes the Monte Carlo which qualified in the quickest-ever
Funny Car field and carried Ashley to three personal-best outings.
d v e r t i s e m e n t
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THURSDAY - SCELZI, CAPPS IN FIELD BUT
FORCE FAILS TO QUALIFY ON FIRST ATTEMPT AS FUNNY CAR CHAMPIONSHIP CHASE
Fuller, Hight, Enders and Schnitz lead qualifying at Auto Club
(11-04-2005) - Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps are qualified
but John Force remains on the outside looking in after one qualifying
session Thursday at the Auto Club NHRA Finals at historic Pomona Raceway.
The three drivers will settle the tightest Funny Car points chase in
NHRA history during Sundays 11 a.m. eliminations at the $1.7 million
race, the final of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing
Among the championship contenders in Funny Car, Capps qualified third
in his Brut Dodge Stratus, while Scelzi drove his Mopar/Oakley Stratus
to a sixth-place effort. Force was 19th overall, outside the 16-car
starting order, after his Castrol GTX Start Up Ford Mustang lost traction
at the start of his run.
Qualifying continues with one session Friday (2 p.m.) and two sessions
on Saturday (11 a.m. and 2 p.m.). Entering this weekends event, Scelzi
holds a two-point lead over Capps and is 28 in front of 13-time world
”We know were in the show,” said Scelzi, who hopes to join
Kenny Bernstein as the only drivers to win POWERade world championships
in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. “Everything is good. Don’t
worry about Force. He’s going to be fine, too. He’s playing
Capps is looking for his first world championship title after finishing
second two times.
”It was nice to go down there side-by-side and to get in the
show,” Capps said. “Force can go for the record, but over
here we wanted to get in the show, for all of us.”
Force said early in the week that his team’s strategy was going
to be to take some extra weight off his car and go for the national
performance record, worth 20 bonus points.
The conditions weren’t where we wanted ‘em and that’ll
hurt us tomorrow because it’ll put us early (in the first qualifying
session),” Force said. We don’t change over one run. We’ve
got a light race car and we have to put some weight back on it because
last night it weighed too light. Some of the motor stuff were trying
just hopped this thing up. It was running faster than Robert’s
at the 60-foot mark but just wouldn’t go beyond.”
Rod Fuller, Robert Hight, Erica Enders, and Ryan Schnitz were qualifying
leaders in their respective categories.
was quickest in Top Fuel, posting a 4.501-second run at 316.08 mph in
his David Powers Homes dragster.
“We were pushing for a 4.40 run and it was on a better run than
a 4.50 but the car made a weird dart on me at the top end because we
lost an oil line that put oil under the left rear tire,” said
Fuller, who dedicated his leading run to his mother Cathy, who underwent
an emergency liver transplant yesterday at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
Minn. “It was probably on a 4.47 run. We only ran 316 mph and
this car will usually run 329 or 330. That number won’t hold up
for the No. 1 spot; I bet that the top six cars will be in the 4.40s
before the end of qualifying. That’s OK because we plan on running
a mid-4.40 before its over.”
led Funny Car, posting a 4.745 at 323.66 in his Auto Club Ford Mustang.
“That run counted,” said Hight, who is one of the nominees
for the Auto Club Road to the Future Award, which will be presented
to the series top rookie Monday night at the NHRA Awards Ceremony near
Palm Springs. “That’ll qualify no matter what. Now we have
room to get after it. Hopefully John and Eric (Medlen) can learn from
us and get John up there.”
Enders paced the Pro Stock order, covering the distance in 6.696 at
206.29 in her Slammers Ultimate Milk Chevy Cobalt. If she can hold onto
the top spot, she would be the first woman to earn a No. 1 qualifying
position in Pro Stock.
definitely awesome to be No. 1,” said Enders, also a nominee for
the Road to the Future Award. “It’s a big improvement over
the season-opener here. I’m really proud of my team for all of
the progress we’ve made since (the U.S. Mac Tools Nationals at)
Indy. We have been steadily improving our qualifying position and have
been in the top half of the field the last four or five races.
