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Bristol adding Saturday Night Thunder iRacing event for non-Cup drivers

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More NASCAR racers are jumping into the iRacing pool starting this weekend at virtual Bristol Motor Speedway.

Sunday’s Food City Showdown (1 p.m. ET on FOX and FS1) will continue to feature current and former NASCAR Cup drivers. There will be will two heat races to set the lineup for that afternoon’s main event. Those heat races will be televised by FOX, FS1 and the Fox Sports App.

Being added to the weekend menu is a Saturday night race – Saturday Night Thunder – that will feature drivers from the NASCAR Xfinity and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, as well as the NASCAR PEAK Mexico Series, the NASCAR Whelen Euro Series and ARCA.

All drivers in Saturday night’s event – which will be streamed on eNASCAR.com – will compete in ARCA Menards Series cars. The format will be true short track racing with multiple heat races leading up to the evening’s main event.

No drivers from Saturday night’s race will advance to Sunday’s action.

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Michael Self, Hailie Deegan finish 1-2 in ARCA season opener

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Michael Self held off a last-lap challenge by Hailie Deegan to win Saturday’s ARCA Menards Series Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway.

Self started from the pole and led 60 of the 80 laps in the 200-mile event. It was Self’s eighth career ARCA win (in 40 starts), including his second triumph in the season opener at Daytona.

“This is amazing, man, to start the season off like this, it’s unbelievable,” Self told FS1. “It’s just a great day overall. What an amazing car, to have our (Venturini Motorsports) cars finish 1 and 3 (teammate Drew Dollar) is unbelievable.”

Making her rookie effort at Daytona, Deegan becomes the third female (Erin Crocker three times and Shawna Robinson once) to finish runner-up in a race in ARCA Menards Series history. It was also her best finish in seven ARCA starts thus far.

“Coming into this race, my first goal was to finish, second goal was top 3 to top 5, I would have been ecstatic,” Deegan told FS1. “To come out here and finish second, runner-up, nothing could have been better. Obviously, every driver wants to win, but this was a victory for me.”

There were several incidents in the 80-lap, 200-mile event, but none bigger than a wreck on Lap 39 when more than a dozen cars were involved in a high-speed wreck. Among notable drivers involved were David Gravel, Natalie Decker, Andy Seuss and Dominique Van Wierengen.

On Lap 50, Deegan made slight contact with the right rear corner of Chuck Hiers, sending him head-on into the wall. Hiers and Deegan were running fifth and sixth at the time. Deegan’s car was not damaged in the incident.

With 11 laps to go, 2018 NHRA Pro Stock champ Tanner Gray’s day ended early when he was sent to pit road by ARCA officials due to excessive smoke from under the hood. Gray was running fourth when his motor let go.

The next ARCA Menards Series race is March 6 at Phoenix Raceway.

ARCA Daytona results

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NASCAR, NBC Sports announce 2020 grassroots racing coverage

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NASCAR, ARCA and NBC Sports announced Tuesday plans to air select grassroots racing series events on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and NBCSN in 2020.

Scheduled events include the ARCA Menards Series East and West (formerly the K&N Pro Series), the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, which begins Friday at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway.

All eight races of the ARCA Menards Series East will air live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, beginning with the season-opening Skips Western Outfitters 175 on Feb. 10 at New Smyrna Speedway. NBCSN will provide tape-delayed coverage of entire ARCA Menards Series East season, with the Skips Western Outfitters 175 airing Feb. 14 at 1 p.m. ET.

The ARCA Menards Series East season opener is part of the 54th annual World Series of Asphalt from New Smyrna Speedway, which features nine consecutive nights of racing from Feb. 7-15. TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will provide live coverage of the entire World Series of Asphalt, which also includes NASCAR Weekly Racing Series highlighted by super late models, pro late model, and tour-type Modifieds.

TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold will also provide live coverage of the entire ARCA Menards Series West season, which kicks off Feb. 20 with the Star Nursery 150 at the Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. NBCSN will provide coverage on February 25 at 6 p.m. ET, along with coverage of the entire 10-race ARCA Menards Series West slate.

