By RICHIE MURRAY
PLACERVILLE, CA – It was easy to see the strides Gio Scelzi had made in his recent outings aboard a USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget.
Just last weekend, the Fresno, Calif. native broke into the top-10 for the first time with the series in his fifth start, a ninth-place finish, and admitted that it’s a different kind racing than he’s used to and that it will take time to compete with the best drivers of this discipline.
In his sixth start Tuesday night at California’s Placerville Speedway, Scelzi took a giant step up in his midget game, leading all 30 laps en route to victory on night one of the Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100 in the series debut at the 1/4-mile dirt oval.
It was just four races ago that Scelzi assumed the seat of the potent Tucker-Boat Motorsports/PristineAuction.com – K & C Drywall/Spike/Speedway Toyota that had been a front runner on the USAC Midget trail for the past four seasons with Chad Boat at the controls before he stepped out of the seat and into the role of mechanic and car owner.
It appears Scelzi had finally found the comfort zone in a midget, joining Cannon McIntosh, Chris Windom, Jason McDougal and Tanner Carrick to become the fifth first-time USAC NOS Energy Drink National Midget winner of 2019, the most in a single season since 2008 when there were six.
Scelzi also became the 14th different series winner of the season, the most in a year since that same 2008 season.
“It’s pretty humbling to run just a handful of these races and win,” Scelzi said. “It’s taken awhile to get comfortable in these cars and I’m still not very comfortable.”
Scelzi is used to being ahead of the curve. At the age of 17, he’s already become the youngest sprint car winner in the history of the World of Outlaws, Williams Grove Speedway and Knoxville Raceway. Two years ago, in 2017, he became the youngest winner in King of the West/NARC history right at Placerville.
Scelzi seemed at home right from the start as he took control from the onset of the feature event from his outside front row starting position. Meanwhile, nearing midway, a two-pack of Keith Kunz/Curb-Agajanian pilots, Jesse Colwell and eighth-starting Logan Seavey tussled for second as Scelzi held strong up front.
On a lap 14 restart, Seavey was in a hurry to get things done as he hounded Colwell, trying everything in the book to get a run on Colwell to no avail until lap 19 when Seavey slipped by his teammate for the runner-up spot with full intentions now set on reeling Scelzi in. Seavey sought avenues high, low and middle to find his way by Scelzi, but the son of the four-time NHRA champ was smooth as silk on the top side.
A number of cautions slowed the activity down the stretch, including a four-car incident that found Cannon McIntosh tipped on his side on the 21st lap. Following the incident, Scelzi blitzed away from Seavey on the ensuing restart to construct a half-straightaway lead of more than eight-tenths of a second with a surefire victory within his grasp until Michael Pickens’ car came to a rest backwards in turn one.
In turn, that bunched up the field and allowed Seavey, a driver with a year’s worth of past sprint car racing experience at Placerville under his belt, a few more shots at the race leader. Three perfect laps were all that it was going to take for Scelzi to defeat the 2018 series champ.
Seavey tried with all his might a slider into the first turn on Scelzi without success but found a diamond in the rough in turn three. Seavey drove it high to the top of three, then turned down toward the bottom of turn four to “diamond” the corner and gain ground on Scelzi to help propel him past in turn one.
“I was kind of searching all race,” Seavey admitted. “I started on the top, then went to the bottom in one and two. I kind of found that the diamond off four was good. I just tried everything I could, but I think I needed a little bit of a longer run there. Our cars normally get better and better as they go. We never really got a run longer than three or four laps.”
On the 30th and final circuit, Seavey fired his last Bullet by Spike in the chamber toward Scelzi, coming up short, and allowing Scelzi to break away for good to score a 0.647 second victory over Seavey, Colwell, KSE Racing Products Hard Charger Kyle Larson (from 23rd) with Shane Golobic rounding out the top-five.
“Track position was big for me,” Scelzi explained. “Seavey’s really good and all the guys behind me were really good. I made so many mistakes off four, I saw someone on the bottom and I just didn’t know where to go. I just tried to keep doing what I was doing.”
