PLACERVILLE, Calif. – Not even confusion surrounding the starting lineup for Tuesday’s opening night of the inaugural Elk Grove Ford Hangtown 100 could stop Gio Scelzi from winning at Placerville Speedway.
Scelzi, who has starred in winged 410 sprint car action over the past two years, started from the outside pole and led all 30 laps to reign in the Pure Crop 1 feature that headlined the first half of the program.
However, he almost didn’t get the opportunity to utilize that track position, before a late lineup adjustment moved Scelzi from an originally-posted 19th to his proper starting spot on the front row.
After that, Scelzi powered off the high side to secure command and then mastered restart after restart to maintain it throughout the 30-lap distance, holding off a hard-charging Logan Seavey to notch his maiden NOS Energy Drink USAC National Midget Series victory in just his sixth-career series start.
Scelzi drove away during the final restart of the night with three laps left and beat Seavey to the checkered flag by .647 seconds.
“Man, oh man, this is pretty awesome,” said Scelzi in victory lane. “Being successful against these guys is a lot about being comfortable near cars, and I’m still not very comfortable, so track position was big for me. (Logan) Seavey is really good, and all the guys behind me … everything gets so tough with the track conditions like they were tonight and how hard these guys race each other. I made so many mistakes off (turn) four, and I saw someone on the bottom, but it seemed like he didn’t know where to go, so I just tried to keep doing what I was doing.
“I can’t say thanks enough to Toyota and all these Tucker-Boat guys, because it’s pretty humbling to run a handful of these races and win,” he added. “I’m pretty proud of what we did and this was lot of fun.”
After an opening nine-lap run which saw Scelzi jet away from pole man Jesse Colwell, the last two-thirds of the race were a rocky affair, with eight cautions in the final 21 laps slowing the pace and giving the field a myriad of shots at Scelzi’s back bumper.
However, though both Colwell and Seavey tried, neither of them could do anything with the No. 84 Pristine Auction/K&C Drywall Spike-Speedway Toyota that Scelzi wheeled to Tuesday’s $5,000 score.
The two most notable incidents of the feature came on lap 16, when Christopher Bell spun in the middle of turns three and four, and then the final caution at the end of lap 27 after Michael Pickens looped his car right in front of the leaders in turn one.
Scelzi was able to avoid Pickens, however, and then fend off Seavey when it mattered most.
“It was getting slicker and slicker out there; what an awesome race track to race on,” Scelzi noted. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I just tried to change up what I was doing on the restarts enough that it kept everyone off balance a bit. It’s cool to have a team behind me that’s good and has won a lot of races.
For them to believe in a young guy like me – who doesn’t really know what I’m doing yet in these things – and for us to be able to win some races together is really special, in my mind.
Seavey hung on for second, but wished he could have had a little more time to battle Scelzi down the home stretch.
“I was just searching all race, you know? Early I started on the top, and I went to the bottom of one and two, and I kind of diamonded off turn four pretty well,” Seavey explained. “I just tried everything I could and I think I just needed a little bit longer run. Our cars get normally get better and better as I go; we just never really got a long run more than about three or four laps. Overall it was a good night.
“I’d love to win this thing, but at the end of the day, this race is about tomorrow and that’s our goal,” he noted. As I said, a good night overall. I look forward to Wednesday and I think we’re sitting pretty good.
Colwell completed the podium in third, followed by Kyle Larson, who made a Herculean charge from 23rd on the grid to fourth in earning hard-charger honors for the night.
Shane Golobic crossed fifth in a car owned by event promoter Matt Wood, ahead of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Spencer Bayston, Tanner Carrick, Jason McDougal and Aaron Reutzel.
The flip count through one full night of competition at the Hangtown 100 stands at 10, including a vicious barrel roll through turn one by Justin Grant on his first qualifying lap Tuesday evening.
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