The full 17-race NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will also air live on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold, with NBCSN providing coverage of 14 races. The Modified Tour season begins March 21 at Virginia’s South Boston Speedway, with NBCSN coverage airing Monday, March 30 at 6 p.m. ET.

The TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold NASCAR Roots package is available for $2.99/month or $19.99 annually. The TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold All-Access Pass, which includes NASCAR Roots plus IMSA and American Flat Track, is available for $4.99/month or $44.99/year. To subscribe go here.

TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold allows users to cast streamed content on a connected device via NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app, letting fans experience racing action on their preferred hardware, including big-screen environments. TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold is available on desktop web browsers and via the NBC Sports app on iOS and Android phones and tablets, Apple TV (Gen 4), Roku, Amazon Fire TV, AndroidTV, Xfinity X1, Xfinity Flex and Chromecast devices connected via HDMI.

Gio Scelzi hopes to use Chili Bowl as springboard to NASCAR

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Giovanni Scelzi grew up the son of a four-time National Hot Rod Association champion, and has been making a significant name of his own racing dirt midgets and sprints, particularly in the World of Outlaws series.

But there’s another race series that the 18-year-old Scelzi – “Gio” for short – has his sights set upon: NASCAR.

If all goes well, Scelzi hopes to begin climbing the NASCAR ladder – perhaps as early as this year.

But first things first: the Fresno, California native is participating in this week’s Chili Bowl in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He’s one of more than 350 entries that also includes good friend Kyle Larson, plus other NASCAR drivers including Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Alex Bowman, Chase Briscoe, J.J. Yeley, James Davison, Ryan Ellis, Ryan Newman, Justin Allgaier and Christopher Bell, who has won the Chili Bowl the last three years.

Scelzi isn’t the only aspiring NASCAR driver from the World of Outlaws. David Gravel, who is also competing in the Chili Bowl, recently signed a part-time Truck Series deal with GMS Racing.

Once the Chili Bowl concludes Saturday night, Scelzi, son of four-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi, and younger brother of fellow sprint/midget car racer Dominic Scelzi, will then travel with Larson to Australia, where they’ll compete in several races, most notably the biggest event of the Australian sprint car season, The Classic, on Jan. 23-24.

Gio Scelzi after one of his nine wins last season. (Jason Tucker Photos)

Needless to say, all the time together with Larson will give the youngest Scelzi a chance to further pick his fellow Californian’s mind about how to reach and race in NASCAR.

“I love sprint car racing, that’s always where my heart will be,” Scelzi told NBC Sports last week. “It’s obviously what I grew up doing, dirt racing.

“I’ll still race sprint cars as much as I can, but in the next 5-10 years, I hope to get into Trucks and Xfinity to get towards NASCAR (Cup).”

Scelzi and his father have been working on getting Gio some seat time this year in the ARCA Menards Series West (formerly K&N Pro Series West).

“Hopefully this year or next year I’ll transition over to ARCA, which is a good stepping stone, do something along those lines and get my feet wet on pavement,” Gio Scelzi said. “I’ve done some testing the last year, just trying to see if that’s the direction I want to go.

“Nothing’s been announced yet, but I think something will be announced here pretty soon to hopefully go down that path.”

Even though their father was one of the most prolific drivers in NHRA history, Gio and his brother Dominic went in a different direction when they first started racing themselves.

Instead of the straight and narrow, they chose round and dirty, you might say.

“The hardest part of drag racing, there really is no way for a kid that can race anything before you’re 16,” Scelzi said. “That’s kind of the age where you can earn a license and are allowed to race under power and really learn how to race.

“But in dirt racing, there’s micro-sprints, outlaw karts, you name it, there’s all kind of kids classes you could do to learn how to race. My dad went to dirt races a lot in California and really enjoyed it, was good friends with (NASCAR Hall of Famer) Tony Stewart and (sprint car racer) Danny Lasoski, so he always had a friend base in dirt racing and that was a way to get me and my brother in a race car when we were really young.”

