Courtesy: Judy Stropus





Gary Scelzi took two new HEMI Oakley Dodge Funny Cars to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this past weekend, but ended up testing only one in a very productive first official NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series pre-season test session Jan. 29-Feb. 1.

Crew chief Mike Neff and the HEMI Oakley Dodge team were ready to continue testing on Monday, Feb. 2, but the already cold conditions at The Strip worsened, so they decided to pack up and head to Firebird International Raceway (in Chandler, Ariz., south of Phoenix) for the second official NHRA session Feb. 6-8. The team plans to test both new cars at Firebird.

Temperatures in Las Vegas reached a high of 63 degrees on Saturday, with the rest of the weekend's temperatures hovering in the mid-40s and 50s. It was a fruitful test session for the HEMI Oakley Dodge team, however, as Scelzi posted his weekend-best run of 4.794/310.48 on Sunday, which bettered his Saturday pass of 4.803/313.80, while still in test mode.

"We tested new things," said Scelzi, who holds the NHRA national Funny Car top-speed record of 329.18 mph, set in 2003. "It took a couple of days to get all the things to work right. Basically, we went into test mode on Saturday and the car is a lot quicker to the 330-ft. mark than it was last year, which is what we have been working on over the winter. We ran a 4.80 and a 4.79 and we feel that we're not even close to the potential of the new combination. We feel pretty good about what we learned and what we went through.

"It was just so cold in Las Vegas. These are conditions we are probably never going to see," said the Fresno, Calif., native. "The track was so cold and the air was so cold. We just tried to the best we could with the conditions we had. The race track was incredible. It had really good bite, even better than in Chicago (where Scelzi set the national speed record).

"We've got all the adjustments made, we've got our fuel curve right, we've got our clutch management really close where it needs to be. So, we'll go to Phoenix under totally different conditions and start to make adjustments there.

"Our goal for the Vegas test was to get all the bugs out of it, so that when we got to the Phoenix test we would be a whole lot closer. When we leave Phoenix we should be ready to go for Pomona," he added. The 2004 season opens at Pomona Raceway in Southern California Feb. 19-22.