“I’m not sure that run will hold up through qualifying for
No. 1, but these are supposed to have been the best atmospheric conditions
of the weekend. That also wasn’t our best run; I didn’t
do a good job shifting and the car didn’t leave the line straight.
I know that Greg and Jason and Kurt and Warren have more left in their
cars as well.
rode his Muzzy.com Buell to the top of the Pro Stock Motorcycle order,
posting a 7.072 at 185.13.
“It would be great to get up there and take some guys out and
finish in the top five,” Schnitz said. “Making a good run
on your first pass is important to get the data you need for the rest
of the event. We had a really good pass and we can definitely use that
information. Running that good early also shows your competition that
you’re ready and on your game, and that they need to step up and
get on theirs.”
Pro Stock Motorcycle series leader Andrew Hines qualified fifth and
his closest competition, Harley-Davidson teammate GT Tonglet, qualified
seventh. Hines, the defending series champ, leads Tonglet by 47 points
entering the race.
Results Thursday after qualifying for the 41st annual Automobile
Club of SouthernCalifornia NHRA Finals at Pomona Raceway, final of 23
events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series. Qualifying
will continue Friday for Sunday's final eliminations.
Top Fuel -- 1. Rod Fuller, 4.501 seconds, 316.08 mph;
2. Tony Schumacher, 4.504, 328.78; 3. Melanie Troxel, 4.534, 326.63;
4. Larry Dixon, 4.549, 324.20; 5. Doug Herbert, 4.553, 317.79; 6. Doug
Kalitta, 4.573, 324.75; 7. Morgan Lucas, 4.597, 283.49; 8. Cory McClenathan,
4.601, 323.81; 9. Brandon Bernstein, 4.672, 314.83; 10. Doug Foley,
4.673, 308.35; 11. Clay Millican, 4.696, 300.53;
12. Scott Weis, 4.748, 281.30; 13. Mike Strasburg, 4.822, 269.56; 14.
Robert Reehl, 4.865, 297.02; 15. Jack Beckman, 4.989, 206.95; 16. David
Grubnic, 6.428, 121.63.
Funny Car -- 1. Robert Hight, Ford Mustang, 4.745,
323.66; 2. Cruz Pedregon, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.760, 324.12; 3. Ron Capps,
Dodge Stratus, 4.768, 326.63; 4. Eric Medlen, Mustang, 4.773, 324.51;
5. Tony Pedregon, Monte Carlo, 4.778, 322.58; 6. Gary Scelzi, Stratus,
4.778, 320.66; 7. Del Worsham, Monte Carlo, 4.782, 328.54; 8. Tommy
Johnson Jr., Monte Carlo, 4.795, 321.81; 9. Whit
Bazemore, Stratus, 4.800, 323.27; 10. Frank Pedregon, Stratus, 4.816,
278.23; 11. Gary Densham, Monte Carlo, 4.821, 318.24; 12. Jim Head,
Stratus, 4.822, 323.89; 13. Dale Pulde, Pontiac Firebird, 5.009, 302.08;
14. Dale Creasy Jr., Monte Carlo, 5.381, 220.62; 15. Bob Gilbertson,
Monte Carlo, 5.392, 191.67; 16. Bob Bode, Firebird, 5.590, 175.75.
Pro Stock -- 1. Erica Enders, Chevy Cobalt, 6.696,
206.29; 2. Kurt Johnson, Cobalt, 6.699, 206.64; 3. Jason Line, Pontiac
GTO, 6.704, 206.67; 4. Greg Anderson, GTO, 6.714, 206.83; 5. Jeg Coughlin,
Dodge Stratus, 6.719, 205.41; 6. Richie Stevens, Stratus, 6.729, 205.57;
7. Jim Yates, GTO, 6.730, 205.10; 8. Dave Connolly, Cobalt, 6.739, 205.44;
9. Warren Johnson, GTO, 6.741, 206.35;
10. V. Gaines, Stratus, 6.741, 205.38; 11. Mike Edwards, GTO, 6.750,
205.01; 12. Greg Stanfield, Chevy Cavalier, 6.750, 204.48; 13. Mark
Pawuk, GTO, 6.760, 204.91; 14. Dave Howard, Cobalt, 6.763, 205.32; 15.
