Dazzling Dodge!Team Owner Don Schumacher and his driver, Gary Scelzi, unveiled what was arguably one of the most impressive looking Funny Cars of all time during NHRA's Mac Tools Gatornationals in March. The team was buoyed by major sponsorship direct from DaimlerChrysler, and with that ran an absolutely stunning new machine-an '03 Dodge Stratus painted Ruby Viper Red and adorned with Dodge's "Grab Life by the Horns" advertising slogan. The machine ran as good as it looked. Not only did Scelzi run it to a Final Four placing during its debut race, the team was also presented with the Mac Tools Gatornationals' highly prestigious Best Appearing Pro Car award. "This thing is very swoopy and far more sinister looking than anything I've ever driven before," affirmed Scelzi, who won NHRA's Top Fuel World crown in 1997, 1998, and 2000. "The first word that comes to mind is sexy. I was really taken aback when I first saw it."
The effort was spearheaded by Brett Fischer, drag racing program manager for DaimlerChrysler. "We saw this as an opportunity to introduce our nearly 3,000 Dodge dealers to the NHRA and show them what kind of power a championship-caliber driver has driving for a championship-caliber team with a championship-caliber body," said Fischer. "Our relationship with NHRA has been primarily through the Mopar Parts division to this point, and we saw this as a great opportunity to expose Dodge dealers and the Dodge brand to NHRA racing. Our new partnership this year with Schumacher Racing has brought an entirely different outlook, not only with our NHRA fans but also internally with our employees and our engineers. Gary couldn't be a better representative of what Dodge is about. Grabbing life by the horns and driving a 325-mph-plus Funny Car down the track is kind of the essence of what Dodge is all about. It's a perfect match in our eyes."
"This type of promotion can only strengthen our relationship with DaimlerChrysler and the Dodge brand's relationship with NHRA," added Schumacher. "It's a joint effort between our team and DaimlerChrysler to help promote Dodge's presence in NHRA."
The team revealed that the "Grab Life by the Horns" Dodge would be raced at only select NHRA events this season, not the least of which is the marquee Mopar Mile-High Nationals in mid-July.
Texas' Top SportsmanRick Jones wasn't the only Mopar racer to prevail during IHRA's '03 season-opening event. In the fiercely-fought Top Sportsman category, New Mexico's Craig Hughes prevailed driving his unique and reliable 572ci '79 Dodge Charger. Hughes' win was the first national event title of his career and came from the 8th qualified position. He sealed the event victory in the final round when he carved out a perfect .500 reaction time to make his 7.613 seconds at 183.40 mph to win over Britt Cummings.
Dodge DecisionMountain motor Pro Stock racer and race car builder Rick Jones charged to a historic national event win in early March when he prevailed during the IHRA's season-opening Amalie Oil Texas Nationals at San Antonio. The victory, Jones' first career win as a driver, came with his 815ci Hemi-powered Dodge Neon. The win was significant because it was the first for the Dodge brand within IHRA's Pro Stock division since Bobby Yeowell's circuit win in 1979.
Teamed with his racing partner, Mark Stockseth, Jones qualified the Illinois-based Quarter-Max Components Dodge Neon in the Fourth position (6.609 seconds at 210.28 mph) before topping the field. In the final round, he defeated defending IHRA Pro Stock World Champion Brian Gahm using a better starting-line reaction time and running a winning 6.635 seconds at 209.14 mph. Jones' Neon was the only DaimlerChrysler product entered in Pro Stock competition at the event.