Gio Scelzi

Bill McAnally Racing

Bill McAnally Racing names 2020 ARCA Menards West driver lineup

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Bill McAnally Racing on Tuesday announced its 2020 roster of drivers in the ARCA Menards West Series.

The roster includes two male and two female drivers: Giovanni “Gio” Scelzi, Jesse Love, Gracie Trotter and Holley Hollan.

Plans call for all four drivers, who are also part of Toyota’s driver development program, to run the full schedule in the ARCA Series West, along with other additional select ARCA races. In addition to each driver running for the West championship, they will all also contend for the West Rookie of the Year award.

There will also be bragging rights on the line, as the next race winner for BMR will give the organization its 100th career win between the ARCA Menards Series West and East divisions (formerly NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East).

“We’re very enthusiastic about our lineup of drivers for the 2020 season,” McAnally said in a media release. “We anticipate plenty of excitement from this talented roster of newcomers to the series. We see great potential in each of them.”

Here’s a breakdown of each of McAnally’s four newest drivers:

* Gio Scelzi, 18, of Fresno, California, will drive the No. 16 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Records Toyota Camry. Son of four-time NHRA drag racing champion Gary Scelzi, the younger Scelzi is competing this week in his second Chili Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma. … Scelzi has been a rising star in sprint and midget cars on dirt the last three years. He shifts to pavement racing with BMR this season, but also expects to continue racing sprints and midgets as well. Began racing Junior Micro Sprints at the age of 6. Made transition to full-sized sprint cars in 2016. Became the youngest race winner in World of Outlaws history in 2018, and also the youngest winner at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway in the All Star Circuit of Champions race. Also won his first-ever start on pavement in a late model race at Irwindale Speedway outside Los Angeles last year.

* Jesse Love, 15, from Menlo Park, Calif. Will drive the No. 19 NAPA Power Premium Plus Toyota Camry for BMR. Started racing quarter midgets at 5 years old. Has won multiple track, regional, state and national championships. In 2019, split time between dirt and asphalt racing, including finishing in the top 10 in the SRL Southwest Tour Series and finished runner-up in rookie points.

* Gracie Trotter, 18, of Denver, North Carolina, will drive the No. 99 ENEOS Toyota Camry. The third-generation racer began competing in go-karts at 8 years old. She eventually moved to Legends cars and in 2017 became the first female to win the Young Lions division at Charlotte Motor Speedway, and finished second in points in the 2018 Summer Shootout at CMS. She went on to win the 2019 Winter Heat Series championship and reached Round 5 of the Summer Shootout in the Semi-Pro Division. Began racing super late models in 2017 and in 2019 joined the NASCAR Drive for Diversity Driver Development Program, which she continues to be a part of as a late model driver for Rev Racing.

* Holley Hollan, 18, a fourth-generation racer from Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, will drive the No. 50 JBL/NAPA Filters/NAPA Belts & Hoses Toyota Camry. Began racing at the age of 5 in Junior Sprints and up to 600 cc micros at the age of 12. Has been competing in midget cars the last two seasons and finished fifth in the points in the POWRi Lucas Oil National Midget League in 2019.

Bill McAnally Racing has become one of the top feeder organizations to NASCAR. Past drivers who’ve raced for McAnally include Hailie Deegan (who has moved up to ARCA this season), Cole Custer, Clint Bowyer, Todd Gilliland, Brendan Gaughan and Derek Kraus (who it was announced Monday will drive full-time in the NASCAR Truck Series in a partnership between Bill McAnally and Wisconsin businessman Bill Hilgemann).

McAnally is also the only owner in the NASCAR touring series to have nine championships with a variety of drivers, including four of the last five seasons (2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019). He also enters the 30th consecutive seasons with NAPA sponsorship, one of the longest running sponsorships in motorsports history.

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Gio Scelzi hopes to use Chili Bowl as springboard to NASCAR

Photo: Rich Forman
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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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