MECHANICSBURG, Pa. — The trajectory of Gio Scelzi’s racing career changed forever on this very day three years ago, the night before the coveted World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series National Open at Williams Grove Speedway.
Scelzi stunned a 50-car field and became the youngest winner in World of Outlaws history at 16 years old to evoke the victory lane words, “I don‘t think I‘m ever going to believe this one.”
Three years later, Scelzi is still trying to channel his lofty potential. He has just one 410 win in 79 races with KCP Racing this season. The team has pioneered Toyota Racing Development‘s new engine program.
“This is definitely a huge learning year,” Scelzi said in a phone interview earlier this week. “We changed the whole team at the end of February. Changed cars, wings, shocks, essentially everything. Really digging into our motor program with Brian Morrison and taking on this new Toyota [Racing Development] thing.
“Every time it seems like we get on a roll to go in the right direction, something else is thrown at us,” Scelzi added. “You can‘t really be upset with it.”
Scelzi‘s journey back to the Williams Grove National Open this weekend almost comes full circle.
He‘s detached from a longtime desire to race in the NASCAR national series, realizing through an ARCA Menards Series West deal last year that the lifestyle is not made for him.
“I knew when I was sitting in the lounge at the stock car races watching DIRTvision, that my heart was not into the stock car deal,” Scelzi said.
“That was something you had to do to figure out that‘s not what I wanted to do full time,” Scelzi added. “I didn‘t really know where I wanted to go with the whole deal.”
Now he is just over a month away from completing his first full sprint car season.
In 2018, Scelzi logged 49 races in the 410 class. The year after, he ran 50. In ‘20, he managed 36 events in the 410 whenever he had time between his 11 ARCA West races from February to November.
Williams Grove gave Scelzi a boost three years ago, and it can certainly dish more of the same this weekend.
The tricky half-mile clay oval is one of Scelzi‘s best tracks. It‘s striking given his California counterparts, Brad Sweet and Kyle Larson, didn‘t adapt as quickly. For Sweet, he‘s yet to figure the track out.
Scelzi finished second in the Morgan Cup this past May to Aaron Reutzel, a track that was dead slick and similar conditions to what this weekend will likely produce.
Last week, he finished third in the weekly event at the track.
“Williams Grove is definitely one of those places I roll into and have a little more confidence racing at,” Scelzi said.
“I think Williams Grove is a place you can overdrive, especially corner entry,” Scelzi added when asked how‘s able to flatten the learning curve at Williams Grove. “You run it in so deep and get balled up to the center of the corner.
“I feel like I don‘t drive it super deep into the corner,” he continued. “I try to get my exit speed faster than other race cars. The corners are so tight, you have to be smooth and carry a lot of speed without overdriving the race car.
“I don‘t really know what it is, other than that,” Scelzi said.
Another adaptation to the grind that is full-time sprint car racing is a work-life balance, in essence.
“You definitely learned a lot about yourself in a hotel room, a lot of time away from home, really,” Scelzi said. “The biggest thing is having an escape from it all. If you think about it all day, every day, you‘re going to drive yourself crazy.”
Scelzi gets that change of pace through concerts, on the golf course and with his girlfriend.
“Doing other stuff makes it easier,” Scelzi said. “You give yourself enough time away from racing, so when you come back, you‘re looking forward to racing.
“Williams Grove, it‘s a place that really suits me, and one I‘m really looking forward to,” he added.