Allen Johnson, Stratus, 6.763, 204.48; 16. Mike Thomas, Stratus, 6.765,
Pro Stock Motorcycle -- 1. Ryan Schnitz, Buell, 7.072,
185.13; 2. Chip Ellis, Buell, 7.091, 187.60; 3. Matt Smith, Buell, 7.097,
189.82; 4. Antron Brown, Suzuki, 7.141, 187.23; 5. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson,
7.155, 187.55; 6. Mike Berry, Kawasaki, 7.155, 185.21; 7. GT Tonglet,
Harley-Davidson, 7.162, 186.85; 8. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 7.196, 185.18;
9. Geno Scali, Suzuki, 7.212, 186.43; 10. Joe DeSantis, Suzuki, 7.221,
185.41; 11. Tom Bradford, Buell, 7.229, 183.64; 12. Michael Phillips,
Suzuki, 7.285, 188.02; 13. Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 7.343, 183.17; 14.
Chris Rivas, Buell, 7.348, 181.67; 15. Connie Cohen, Suzuki, 7.369,
178.95; 16. Blaine Hale, Suzuki, 7.370, 180.91.
d v e r t i s e m e n t
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THURSDAY NOTES -
DOING IT FOR MOM, TRICKY TRACK SPOOKING SCELZI AND CAPPS, KORETSKY WATCHING,
HIGHT LEADS FUNNY CAR FIELD . . .
Thoughts with his mother --
Rod Fuller said Thursday, "I've got my fingers crossed and I'm
praying. I'm a very spiritual person."
He wasn't referring to whether he would maintain the No. 1 qualifying
position in the Top Fuel class. The Las Vegas resident was three-thousandths
of a second quicker than newly crowned champion Tony Schumacher in the
opening day of qualifying for the Auto Club of Southern California Finals
at Pomona Raceway, taking the tentative top spot with a 4.501-second
pass at 316.08 mph in the Valvoline/David Powers Homes Dragster.
Fuller's thoughts were with his mother, Cathy, who underwent an emergency
liver transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, early Wednesday.
"She's made it the first 24 hours. That's one of the big things,"
he said. "It was real unexpected. She went up there, and she knew
she had some problems. All of a sudden -- boom. Unfortunately, something
happened to somebody, and they had this perfect match. So [they said]
let's do it and let's do it now."
Fuller said he was especially thankful because he was told more than
200,000 patients waiting for an organ transplant. "To me, it was
meant to be," Fuller said.
The sobering experience admittedly has made him think differently about
organ donations. "Being a guy and thinking' about that kind of
stuff," he said, always had seemed a bit macabre. "But now
that I think of it, I'm going to be a big spokesperson for it,"
he said. "Just to have your mom or dad or brother or sister or
uncle or somebody for an extra day means a lot. That night I definitely
signed my license and my wife signed hers," agreeing to be organ
He said, "My mom, before she went into surgery, I was the last
person she talked to. And it was really hard. She said, 'Come to Pomona
and race and win and do well.'
"Hopefully, God doesn't need her right now, because I sure do.
But I don't want to be selfish," Fuller said. "It's tough.
I'm worried about my dad. He's taking it really hard."
His younger brother Tony, who competes in the Super Comp/Super Gas
sportsman-level categories, is racing here this weekend, as well.
Light not working -- John Force had said he was going
to put his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang Funny Car on a diet this weekend.
He wanted the 2500-pound car to be as light as possible, because he
was going for the national elapsed-time record and the 20 points it
carries. He's in third place, 28 points behind leader Gary Scelzi, and
he, Scelzi and No. 2 Ron Capps (who's just two points out of first)
need every precious point they can earn.