Though Seavey came up just a tad short in the winner’s column, he leads the overall Hangtown 100 standings heading into Wednesday’s $20,000-to-win finale at Placerville, which also pays $12,000 to the driver who accumulates the most points over the two nights. For Seavey, Tuesday’s run was just setting up for Wednesday.
“Overall, a good night,” Seavey said. “I would’ve loved to win this thing, but at the end of the day, this race is about tomorrow and that’s our goal.”
Contingency award winners Tuesday night at Placerville Speedway were:
Brady Bacon (Simpson Race Products/Extreme Mufflers First Heat Winner & Wilwood Brakes 13th Place Finisher)
Tyler Courtney (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer)
Cory Elliott (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer)
Kyle Larson (KSE Racing Products/Saldana Racing Products Hard Charger)
Thomas Meseraull (Indy Race Parts/Ultra Shield Race Products Fourth Heat Winner)
Jake Swanson (AutoMeter/Competition Suspension, Inc./Ultra Shield Race Products Third Heat Winner)
Kevin Thomas, Jr. (Competition Suspension, Inc./Brown & Miller Racing Solutions Second Heat Winner)
Dillon Welch (Fatheadz Eyewear Fast Qualifier)
Zeb Wise (Saldana Racing Products First Non-Transfer)
USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK NATIONAL & WESTERN STATES MIDGET RACE RESULTS: November 19, 2019 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100 – 1/4-Mile Dirt Oval
FATHEADZ EYEWEAR/WOODLAND AUTO DISPLAY QUALIFYING: 1. Dillon Welch, 81, Tucker/Boat-11.979 (New Track Record); 2. Zeb Wise, 39BC, Clauson/Marshall-11.998; 3. Kyle Larson, 1K, Larson-12.028; 4. Logan Seavey, 67, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.064; 5. Gio Scelzi, 84, Tucker/Boat-12.078; 6. Spencer Bayston, 19, Hayward-12.120; 7. Christopher Bell, 84x, Tucker/Boat-12.162; 8. Rico Abreu, 97, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.165; 9. Brady Bacon, 76E, FMR-12.178; 10. Ryan Bernal, 77w, Wood-12.212; 11. Jason McDougal, 76m, FMR-12.232; 12. Shane Golobic, 17w, Wood-12.244; 13. Kevin Thomas, Jr., 5, Petry-12.254; 14. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., 17JR, Clauson/Marshall-12.269; 15. Chase Johnson, 25x, Malloy-12.270; 16. Aaron Reutzel, 87, Tucker/Boat-12.279; 17. Brad Sweet, 67z, Kahne-12.285; 18. Tanner Carrick, 71K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.289; 19. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 27, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.297; 20. Andrew Layser, 47BC, Clauson/Marshall-12.302; 21. Cannon McIntosh, 08, Dave Mac-12.336; 22. Michael Pickens, 1NZ, RMS-12.338; 23. Buddy Kofoid, 98, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.366; 24. Colton Heath, 99, Stewart-12.377; 25. Chris Windom, 17BC, Clauson/Marshall-12.380; 26. Daison Pursley, 9, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.389; 27. Jesse Colwell, 71, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.401; 28. Michael Faccinto, 47m, Morris-12.403; 29. Holley Hollan, 67K, Kunz/Curb-Agajanian-12.416; 30. Jerry Coons, Jr., 25, Petry-12.421; 31. Ben Worth, 5G, Alexander-12.428; 32. Maria Cofer, 57, Cofer-12.481; 33. Thomas Meseraull, 7x, RMS-12.488; 34. Jake Bubak, 27B, Bourke-12.507; 35. Robert Dalby, 4D, Dalby-12.510; 36. Cory Elliott, 11E, Elliott-12.520; 37. Kaidon Brown, 97w, Wood-12.527; 38. Jake Morgan, 19w, Sala-12.540; 39. Kyle Cummins, 2G, Styres/Yeley-12.564; 40. Colby Copeland, 27w, Wood-12.571; 41. Jake Swanson, 73K, Ford-12.579; 42. Dave Darland, 71R, Morris-12.589; 43. C.J. Sarna, 20, Sarna-12.675; 44. Colby Johnson, 71m, Morris-12.687; 45. Ethan Mitchell, 08m, Dave Mac-12.688; 46. Gage Rucker, 11K, Kruseman-12.768; 47. Jonathan Beason, 68, Six8-12.779; 48. David Prickett, 15DJ, Neverlift-12.829; 49. Dylan Ito, 73, Ford-12.915; 50. Randi Pankratz, 8, Pankratz-12.946; 51. Tony Gualda, 18K, Kruseman-12.996; 52. Tyler Courtney, 7BC, Clauson/Marshall-13.145; 53. Kiely Ricardo, 3F, Finkenbinder-13.447; 54. Robert Carson, 99x, Segur-13.520; 55. Justin Grant, 4A, RAMS-NT; 56. Blake Bower, 10B, Boscacci/Walker-NT; 57. Karsyn Elledge, 1, Tucker/Boat-NT.
