FRESNO, Calif. – Gio Scelzi has a lot of reasons to be confident entering the start of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series’ swing through his home state of California.
For one, he’s coming off a two-day sojourn through Las Vegas that produced a lot of positives for he and Roth Motorsports. For another, home cooking is sometimes the best motivation for a driver.
Knowing that, Scelzi is understandably excited to get back to his roots for the next few weeks.
“It’s nice to be back home and just have some of those things that you’ve always been used to around you for a little while, you know?” Scelzi told SPEED SPORT. “It’s something you don’t really think about when you’re on the road a lot, but it does make things a lot easier and simpler in a lot of ways.
“These tracks that we’re getting ready to run are tracks that I’ve grown up at and tracks I have a lot of laps at, so if we can roll out with some speed early, I feel like we’ll have a good shot here in California.”
Scelzi fired off strong during the FVP Platinum Battery Outlaw Showdown at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas, finishing fifth on the opening night after running as high as second, and then running 12th in the finale.
“It was great to get back to racing, and to get back to Las Vegas and run well after a tough go last year,” Scelzi said. “Dennis and Teresa Roth gave me a great opportunity to continue work with Bernie Stuebgen and I felt like we picked up right where we left off.”
“Being in contention to win was really good, and that really does give me a ton of confidence as we head into California for the next few weeks,” Scelzi added. “Honestly, going into something like that – where Bernie has never worked on a KPC (Chassis) car and never had Kistler (engines) – was a bit of a learning curve, but he’s confident in what he does and confidence breeds confidence. We were fast off the bat.”
While Scelzi felt like he let a potential win slip through his fingers during the Wednesday night feature in Las Vegas, he also recognized that there wasn’t much more he could have done in the final laps.
“The restart before the red (flag), I had run so hard to try and catch him (Shaffer) that I just blistered the tires pretty bad. I asked the guys how they were, and they said they were shot,” noted Scelzi. “Since it was just a fuel stop, we couldn’t add any air. I was trying to hang on after that. I just got a bad restart and at that point, you’re a sitting duck. That’s how it falls sometimes.
“With not knowing what to expect with different cars and different motors, starting out that strong and having a shot at winning, I feel like it couldn’t have started off much better for us,” he added. “We all got along well and the team did a really good job. Thursday sucked, but with the Outlaw format … if you get a bad qualifying effort, you’re just buried for the whole night and it’s so hard to dig yourself out of.
“We’re pleased though; Vegas was a great launching point and now we just have to build on it.”
Though Roth Motorsports has different cars than what he’s used to racing out of the Indy Race Parts shop, Scelzi has begun to find a sweet spot thanks to the efforts of his regular owner and crew chief, Bernie Stuebgen, who’s working with him throughout the West Coast swing.
“With getting a little more experience running my brother’s Schnee and running a Maxim, you get to thinking a race car is all just tubing,” Scelzi explained. “You just have to figure out what they like. Bernie (Stuebgen) is the best crew chief and confidence is a big thing for me. Right now, I think we could build a wheelbarrow and be fast with it, honestly.”
Now, Scelzi heads to Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif., to kick off the Outlaws’ romp in the Golden State. It’s arguably the track he has the most experience at and that fact has him eager to get going.
“Hopefully the weather holds out,” he said. “That’s a facility I have the most laps around out of anywhere in California. Having a good Trophy Cup (last fall) and a decent showing with the Outlaws last year, I have a lot of confidence there.
“We’ll see what happens, but I believe you’ll see us up front there with a shot to win if things fall right.”