CONCORD, N.C. – Patience and a power move in turn three combined to pay dividends for Gio Scelzi on Friday night, as he stormed to the win in the opening act of the United Rentals Patriot Nationals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
Scelzi, who lined up second after being outrun by Kyle Larson in the DIRTvision Fast Pass Dash, ran in that position for most of the night’s 30-lap feature and appeared destined to settle into that position all the way to the checkered flag.
However, inside of 10 to go, Scelzi began inching forward. With eight to go, he was within three car lengths of Larson’s tail tank, and with six laps left he was right on Larson’s bumper exiting turn two.
Loading his guns for a big move down the backstretch, Scelzi cut to the bottom of the track entering turn three and hooked his No. 71 Indy Race Parts machine against the inside berm, powering past Larson and taking firm command of the race.
Once out front, the 17-year-old never looked back, running out to a 1.115-second margin of victory and his second-career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series triumph.
“We struggled to start the year off out west with Roth Motorsports, but Bernie (Stuebgen, crew chief) and I have slowly been getting better and better, and I think now we’re starting to hit our stride,” Scelzi told SPEED SPORT. “I can’t thank Bernie and Betsy enough. They put every single cent that they have into this team and trying to get me to the next level. It’s so much fun to race for them and win for them.
“Tonight is a dream come true,” he added. “To get my first Outlaw win at Williams Grove and then to come here to Charlotte, another marquee track for the Outlaws, and take home the trophy … there aren’t words for how cool this is.”
Scelzi noted that timing his move, and not trying to make the pass too early when he had the run, was a major key to his eventual victory.
“I was just staying even with him for a long time, and not really getting better or worse, but finally it clicked for us there inside of 10 to go and I got to the point where I could peel off (from behind Larson),” Scelzi explained. “I got that run off turn two, and I knew I had to take it. Working the bottom hadn’t let me quite get to him, and after David (Gravel) got me for second, I knew I had to get going on the top.
“I saw Kyle getting loose off turn two, and figured I could make something happen. It just had to be the right moment, and thankfully it was.”
The California teenager also paid a nod to Larson, who was looking for his third win in his third different type of car in less than a week’s time.
“Kyle’s the best driver in the world right now, no matter what he’s driving in,” Scelzi said. “I respect him a lot and look forward to seeing him win at the next level across the street, but we took one from him tonight and I’m really proud of that.
“Second’s always a good spot to be in, because you can see where the leader is struggling and make your move accordingly, and Gio did exactly that,” said Larson. I felt OK until I caught traffic, and then I started losing drive off of (turn) two. When the groove started creeping down the track, I found a little bit more grip, but he was just a little bit better down the stretch.
“I’m disappointed I lost the race, but this is still a good run for us tonight and it was good to shake the rust off after not being in a sprint car for a few months.”
KSE Hard Charger Logan Schuchart came forward from the seventh starting position to complete the podium, followed by Brad Sweet and David Gravel.
Kraig Kinser, Donny Schatz, Ian Madsen, Sheldon Haudenschild and James McFadden closed the top 10.
The race was interrupted just once by a red flag on lap three, when Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Rico Abreu tangled in turn four and Abreu tipped on his side. Abreu was uninjured.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.