SIMPSON RACE PRODUCTS/EXTREME MUFFLERS FIRST HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature, * represents a transfer) 1. *Brady Bacon, 2. Daison Pursley, 3. *Dillon Welch, 4. Tyler Courtney, 5. Colton Heath, 6. *Rico Abreu, 7. Ryan Bernal, 8. Dylan Ito, 9. Gage Rucker. NT
COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI)/BROWN & MILLER RACING SOLUTIONS SECOND HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. *Kevin Thomas, Jr., 2. Kaidon Brown, 3. *Jason McDougal, 4. *Cannon McIntosh, 5. Randi Pankratz, 6. C.J. Sarna, 7. Jake Morgan, 8. Ben Worth, 9. Chase Johnson, 10. Zeb Wise. NT
AUTOMETER/COMPETITION SUSPENSION (CSI) THIRD HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. *Jake Swanson, 2. Dave Darland, 3. *Tanner Carrick, 4. Cory Elliott, 5. *Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., 6. Jonathan Beason, 7. Kyle Cummins, 8. Kiely Ricardo, 9. Maria Cofer, 10. Tucker Klaasmeyer. NT
INDY RACE PARTS/ULTRA SHIELD RACE PRODUCTS FOURTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. *Thomas Meseraull, 2. Jake Bubak, 3. Jerry Coons, Jr., 4. *Jesse Colwell, 5. *Shane Golobic, 6. Michael Faccinto, 7. Christopher Bell, 8. David Prickett, 9. Tony Gualda. 2:08.680 (New Track Record)
NOS ENERGY DRINK/PYROTECT RACING CELLS FIFTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. *Robert Dalby, 2. *Spencer Bayston, 3. Justin Grant, 4. Holley Hollan, 5. *Aaron Reutzel, 6. Robert Carson, 7. Colby Johnson, 8. Andrew Layser, 9. Kyle Larson. NT
AMSOIL/SALDANA RACING PROUCTS SIXTH HEAT: (10 laps, winner plus top-2 in points transfer to the feature) 1. *Colby Copeland, 2. *Michael Pickens, 3. Ethan Mitchell, 4. *Logan Seavey, 5. Gio Scelzi, 6. Brad Sweet, 7. Chris Windom, 8. Buddy Kofoid, 9. Blake Bower. NT
BUTLERBUILT SEATS FIRST LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER: (12 laps, top-2 transfer to the feature) 1. Gio Scelzi, 2. Kyle Larson, 3. Tyler Courtney, 4. Daison Pursley, 5. Tucker Klaasmeyer, 6. Dave Darland, 7. Buddy Kofoid, 8. Holley Hollan, 9. Ethan Mitchell, 10. Robert Carson, 11. Dylan Ito, 12. Jonathan Beason, 13. Blake Bower. NT
EXTREME MUFFLERS SECOND LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER: (12 laps, top-2 transfer to the feature) 1. Christopher Bell, 2. Brad Sweet, 3. Zeb Wise, 4. Michael Faccinto, 5. Chase Johnson, 6. Andrew Layser, 7. Kyle Cummins, 8. Ben Worth, 9. Kaidon Brown, 10. Kiely Ricardo, 11. Jake Morgan, 12. Randi Pankratz, 13. David Prickett. NT