Before his run Thursday, he was weighing decals, trying to jettison
everything that he could. The "Castrol GTX" label on the new
carbon-fiber body was from a decal, not paint. Surprisingly, paint can
add 25 to 40 pounds to a body.
"We're pulling all the safety stuff off the car," Force had
said earlier. "We're going to push it to the maximum. We need that
He didn’t get it Thursday. He didn't even get all the way down
the track. He pushed his Mustang to the maximum and the engine let go,
leaving him outside the field, 19th out of 23 Funny Car entrants, with
a 9.959-second E.T. at 67.68 mph. Teammate Robert Hight, opposite him
in the left lane, was quickest with a 4.745-second, 323.66-mph performance.
Will that failed attempt change Force's strategy?
"No way. For one run? No. Not for three runs," the 13-time
champion said. "The strategy is we came here to do what we got
to do. The conditions weren't where we wanted 'em and that'll hurt us
for tomorrow, because it'll put us early [in the first qualifying session].
But, no, we don't change over one run. We were in trouble early in the
first [test] run at Vegas, before we ran all the 4.70s. But, no, we're
staying on track.
"We've got a light race car and we have to put some weight back
on it because last night, it [weighed] too light," he said. "You've
got to make sure that you're safe. It was down around 10 pounds [under
the 2,400 pound weight minimum], so we added a little and made sure
it would go across the scales. We didn't really get a true reading,
because it still had too much fuel in it. Some of the motor stuff we're
trying just hopped this thing up. It was running faster than Robert's
at the 60-foot but just wouldn't go beyond."
Force isn't the first in his organization to go for the lean look.
A couple of years ago, Force said then-teammate Gary Densham "is
old-school. He doesn't want anything on the car that will weigh it down.
He doesn't use a radio. I've been talking to him for a couple of years,
and I just found out he ain't got a radio. I wondered why he never answered
Not perfect but No. 1 -- When the season opened here
with the Winternationals, Funny Car rookie Robert Hight didn't quite
know what to expect. As the season finale kicked off, the two-time winner
was in much the same position. However, the circumstances -- and the
stakes -- were much different.
"With a brand-new car like that we had no idea what we were going
to run," he said of his John Force-owned Auto Club of Southern
California Ford Mustang that soared to the top of the order with a 4.745-second
pass at 323.66 mph.
"Everything on the computer looks awesome," Hight said. He
said crew chief Jimmy Prock "is super happy right now."
While the effort might have been Thursday's best in the class, Hight
said it wasn't perfect, by any means. "It got on the rev limiter
down there and it just quit. It would've run a lot better. You feel
that and it just dies. It puts all kind of cylinders out because it's
taking out 25 degrees of timing," he said.
"I don't think I did a perfect job staging, because it kind of
caught me by surprise when it lit. I think I rolled the light a little
or it might've been a (4).73-something. I'm just glad we're better off
now than we were at the Winternationals (in which a timing equipment
malfunction provided no data on a run that may have been the quickest
in qualifying). That run counted. That'll qualify no matter what. Now
we have room to get after it."
Hight has dropped out of the championship chase, but he knows he still
has a chance to help boss and father-in-law Force in this last-ditch
effort to make up the 28 points he traislleade Gary Scelzi. "Hopefully,
John and Eric can learn from us and get John up there," High said
of his first-day data.
Sixth better than 17th -- Gary Scelzi settled for sixth
place in the Funny Car order Thursday as he tried to preserve his lead
with Don Schumacher Racing teammate Ron Capps just two points behind
and John Force 28 off the pace. However, it could have been worse for
the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Stratus driver.
"I was nervous that run," he said. "I was lined way
to the right. There were a lot of bald spots up there. I wanted to get
this car down the race track, and I didn't want to screw up. And I looked
how far over the groove was and it was almost a full car over to the
left. And I said, 'Oh, God, I got to drive it back over there.'
