DON SCHUMACHER RACING
2007 NHRA POWERade DRAG RACING SERIES
FRESNO, Calif. (Sept. 6, 2007)
Four-time NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series champion Gary Scelzi has committed to compete in all 24 national events in 2008 with Don Schumacher Racing, driving the Mopar/Oakley Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car.
When the four-time NHRA world champion made the announcement earlier this season that he would take a sabbatical from NHRA racing to spend more time with the family business and his family, he left the door open to the possibility that he might return under the right circumstances. Those right circumstances have come to pass, as Scelzi has received, and accepted, an offer from NHRA team owner Ken Black to fly him on his private jet to and from 10 events in 2008 so that Scelzi can spend more time working at Scelzi Enterprises and still pursue his NHRA drag-racing career.
"I'm extremely excited about being able to come back with DSR," said Scelzi. "I know some people on the Internet have said I demanded a jet in order to keep drag racing. I did no such thing. I was asked how could I stay in the sport and I made a joke, saying, Well, if someone could fly me out on Thursdays or Fridays and have me back in Fresno on Sunday nights it would be a big help. I never demanded it, and I never put that kind of pressure on anyone.
"Ken Black actually called me and offered to fly me back and forth so I could stay at Don Schumacher Racing, because he's only 40 minutes away from Fresno in Las Vegas. He said he could fly me to at least 10 races. Well, 10 races to me adds up to 20 days back at work at Scelzi Enterprises, which is a month, no matter how you look at it.
"People think that this job is an easy job with the travel, but when you look at it, two days at every event adds up quickly, so one month at home or being able to work is huge for me. Flying commercial the other times we can deal with.
"Between appearances, testing days, the events and the rainouts, you're never home. So this is going to make my life a whole lot easier. And hopefully by the end of 2008 I'll have my business affairs in order to where I might be able to miss more days, and work things out with my family to be able to do continue on a more regular racing schedule.
"I'm very pleased that Don hadn't filled the seat and is able to work with Ken Black and allow Ken to step in and help the situation so we can all do what we need to do to try to win another POWERade championship. I can't thank Ken Black enough for making this offer.
"It also meant a great deal to me that at every race the fans supported my decision about being home with my business and my family, but they all wanted me to return. They would say, 'Don't be gone long. We need you out here.' Those kind words meant a lot to me, and the later we got into the season the more people would say things like that."
Crew chief Okuhara was happy with the news:
"I'm thrilled that Gary's going to be back," he said. "He is so easy to work with, he's really positive, energetic and he makes it a lot of fun. I'm looking forward to not only continuing to try to win a championship this season, but in 2008 as well."
"Gary is coming back because he's committed to winning a world championship. I'm glad that we were able to get all of this worked out and I certainly thank Ken Black for accommodating Gary at some of the events so Gary can get back home and spend 20-plus days both at home with his family and his business. That's really what allowed Gary to make the decision to continue with Don Schumacher Racing as he competes for another NHRA POWERade world championship."
Gary Scelzi is a four-time NHRA world champion - three Top Fuel crowns and one Funny Car championship. He has won 35 national events in 56 final rounds. So far, in 2007, he is seventh in the new Countdown to Four playoffs standings.