PYROTECT RACING CELLS THIRD LAST CHANCE QUALIFIER: (12 laps, top-2 transfer to the feature) 1. Jerry Coons, Jr., 2. Ryan Bernal, 3. Cory Elliott, 4. Justin Grant, 5. Colton Heath, 6. Chris Windom, 7. Jake Bubak, 8. Tony Gualda, 9. C.J. Sarna, 10. Gage Rucker, 11. Colby Johnson, 12. Maria Cofer. NT
PURE CROP 1 FEATURE: (30 laps, starting position in parentheses) 1. Gio Scelzi (2), 2. Logan Seavey (8), 3. Jesse Colwell (1), 4. Kyle Larson (23), 5. Shane Golobic (3), 6. Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. (5), 7. Spencer Bayston (11), 8. Tanner Carrick (6), 9. Jason McDougal (7), 10. Aaron Reutzel (17), 11. Dillon Welch (12), 12. Jerry Coons, Jr. (18), 13. Brady Bacon (10), 14. Thomas Meseraull (13), 15. Christopher Bell (15), 16. Ryan Bernal (24), 17. Rico Abreu (16), 18. Dave Darland (25), 19. Kevin Thomas, Jr. (9), 20. Jake Swanson (19), 21. Robert Dalby (14), 22. Colby Copeland (20), 23. Brad Sweet (21), 24. Michael Pickens (4), 25. Justin Grant (26), 26. Cannon McIntosh (22). NT
**Justin Grant flipped during qualifying. Jason McDougal, Zeb Wise and C.J. Sarna flipped during the second heat. Mario Cofer flipped during the third heat. Colby Johnson flipped during the fifth heat. Buddy Kofoid flipped during the fifth heat. Randi Pankratz and David Prickett flipped during the second last chance qualifier. Cannon McIntosh flipped on lap 21 of the feature.
FEATURE LAP LEADERS: Laps 1-30 Gio Scelzi.
KSE RACING PRODUCTS/SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS HARD CHARGER: Kyle Larson (23rd to 4th)
WILWOOD BRAKES 13TH PLACE FINISHER: Brady Bacon
SALDANA RACING PRODUCTS FIRST NON-TRANSFERS: Tyler Courtney, Zeb Wise & Cory Elliott
NEW USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK MIDGET NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP POINTS: 1-Tyler Courtney-1,901, 2-Logan Seavey-1,730, 3-Chris Windom-1,729, 4-Kevin Thomas, Jr.-1,669, 5-Zeb Wise-1,629, 6-Tanner Carrick-1,456, 7-Jerry Coons, Jr.-1,434, 8-Jason McDougal-1,359, 9-Tucker Klaasmeyer-1,313, 10-Chad Boat-1,255.
NEW USAC WESTERN STATES MIDGET POINTS: 1-Robert Dalby-697, 2-Cory Elliott-668, 3-Shannon McQueen-524, 4-David Prickett-516, 5-Ben Worth-500, 6-C.J. Sarna-483, 5-Austin Liggett-458, 8-Jake Swanson-398, 9-Randi Pankratz-378, 10-Kyle Beilman-372.
NEW HANGTOWN 100 POINTS: 1-Logan Seavey-161, 2-Gio Scelzi-157, 3-Spencer Bayston-154, 4-Jesse Colwell-153, 5-Ricky Stenhouse, Jr.-150, 6-Shane Golobic-149, 7-Tanner Carrick-149, 8-Jason McDougal-147, 9-Dillon Welch-146, 10-Kyle Larson-142.
NEXT USAC NOS ENERGY DRINK NATIONAL & WESTERN STATES MIDGET RACE: November 20, 2019 – Placerville Speedway – Placerville, California – Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100 – 1/4-mile dirt oval