PORT ROYAL, Pa. – For the second straight week at Port Royal Speedway, the center of attention remained on Anthony Macri, whose sterling effort allured many around his trailer on Saturday night.
His smile was fresh out of a victory lane photo op, the facial expression of a driver that blitzed the field once again. Others have noticed, too.
“Good job, Anthony,” two-time Port Royal track champion Mike Wagner told Macri while the two shook hands.
“The kid’s terrible!” joked Robbie Kendall, who rushed in behind Macri and slapped him on the shoulder.
“Haha, he’s my buddy,” Macri said of Kendall, his victory smile now a laugh. “It shows they have respect for me.”
This past weekend, Macri raced to his second straight win at Port Royal Speedway, a 1.120-second triumph over Dylan Cisney that showcased every bit of his rising talent.
On Wednesday, Macri will set out on a grueling 10-race swing spanning 11 days to prove his ability and robust race team is fit for the national stage.
The Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All-Star Circuit of Champions kicks off the stretch Wednesday at Port Royal, with the other nine races being Pennsylvania Sprint Speedweek, which starts Friday, June 26 at Williams Grove Speedway and ends Saturday, July 4 at Port Royal.
“There’s a little nervousness, but I know when I wake up [Wednesday] morning and go to the races, it’s going to go away,” Macri said. “Being at home, people expect you to be up front. And when you win two straight, people expect you to run well.”
Three-time World of Outlaws champion Sammy Swindell, two-time ASCoC champion Aaron Reutzel, former USAC champion Robert Ballou, 2019 National Open champion Brent Marks, and the hottest driver on the planet, Kyle Larson, are all expected to race at some point throughout the 10-race, 11-day grind.
Macri isn’t foreign to competition like this – he’s qualified for four of his six events with the World of Outlaws at various tracks – but he still laughs when he hears what he’s up against.
“I laugh because we’ve only been doing two races a weekend, and I come home and we’re getting thrown into the wolves,” Macri said. “It’s not Outlaw caliber, but the guys coming in, it’s pretty damn close.
“When Larson comes in, you know he’s probably going to beat your ass,” Macri added. “But you have to try your hardest to put on a show.”
At the beginning of the season, Macri’s plans were to stay centralized in Pennsylvania, but then the COVID-19 shutdown ultimately put everything in limbo.
So, when the first opportunity to race came about in Pevely, Mo., some 800 miles away, Macri and crew took up the opportunity.
In total, Macri’s racing venture has totaled 9,700 miles on the road this year, a sliver of what it would be like to live out Macri’s ultimate goal of racing full-time with the World of Outlaws.
“I am living the dream,” Macri said. “I’m extremely thankful for it. It’s been bad ass. I didn’t want to come home.”
But now Macri is home, and in the thick of what could possibly be the most pivotal stretch of his young racing career to date: perform, win a race or two, and thrust your name into the national spotlight, or fall short of expectations and be viewed as another mid-pack racer when the ringers come to town.
One thing is certain: Macri has ample support to empower him to reach his capabilities.
His dad, Nick, owns Macri Concrete and has enough financial backing to provide, resource-wise, a WoO-ready team.
“We put all our best [stuff] forward this week pretty much,” Macri said. “We have my favorite car. We have our best motor we own. We’re going for kill mode.”
Macri’s rapid rise to local prominence can be linked to crew chief Jimmy Shuttlesworth, who came on board with Macri shortly after the 2019 Knoxville Nationals.
Shuttlesworth used to work with the likes of Lucas Wolfe, Chad Layton, Marks, and Brock Zearfoss, and over the past 11 races at Port Royal alone they have three wins, three seconds, six total podiums, and just two finishes outside the top five.
Two of those runner-ups came to Donny Schatz and Reutzel.
“He’s gotten to the point where he knows how his race car works,” Shuttlesworth said. “That’s one of the most important parts of it: communicating what you feel.
“He has no fear,” Shuttlesworth added. That’s such an important part about this. He’s determined to get better. He wants to do this for a living.”
First, the pathway to national touring relevance starts by conquering them in your own backyard. Realistically, Macri has what it takes to win Speedweek and forge his name in the history books alongside the likes of Lance Dewease, Greg Hodnett, and Fred Rahmer.
“It’s just going to take nine time trials, which he can do,” Shuttlesworth said.
Macri’s strong suits are the big, open tracks, which consist of six of the nine races. And even on the short tracks he has wins on his resume – three at Lincoln Speedway, to be exact.
But the blueprint to Macri winning it all should be like this: preferably win at least one of the Port Royal shows, finish well in the other, run strong at the other half miles, and minimize the damage at Grandview and Lincoln.
“We know our strengths are the big tracks and we know our weaknesses are the small bullrings,” Macri said. “We know we just have to try our best and do the best we can at the small tracks and just get in and get out.”
Macri claims he and his team can become a full-time ASCoC team as early as next year.
The road to belonging there starts Wednesday night.
“He wants to get better,” Shuttlesworth said. “He wants to be one of those guys.”
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