Winning memories don’t abound, but what he learned while racing in the micro sprint class was essential to his success racing sprint cars.
Mike Holley, one of his mentors, told him, “Drive like there’s an egg under the throttle,” and when his dad removed the car’s throttle stop, forcing his son to harness the car’s raw power and keep the wheels locked down, he told young Anthony, “You’re going to have to figure it out.”
And he did.
“I learned a lot of lessons,” Anthony Macri said.
With assistance from longtime central Pennsylvania sprint car mechanic Moon Byers, Macri was ready to try his hand at racing 305 sprint cars in 2015.
However, when Byers learned that Macri, who was 15, was too young to race in the PA Sprint Series, which had a 16-year-old age minimum, he changed the plan.
As Macri recalled, Byers said, “Screw it. We don’t have time to waste. Let’s go 410 racing.”
With those audacious words, a callow 15-year-old with no sprint car racing experience started a daunting journey with his dad as a car owner.
“I was scared shitless,” Anthony Macri said. “I didn’t know what to expect.”
He finished 14th in his 410 debut at Susquehanna Speedway, a race he happily finished in one piece. The next three races, all at Susquehanna, did not go as smoothly. Macri junked three cars and lost his confidence.
“I felt like I wasn’t cut out to be a sprint car driver,” said Macri, whose clumsiness carried into the next season.
“We were buying used cars wherever we could,” Nick Macri explained. “We were going through one a week.”
That is when, prior to a race at Susquehanna, Nick Macri stumbled into a conversation with Hodnett as they happened to observe track conditions outside the turn one pit opening.
“The son-of-a-gun wants to be an airline pilot,” he told Hodnett, who didn’t take those words lightly.
“Listen,” Hodnett told the elder Macri, “I have to tell you something.”
Macri locked eyes with Hodnett.
“It takes five to 10 years for someone to learn how to drive a sprint car,” Hodnett told Macri firmly. “Anthony didn’t just come through the ranks. If you’re not going to have the patience, you need to stop now.”
Years later, the Macris still discuss that trajectory-changing conversation and find irony in the fact it occurred at the very track where Hodnett lost his life in 2018.
Macri steadily improved and in this his breakout season, he had won six features through the end of August.
When the COVID-19 shutdowns began, Nick Macri told his son to find a race anywhere other than California and they would travel there.
By the time racing returned in Pennsylvania, the Macris had racked up more than 9,700 miles on the toterhome during a six-week trek through the Midwest where they headquartered at Danny Lasoski’s shop in Missouri.
“I learned so much,” Macri said.
More importantly, Macri has become comfortable in the car. Crew chief Jimmy Shuttlesworth has a lot to do with that.
Shuttlesworth has written motivational material on the whiteboard inside the Macri shop, including a bible verse, Matthew 21:22, about believing; and a quote from longtime Washington Redskins coach and NASCAR team owner Joe Gibbs.
“You have to believe in yourself,” Shuttlesworth explained.
But a quote on the bottom left of the whiteboard pertained best to Macri on this day: “The best way to make your dreams come true is to wake up.”
Macri awoke that morning wanting to wash his bitterness from the disappointing weekend at Knoxville away with the pursuit of his lifelong dream. He’s always wanted to tour the country and race sprint cars; and he has ample resources to do so.
“We have everything,” Macri said. “Now, it’s up to me.”
First, he cleaned up metal shavings. Then, his head swiveled to the grease stains on the pearl-white floor.
“We have to clean that,” Macri said, making a mental note.
Now, he faced the future he’s after and the large banner hanging on the wall — World of Outlaws.
“That’s the goal,” Macri said. “That is the goal.”