Editor’s Note: NHRA drag racing champion Gary Scelzi retired from racing to spend more time with his family and family business. Now, he’s helping his sons find their way as open-wheel racers. The following is an excerpt from Susan Wade’s story on the Scelzi family in the November issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine.
Gary Scelzi eventually gave up drag racing in 2008 to help run his family’s truck manufacturing business.
Today, his emotions are invested in his sons’ racing careers. Dominic Scelzi, at 16, is a rising star in open-wheel racing with a few 410 and 360 sprint car victories under his belt. Giovanni, 11, already is a track champion and a force in the Stock 600 micro sprint class, as well as a strong mechanic.
“Having someone like my dad guiding my entire career is unbelievable. He’s one of the best drag racers of all time, one of the best racers of all time. Who better to learn from?” Dominic Scelzi said. “He’s worked his butt off his whole life to race and now he’s doing it for me. I couldn’t be more thankful.”
Dominic Scelzi has carved out a reputation that is not unlike that of former sprint car racer, World of Outlaws team owner and NASCAR headliner Kasey Kahne. He’s humble and respectful, and isn’t intimidated by older, more seasoned competitors.
That Dominic has established himself early is no surprise. His father was the NHRA’s first driver to win his first two professional starts and the first Top Fuel rookie to win the championship (1997). The next year he became the first to win back-to-back titles in his first two seasons.
Certainly some of Dominic’s progress can be traced to what he observed at his dad’s side.
“I grew up in the pits. I grew up with all the big-name people that so many people idolize. And I just thought of them as friends,” he said. That carried over to his own racing: “I never feel intimidated.”
Some of his development comes from applying advice he received from such excellent sources as King of the West Series champion Jonathan Allard, five-time World of Outlaws STP Sprint Car Series king Donny Schatz and the decorated Kaeding clan of Northern California, among others.
“Jonathan Allard has taught me so much in a sprint car. He watches me like a hawk — anything he feels can make me better he comes and tells me,” Dominic explained. “It blows me away that someone with that much talent and that much success wants to spend time to help a youngster.”
Gary Scelzi said Schatz, for example, shared with him that he has won more races half-throttle than he has won wide open. And, Dominic said, “I was really hard on the gas when I first started. Now that I’ve calmed down, I feel like I’ve really progressed.”
Said his dad: “He’s got a lot of good people in his corner.”
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