Dominic began racing go-karts at five years old and Gio began racing micro-sprints at 6 at their home track, Plaza Park Raceway in Visalia, Calif., about 30 miles from Fresno.

“I think sprint car racing is so unique from other forms of racing,” Gio Scelzi said. “With a 410 sprint car, around the United States, you have the World of Outlaws, the All-Stars (All Star Circuit of Champions), IRA (Sprint Series), Knoxville (Nationals), I mean there’s probably 20 or 30 race tracks racing on a given weekend, with the same rules package, the same kind of cars and there are very good race car drivers in their own region.

“With a sprint car, what I’ve done the last two years, I’ve been based in Indianapolis and race wherever we want. If we want to race in an All-Star race in Ohio, we can go there. If we want to race an Outlaw race in North Dakota, we can go there.

“There are so many different options with that same rules package that is such a simple, powerful, exciting race car, I don’t think there’s no other kind of professional racing where you can make a living at it that has that kind of atmosphere.

“If you’ve got the money and the motors to race, you can race every weekend. Just the World of Outlaws schedule is 95 races. Or you can race the All-Stars, which is 50 races, and then maybe 20 races in Outlaws when you want to. There’s so much freedom with a team where you want to go and where you want to race, I think that’s what makes it unique.”

Gio Scelzi in one of his midget races last season. (Jason Tucker Photos.)

The youngest Scelzi has steadily been making a name for himself in the sprint car dirt racing world. At the age of 16 in 2018, he became the youngest winner in World of Outlaws history. He also won his first USAC Midget race in just his sixth career start in the series.

And at 17 last season, he was the youngest winner in the Knoxville Raceway’s history when he won an All Star Circuit of Champions race there, one of the most notable outings in a season that saw Scelzi make 71 starts across several dirt racing series, earning nine wins, 23 top-five and 40 top-10 finishes.

This week is the second Chili Bowl for Scelzi. He did well in his first start in 2018, finishing sixth in his preliminary race, was second in the B Main and then was running in the top 10 in the week’s main event – until the motor in his midget car blew halfway through the race and he finished last in the 24-car field.

Scelzi is racing at the Chili Bowl — his first race of the week is this evening, which kicks off the Nationals’ six-night run at the Tulsa Expo Center — as part of the Toyota Development program with Chad Boat (son of former IndyCar driver Billy Boat). His teammates include Christopher Bell and NBC Sports reporter Dillon Welch.

“I’m excited for it,” Gio Scelzi told NBC Sports. “The Chili Bowl as an event is huge and keeps growing and growing and attracting more attention through NASCAR and all kinds of racing fans.

“There’s a lot of good race cars, it seems like every year more and more guys and good race car drivers all-around get a ride and want to participate.”

Here’s a video of Scelzi getting ready and then taking to the track for his first practice session Monday (video courtesy Toyota Racing Development):

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Dominique Van Wieringen fastest on Day 2 of Daytona ARCA test

ARCA Menards Series
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The ARCA Menards Series capped off a two-day test at Daytona International Speedway Saturday in preparation for its Feb. 8 race at the 2.5-mile superspeedway.

Dominique Van Wieringen posted the fastest speed of the day at 181.397 mph. She only made four laps.

“I was really surprised when (owner) Mark (Rette) said we went to the top of the charts,” Van Wieringen said in a media release. “I was practicing trying to time the draft for qualifying and I didn’t get it times just right. Hopefully when we come back for the race I can time it out a little better in qualifying and get even more.

“It’s been a good experience. It’s really intimidating because you go really fast and when things go wrong they go wrong really fast. For the first time out, it was better than I thought it would be. It was actually really relaxing. I don’t know how to explain it, it was just really relaxing.”

Out of 41 cars to make a lap, the top five was completed by David Gravel (181.236 mph), Sean Corr (181.174), Michael Self (181.145) and Drew Dollar (181.134).

Gravel, a World of Outlaws driver, will make his series debut next month.

Hailie Deegan was 16th on the speed chart after recording 62 laps throughout the day, which was the most.