Story By: NICK GRAZIANO / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CHARLOTTE, NC – A gasp echoed over the field of 24 thunderous Sprint Cars raging around the 4/10-mile Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Goliath fell. David won.
Seventeen-year-old Giovanni Scelzi did the unthinkable. He passed a dominate Kyle Larson in the closing laps of night one of the United Rentals Patriot Nationals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Friday night. In doing so, he claimed his second World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series win.
“That’s so cool,” said Scelzi, choosing his words with hesitation, as those having to convince himself it actually happened. “I can’t believe I got by him. Normally when he (Larson) gets away, he’s gone.”
Larson – still riding the momentum of his $1 million NASCAR All-Star win – showed no signs of rust in a Sprint Car by Qualifying fourth, finishing second in his Drydene Heat race and winning the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash.
With all of the attention on Larson, Scelzi quietly pieced together a competitive run. He also finished second in his Drydene Heat race and finished runner-up to Larson in the Dash.
When the 30-lap Feature went green, Larson left Scelzi to play with Brad Sweet and David Gravel for second-place. In the early stage of the race, Gravel looked to be the one potential car to challenge Larson, charging his way from fourth to second by lap four.
Scelzi shutdown Gravel’s hope of another win the next lap with a slide job through turns one and two to reclaim second. Gravel made the same move the next lap, but Scelzi outpowered the No. 41 car again through turns three and four.
By the time Scelzi returned to second, Larson was gone. Riding the high side of the speedway, the No. 57 of Larson became a speck in the cloud of dust to Scelzi. However, the teenager’s duel with Gravel taught him a lesson.
“David passed me and when I got by him, I knew it was time to go to the top,” Scelzi said.
Moving to the top kept Scelzi on pace with Larson, but as the track began to rubber up, he moved a lane down again. His lane transitions proved beneficial. With about eight laps to go, Larson went from being a speck to a full frame picture. The NASCAR winner slid up off his line through turn two, making the back end step out and scrubbed off speed.
That gave Scelzi the advantage through turns one and two. He darted underneath Larson down the backstretch and slid by him in turns three and four to officially take the lead with five laps to go.
“I caught him in the rubber, and it looked like he was still searching, and I had the perfect opportunity to pull the trigger,” Scelzi said. “I figured he’d chop me, but he’s a very clean racer.”
From there, Larson had nothing for the Fresno, Calif. native. Instead he had to fend off a hard charging Logan Schuchart, who came from seventh-place to third.
“Second is always a good spot to be because you can see the leader struggling and make your move, which Gio did.” Larson said. “I made a mistake through that corner, I just go arched out too much and got the car bent and then I lost my right rear grip, which didn’t help for my exit speed.”
While Schuchart was happy with his strong run, he left knowing it could have been better. He said he needs to get better at Qualifying up front more to put himself in position to start further up front and have a better shot at the win.
His finish leaves him fifth in the Series’ points standings – 158 points behind leader Donny Schatz. The 10-time Series champion currently sits 28 points ahead of second-place Brad Sweet.
The finish to the opening night of the inaugural United Rentals Patriot Nationals left many fans stunned, but it’s not the first time Scelzi has pulled off an astonishing feat. Last year, he became the youngest ever World of Outlaws winner, at 16 years old, by winning his first Series race at the historic Williams Grove Speedway.
This time though, he had extra attention. NASCAR attention.
In the grandstands, the likes of Bubba Wallace, Ryan Blaney and Jeff Gordon watched on. While on the track, he had to compete with Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Larson.
When the helmet goes on, Scelzi said he’s just focused on the race, but he hopes his run gained him a little more attention.
“Man, I’d like to be over across the street at the NASCAR track,” Scelzi said. “But who knows. I’m having a ball racing Sprint Cars. I’m just happy being here.
The crowd of thousands at the Charlotte dirt track knew the NASCAR names. When Larson was announced at the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash draw, the bleachers erupted into emphatic cheers. Scelzi was greeted with golf claps.
When he pulled into Victory Lane ahead of Larson that changed. Standing atop the wing of his car, taller than Goliath, those emphatic cheers became his.
Larson fell. Scelzi won.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps) – 1. 71-Giovanni Scelzi ; 2. 57-Kyle Larson ; 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart ; 4. 49-Brad Sweet ; 5. 41-David Gravel ; 6. 11K-Kraig Kinser ; 7. 15-Donny Schatz ; 8. 18-Ian Madsen ; 9. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 10. 9-James McFadden ; 11. 1A-Jacob Allen ; 12. 83-Daryn Pittman ; 13. 2M-Kerry Madsen ; 14. 19-Brent Marks ; 15. 2-Carson Macedo ; 16. 22-Cole Duncan ; 17. 71P-Parker Price-Miller ; 18. 5-Shane Stewart ; 19. K4-Chad Kemenah ; 20. 7S-Jason Sides ; 21. 91-Cale Thomas ; 22. 17JR-Ricky Stenhouse ; 23. 41S-Dominic Scelzi ; 24. 24-Rico Abreu ; Lap Leaders: Kyle Larson 1-24, Giovanni Scelzi 25-30; KSE Hard Charger Award: 1S-Logan Schuchart[+4]
Qualifying – 1. 41-David Gravel, 12.871; 2. 83-Daryn Pittman, 13.01; 3. 15-Donny Schatz, 13.044; 4. 57-Kyle Larson, 13.056; 5. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 13.06; 6. 49-Brad Sweet, 13.065; 7. 1A-Jacob Allen, 13.09; 8. 71-Giovanni Scelzi, 13.096; 9. 17JR-Ricky Stenhouse, 13.1; 10. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 13.103; 11. 18-Ian Madsen, 13.112; 12. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 13.125; 13. 2M-Kerry Madsen, 13.141; 14. 7S-Jason Sides, 13.146; 15. 2-Carson Macedo, 13.175; 16. 91-Cale Thomas, 13.192; 17. 71P-Parker Price-Miller, 13.2; 18. 22-Cole Duncan, 13.311; 19. 24-Rico Abreu, 13.348; 20. K4-Chad Kemenah, 13.361; 21. 5-Shane Stewart, 13.361; 22. 19-Brent Marks, 13.372; 23. 9-James McFadden, 13.426; 24. J4-John Garvin, 13.512; 25. 41S-Dominic Scelzi, 13.622; 26. 5B-Justin Barger, 13.63; 27. 1-Jamie Myers, 13.685; 28. 98H-Dave Blaney, 13.693; 29. 47-Eric Riggins, 13.694; 30. 27G-Jay Galloway, 13.863; 31. 49H-Bradley Howard, 14.102