World of Outlaws

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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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Kyle Larson wins World of Outlaws race at Fairbury Speedway

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Kyle Larson defeated Brad Sweet to win a World of Outlaws sprint car race Tuesday night at Fairbury American Legion Speedway in Illinois.

It is Larson’s second straight Outlaws win. He led the final 18 laps of the 40-lap feature event.

The win comes with Larson scheduled to compete in two Indiana Midget Week races this week: Wednesday night at Gas City I-69 Speedway in Gas City, Indiana, and Thursday night at Lincoln Park Speedway in Greencastle, Indiana.

You can watch extended highlights of Larson’s win in the above video.

Kyle Larson wins World of Outlaws race; Christopher Bell tumbles

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Kyle Larson scored his first World of Outlaws win of the season after a brief duel for the lead with Christopher Bell on Monday night at Lawrenceburg (Indiana) Speedway.

As they raced side-by-side into Turn 1, Bell’s sprint car jumped the cushion and he hit the wall. The contact caused Bell’s car to go upside down and tumble briefly. Bell finished 22nd in the 24-car field.

“These Outlaw wins are so hard to win,” Larson said, according to the World of Outlaws site. “I mean, you’ve got Bell, leading, he’s one of, if not the best drivers in the country or in the world right now, in open wheel cars. And Donny Schatz, who’s arguably the best in winged sprint cars. So, to beat those two feels really cool.”

Donny Schatz, who drives for Tony Stewart Racing, was second. Giovanni Scelzi placed third. Schatz is the series leader. He has a 48-point lead on Brad Sweet, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing.

The World of Outlaws next race on Friday at Nashville Fairgrounds Speedway.

 

 

Kyle Larson, Christopher Bell, Kasey Kahne in World of Outlaws field in Las Vegas

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Kyle Larson and Christopher Bell are among the headliners entered in a two-day World of Outlaws event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s Dirt Track this week that features current and former NASCAR drivers.

Larson, Bell, former Cup driver Kasey Kahne and former Truck Series driver Rico Abreu are entered in the FVP Platinum Battery Showdown presented by Star Nursery, which runs Wednesday and Thursday.

The Las Vegas event follows Larson and Bell’s battling in the offseason in dirt races in New Zealand and in January’s Chili Bowl, which Bell won with a last-lap pass of Larson.

Bell is coming off a win in Saturday’s Xfinity race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

The two-day event also includes the K&N Pro Series West, USAC West Coast Sprint Cars and the International Motor Contest Association Sprint Cars.

Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will be part of a K&N West autograph session at the track at 9:30 p.m. ET on Thursday.

Qualifying for both World of Outlaws races begins at 7:50 p.m. ET each day. Eight-lap heat races later in the evening will set up 30-lap feature races.

Races begin Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. ET and Thursday at 10 p.m. ET

Click here for the race schedule.

Kasey Kahne set for more than 50 sprint car events in 2019

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Kasey Kahne‘s NASCAR career is over after 15 year of Cup competition, but his racing career is far from over.

Kahne is scheduled to make more than 50 starts in sprint car races next year in the World of Outlaws and All-Star Circuit of Champions with his own sprint car team.

The news is part of a sponsor announcement that will have Kahne and Kasey Kahne Racing’s No. 9 car sponsored by Wicked Energy Gum/Wicked Energy in select races.

“This is the most excited I have been in a long time to get back to racing,” Kahne said in a press release. “I feel great and I’ve been working out a lot preparing for the upcoming season. Returning to sprint cars on a more regular basis is something that I have been looking forward to for years.”

Click here to see Kahne’s tentative schedule.

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