Gary Scelzi, a four-time NHRA champion, will be the keynote speaker for the Mel Larson Night of Champions on Wednesday, April 11. Scelzi replaces John Force, who asked to be excused from the engagement in the wake of the death of teammate Eric Medlen.

The event, which will honor local NHRA team owner and businessman Ken Black, is set for Bellagio's grand ballroom. All proceeds from the event will benefit the Las Vegas chapter of Speedway Children's Charities.

"I am honored to be asked to step in for my good friend John Force," Scelzi said. "While these are less than ideal circumstances, I look forward to being able to take part in an event that honors a true gentleman such as Ken Black and an event that benefits such a worthy cause as Speedway Children's Charities."

Scelzi is one of only two drivers in NHRA history to win championships in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Scelzi has 33 national-event titles and has placed in the top 10 of the championship standings in nine of his 10 years as a professional drag racer.

"In this very difficult time for John Force Racing, I want to thank my friend Gary Scelzi, the 2005 champ, for stepping into support a wonderful cause," Force said. "Trust me, he will entertain you."

The Mel Larson Night of Champions also will honor the 2006 local champions from the Strip and the Bullring. The event is named for local racing pioneer and businessman Mel Larson. Larson, a longtime executive with Circus Circus and a former racer, was honored at the inaugural event last year. Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon was the featured speaker at the 2006 event.

For table and ticket information, please contact Janae Melvin at (702) 632-8242 or .