"But it worked. We went down there, we put a hole out down there,
because it was running really good. Put a hole out but we're in the
show," Scelzi said. "I don't think a (4).77 is going to get
bumped. I don't think there's ever been a .77 bump. That was my big
concern. Where we all end up. We'll worry about that later."
The Fresno, California, native said of his early spot, "I'm OK
with it. Everything is good."
As for rival John Force, who's unqualified after his stab at the national
title and 20 critical points, Scelzi said, "Don't worry about Force.
He's going to be fine, too. He's playing with us."
Feelin' groovy -- Ron Capps, who took the provisional
No. 3 spot behind Hight and Cruz Pedregon Thursday with a 4.768-second
elapsed time at 326.63 mph, said he's glad teammate Gary Scelzi isn't
fearless going into this do-or-die weekend.
"I'm glad Gary is nervous," he said.
The Carlsbad, California, driver said he, too, had concerns about getting
out of the groove and was worried about sounds he thought his Don Schumacher-owned
Brut Dodge was making.
"Ace and I just had a big talk," Capps said. "I was
hearing stuff in the car. I was hearing clanks and clunks, and I was
on the radio going, I think there's something wrong with the rear end."
Capps called the track "tricky," definitely not a treat.
"The left lane is probably the lane of choice, so there's a lot
of tricky stuff," he said. "Lanny [Miglizzi], who looks at
the track, gets out the diagram, when he pulled the map out of this
track, he had lines and stuff written all over it. So, it's a tricky,
tricky track. All the fans at home watching this weekend need to know
how tough it's going to be in a Funny Car, because the groove is narrow.
And when a chew chief leans in and tells you you have to line up out
of the groove, you have to be one inch at 330 feet to be over one way
and be back in the other direction at 800 feet, you look at him like
he's crazy, but you have to do it and somehow we pulled it off this
Like Scelzi, Capps said he was happy to make the 16-car field. "Force
can go for the record," he said, "but over here we wanted
to get in the show, for all of us."
Huh? -- In one wild Funny Car scenario, John Force
could set the national record and beat No. 2 Ron Capps in the final
round and still lose the championship. In that case, Capps would win
the tiebreaker because of head-to-head results. The Brut Dodge driver
is 4-3 against Force this season.
Hoo-ah! -- A banner hanging at Fort Knox in Kentucky
proclaims, "Congratulations to Tony Schumacher and the U.S. Army
Top Fuel team -- 2005 NHRA Powerade Champions."
but here -- Kenny Koretsky said it hurts to laugh and to hiccup.
But the Pro Stock owner/driver and Top Fuel team owner was feeling well
enough to be in Pomona. The Richboro, Pennsylvania, resident is recuperating
from a devastating crash that left him with multiple injuries, including
a separated sternum and bruised heart.
He saw his substitute, Mike Thomas, of Knoxville, Tennessee, anchor
the Pro Stock field in his Nitro Fish Wear Dodge Stratus with a 6.765-second
pass at 204.88 mph Thursday.
Road warriors -- Kenny Koretsky also saw Clay Millican
put his Werner Enterprises/Koretsky Racing Dragster in 11th place with
a 4.696/300.53. While it might not have been in the top half of the
field, it was a remarkable effort by a team that has traveled about
8,000 miles in the last three weeks.
The crew for the five-time IHRA champion left the Atoka, Tennessee,
shop and went to the NHRA Las Vegas race, criss-crossed the country
to the IHRA finale -- which he won and did it in style with a career-best
4.484 second E.T. -- in Rockingham, and then traveled to Pomona, California.
Millican crew chief Mike Kloeber has been changing the combination
drastically in the past few months, with new cylinder heads, manifolds,
"We have some more new parts and pieces and we're very, very excited,"
he said. "I always have the utmost confidence in Mike, no matter
if the car's running good or bad. But boy, once he gets it figured out,
he's just very capable."
Kloeber has won three times at Pomona, with Funny Car drivers Tim Grose
(once) and Jim Epler (twice).