KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Dominic Scelzi is making a habit of finding his way into the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals championship feature.
One year ago, Scelzi snuck into the Knoxville Nationals finale during FVP Hard Knox Night at the black-dirt half-mile in thrilling fashion, and Friday night he did so once again – in nearly the same fashion.
Last time, Scelzi won the SPEED SPORT World Challenge to earn the “golden ticket” 25th starting spot in the $150,000-to-win, 50-lap A-main, but when that race didn’t return to the docket this season, the California driver had to search for another way to crack the grid for the big dance.
He discovered it with a strong run during Friday night’s Hard Knox program at the Marion County Fairgrounds, qualifying inside the top five in his time trial flight, transferring through his heat race and finishing fourth in the 25-lap “second chance race,” taking the last guaranteed spot into the Nationals.
“They took away my golden ticket, so I figured that instead of starting 25th, I’d start 24th this year,” Scelzi grinned. “I like to make things hard, and boy, Knoxville is hard. Racing with these guys, beating some of them and being in the field is amazing, though.
“I felt like we were good enough to maybe be second or third – I never saw the (No.) 2 car, so he must have been pretty sporty,” Scelzi noted. “That’s two Knoxville Nationals that I never thought I’d get in. It’s so cool, and a dream come true to get in again. We can only go forward from here.”
Scelzi’s road to a transfer spot was built on the high side of the Knoxville dirt, as he rim-rode around for much of the distance in Friday night’s feature after struggling down low during his preliminary night.
“I feel like I’ve spent a lot more time on the top this week than I have on the bottom; we’ve been struggling down there with almost having too much drive down low,” Scelzi explained. “When I saw Sammy (Swindell) pass me down there, though, I figured I’d just roll the bottom … and I knew he probably wasn’t pounding the wall (down) off turn two.
“I went down there and did exactly what I’d hoped, and from there, chasing Shane … he was running good laps until he started having problems, but I couldn’t tell what was wrong for him because I had my eyes closed,” Scelzi added. “When he got tight, I just started cheating the cushion into (turn) three, but the last thing I wanted to do was race him, because I know that when two guys get racing here, they lose a lot of time.
“I just tried to stay with him and knew we’d both be OK where we were. It was a hectic race.”
Scelzi has now made the Knoxville Nationals finale two years in a row on Friday night, a unique feat.
While he was hesitant to compare the pair of performances, the 21-year-old recognized how important being back in the Knoxville Nationals A-main is for his family-owned Scelzi Motorsports operation.
“Winning the SPEED SPORT (Challenge) last year was the best moment of my life, for sure,” Scelzi said. “It was very, very special … in fact, Ralph (Sheheen, SPEED SPORT President) and I were talking about it earlier this week, but to make it into the Nationals finale racing in on Hard Knox Night is just as hard.
“Maybe I should just put my entry in for Friday every year, because for whatever reason, I seem to want to do it the hardest possible way,” Scelzi added. “I’m excited to get in, but I’m even more excited that I’m not alone in the back row now and can actually claim to be part of the field now! I can’t go backwards, either, so that’s a big deal for us.”
With the hardest task – making the Knoxville Nationals – now complete, Scelzi has one goal for his second Saturday A-main start besides moving as far forward in 50 laps as he can.
“This time, we’re gunning for Gio,” the elder Scelzi said of his younger brother. “I want to beat that 71.”
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