By BILL FOLEY
In only his second full year in 410 Sprint action, 16-year-old Giovanni Scelzi has really turned some heads at some of the major speedways in the nation.
With a father, Gary, who is a legend in drag racing you would think one of his sons might head in that route. However, Gio and his 21-year-old brother Dominic are becoming addicts of dirt Sprint Car racing.
Gio said, “My dad knew there were really no junior programs in drag racing. I ran junior sprints and micros, but it was a big step to a 410.You really have to get use to the speed.”
So after winning three King of the West Sprint car races he branched out in 2018.
He said, “We ran in Vegas in March and really didn’t do that well. We really started running well at the Mansfield $100,000 to win show where we were up to fourth and had a part failure.”
However, as the late season unfolded, he was getting some attention from not only the fans, but from motorsports media as well.
He did something that had never been accomplished before by a 16 year old….he won a World of Outlaws feature.
And it just wasn’t any feature…it was a the legendary Williams Grove Speedway.
Participating in the National Open Weekend for the first time he drove Bernie Stuebgen’s Indy Auto Parts 71 to victory in a prelim and became the youngest driver ever to win a WoO feature.
Gio said, “It was unreal and I still can’t believe it happened.”
There is this thing about California drivers learning on small tracks at home and then coming to the Midwest and East the big half miles are not easy to adjust to.
Scelzi said, “You can pick up bad habits on small tracks and have some difficulty coming to the bigger tracks. However, I only ran small tracks for a year so I really don’t think I picked up that many bad habits. I really enjoy the big fast tracks.”
One of those big tracks also brought along a huge crowd.
Knoxville was a special moment for the team as both Gio and his brother Dominic qualified for the Nationals finale.
Gio noted, ”Knoxville was something else. To make the Knoxville Nationals for the first time is unbelievable. To be involved in everything that is involved with qualifying for the Nationals, the autographs and to be there along with guys like Terry McCarl and Donny Schatz and simply being locked in was just amazing.”
Though he finished 14th he ran well enough to earn the Rookie of the Knoxville Nationals. He had earned the starting spot by scoring the ninth highest points in the two nights of peliminary action to start inside of the fifth row. He settled for 14th, but was overjoyed just to be in that position.
His brother Dominic was the last car to qualify for the Nationals as after a roller coaster week he captured what would be the final World Challenge to gain entrance into the elite field.
Interestingly, Scelzi said, “We had run Knoxville twice before the Nationals and really struggled.”
Just days before the Nationals he had a podium finish with a third in a 360 and he said, “That was really something for us” and appeared to give him confidence.
What’s the future hold for this teenager and would he like to run the World of Outlaw Tour full time?
Well, that was an interesting answer as he said, “I’ve had a few offers, but Bernie is just a great guy and such a good friend. I think the All Star races will be on our schedule and I am planning on doing some asphalt testing and maybe a bit with ARCA. A full-time schedule of the Outlaws would not really allow me to try the asphalt. “
However, before moving toward the future the teenager has a job here at the World Finals presented by Can-Am.
He’s been here before as he explained, “I was here in 2014 to watch my brother race. It’s round and dirt. There are just so many good cars here and I would like to make both shows and possibly finish in the top ten.”
He will start four and third in his heat as he timed in 10th in Flight B for the Friday night show and was sixth in his flight for the Saturday night finale.
His work will be cut out for him as the six (mostly nine car) heats will qualify three for the A Main.
What is his end desire?
“Well I think it is asphalt,” said Scelzi, “My dream is to go do what Kyle (Larson) and Tony (Stewart) did and then come back and run dirt like they do.”
Life is about dreams and Giovanni Scelzi has his.