From Alex Nieten | World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series
HOT SUACE HANGS ON: Gio Scelzi Survives Last Lap Slider for Beaver Dam Victory
The Series rookie earns his first win of 2023 and the sixth of his career
BEAVER DAM, WI (June 16, 2023) - Two years ago, Gio Scelzi felt he gave a win away at Beaver Dam Raceway. After leading the opening 19 circuits, Scelzi got held up in lapped traffic allowing Sheldon Haudenschild by. Scelzi was forced to settle for second that night.
On Friday night at the Wisconsin oval, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car rookie contender had no intentions of déjà vu. Scelzi led all 30 laps of the Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial opening night – sealing the deal by holding off a final corner slide job from David Gravel.
“First off, thank you (David Gravel) for racing me like a true competitor. I think anybody else would’ve slid up into me and forced me out of my line,” Scelzi said in Victory Lane. “I’ve given a lot of these away here, especially in 2021, so it’s cool to win one. I’m happy for Adam Clark to get his first win as a crew chief.”
The victory was the first of Scelzi’s rookie World of Outlaws campaign. It’s the sixth of his career and first since Bakersfield Speedway on March 25 of last year – snapping a 64-race winless streak with The Greatest Show on Dirt. The Fresno, CA native is the 17th different driver to win a World of Outlaws race at Beaver Dam and only the second from California.
After the disappointment of 2021 and the enthusiasm of the crowd, Scelzi’s first win in the state of Wisconsin felt especially rewarding.
“This is cool,” Scelzi said. “I’ve wanted to win in Wisconsin. I don’t know why, but the fans seem to be so enthusiastic here, and they love seeing the World of Outlaws.”
Scelzi began the NOS Energy Drink Feature from the pole courtesy of topping the Toyota Racing Dash. The 21-year-old rocketed ahead of Gravel when the green flag flew.
As they clicked off the early laps, Gravel stayed close behind Scelzi with Brad Sweet not too far behind him. The racing surface proved to be multi-grooved with neither the top or the bottom on either side of the track proving to be the better line. Scelzi was able to use either line and maintain speed as were those pursuing him.
James McFadden slipped by Carson Macedo in the early going and closed in on the top trio as they neared traffic.
Once they reached the tail of the field, Scelzi began to slice through slower cars and extend his advantage. The race approached the halfway point, and Gravel and Sweet began to find their footing in traffic and close back in on the KCP Racing #18.
Scelzi, Gravel, and Sweet were all under a blanket as the laps moved beyond halfway, and as the action was heating up in traffic, the race’s one and only yellow flag flew on lap 23. Lapped cars collided, and fourth-running McFadden was collected, but he managed to keep rolling and maintain his position for the restart with eight circuits remaining.
When the green lights came back on for the restart, it appeared Scelzi may pull away comfortably for the win. But on the last lap, Scelzi guessed which line the lapped car in front of him was going to use in Turns 1 and 2. Scelzi went to the bottom and slipped up slightly on corner exit.
“Brenham (Crouch) was running the top there almost the whole race in (Turns) 1 and 2, and I thought he would and kind of pinned myself behind him and wheelied and kind of hung myself off Turn 2, and you’ve got to know the slider is coming,” Scelzi explained.
The slider did come as Gravel turned down the hill out of Turn 2 and got a massive run on Scelzi heading into the final set of corners. The Watertown, CT native threw the Big Game Motorsports #2 in hard but respectfully left Scelzi a lane – one he used to drive by and get to the checkered flag first.
With his first win of the year under his belt, Scelzi is already hungry for more. Tomorrow’s Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial finale puts $20,000 on the line – a paycheck Scelzi is eager to take home.
“Tomorrow will be huge,” Scelzi said. “Tomorrow is the big money, so we’ll bring our A-game.”
The second place finish for Gravel marked his fifth podium in the last seven Beaver Dam races. He’s now up to a Series-high 14 top threes this year as he continues to pursue his first World of Outlaws title. Gravel said he felt that running second was an advantage but that he miscalculated the last corner slider, leaving him desiring a do-over on the last lap.
“I just think with him leading and me running second I could react to where he was going,” Gravel commented. “I think the bottom was for sure faster in (Turns) 1 and 2, and when lap traffic was running there, he had to move around. That made me be able to run the diamond move down there. I wish I could take the last lap back. I really think I could’ve won that race. I just tried to dive too low on my slider, and when I slid across, I hit the black and got real sideways and lost all my speed.”
Completing the top three was four-time and reigning champion and the current points leader – Brad Sweet. “The Big Cat” earned his 13th podium of the season aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 and his sixth in 13 starts at Beaver Dam. The Grass Valley, CA native enjoyed how versatile the racing surface was and noted he needed only a little more speed to have a shot to win.
“The racetrack was awesome, top, bottom, middle at times, and super racy,” Sweet said. “I just think the two guys in front of me were just a little bit better, and track position was kind of key. I think if I was out front, I would’ve had a car that was capable of winning tonight. That’s all you can ask for. We’ll just try to come back tomorrow and make some subtle improvements.”
James McFadden and Sheldon Haudenschild rounded out the top five.
With Gravel’s second place effort, he cut slightly into Sweet’s championship lead, trimming it down to 12 markers.
Brenham Crouch earned the night’s KSE Racing Hard Charger in his first World of Outlaws Feature start.
Sheldon Haudenschild claimed the night’s Simpson Performance Products QuickTime for the first time this season and the 26th time of his career.
Haudenschild also topped CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One (89th Heat Race win of career). Micro-Lite Heat Two went to Carson Macedo (101st of career). NOS Energy Drink Heat Three was claimed by Gio Scelzi (28th of career).
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are back at Beaver Dam Raceway on Saturday, June 17 for the $20,000 to win finale of the Jim “JB” Boyd Memorial.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps):
1. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 49-Brad Sweet; 4. 83-James McFadden; 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 6. 1A-Jacob Allen; 7. 41-Carson Macedo; 8. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 9. 15-Donny Schatz; 10. 5-Spencer Bayston; 11. 9-Kasey Kahne; 12. 17B-Bill Balog; 13. 20G-Noah Gass; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 15. 7S-Robbie Price; 16. 23-Russel Borland; 17. 49J-Josh Schneiderman; 18. 1-Brenham Crouch; 19. U2-Jack Vanderboom; 20. 87A-Austin Hartmann; 21. (DNF) 6-Bill Rose; 22. (DNF) 19B-Jack Berger
For all of the latest from the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series:
Photo's: World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series | Trent Gower