Column: Gio Scelzi Making Early Progress During Rookie World Of Outlaws Campaign
Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – CONCORD, NC – Giovanni Scelzi has found his footing after a rough trek through the Florida swamp to start his 2023 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series rookie campaign.
“Hot Sauce” has been on a steady climb, finishing inside the top 10 in seven of the last eight races, including finishes of eighth, seven, sixth and fifth, respectively, in the last four events.
The results have been a positive turnaround for he and his KCP Racing team after struggling to find the top 10 in the first five races of the year at Volusia Speedway Park; results that left them scratching their heads after ending 2022 with three consecutive top-10 finishes and a second-place run to cap off the year.
“To end the year strong and then kind of try to start your 2023 where you left off, we had the same car, same motor, same program and went to Volusia and really couldn’t have been much worse honestly,” Scelzi said. “We couldn’t qualify in the top 20 and just didn’t feel comfortable.”
While their March results at Volusia were 22nd, 16th and 11th, they were still a sign of their program moving in the right direction. In the few weeks of downtime between the season-opening weekend at Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals and the March Low-E Insulation Spring Showdown, Scelzi and his crew, consisting of Adam Clark, Jett Carney, and Aaron Beiler, utilized it to learn as much as they could.
“We came back home after the DIRTcar Nationals and just kind of rebounded,” Scelzi explained. “We sat down and kind of looked at everything in a healthy way, watched some film and kind of saw what we thought we were missing and tried to go with a different approach, go down there and just see where we were lacking and try to come with a new approach, and we did that, I felt like, very well.
“We qualified good, Heat Raced good, and we were probably going to run second, then the crank trigger took a crap. Even though it wasn’t a good finish, that felt a lot better. When you get a car that you can get around there and feel comfortable in and be competitive, it definitely helps your confidence.”
As the year rolls on, Scelzi said he expects a consistent trend of improvement due to what the nature of the World of Outlaws campaign teaches drivers.
In the past when he’s run a “True Outlaw” schedule, Scelzi found on nights when he wasn’t competing with The Greatest Show on Dirt, a mistake or two could be overcome. However, when racing against premier World of Outlaws drivers, missing the bottom or getting tight on the cushion once could be the difference between a top-five finish and nearly missing the top 10.
“I think we had a few eighth-place finishes in a row, but a couple of those eighths could’ve been top fives really easily if I wouldn’t have made one or two mistakes in the [Feature],” Scelzi said. “I think, with the Outlaws, that’s what makes you that much better. One or two mistakes costs you three or four spots where with another series, it won’t cost you that much time. I think I’ve done a decent job of minimizing mistakes or when I make a mistake, it’s not as detrimental.”
Along with the consistently battling the best drivers in the country each week, Scelzi said he expects the consistency of the World of Outlaws format to also benefit him. Instead of battling a different roster of drivers under a different format each weekend, the competition and rules won’t vary.
“I like repetition, doing stuff the same every time, that’s where I feel like I strive,” Scelzi noted. “As the year goes on, I think, with the Outlaws, having the same schedule every night, racing with the same guys every night gets you in a repetition of doing the same thing every single night. I feel like that’s helped. Racing different series is cool, different formats that’s fun, but I just feel like, for me, racing against the same group of guys every night, the same officials every night, the same rules every night brings me up to the next level. That’s why the Outlaws are so good.
“When you race with the Outlaws, it brings you to that next level. I feel like in years past when I did race with the Outlaws for a while, then I’d go to an All-Star race or a local show, I was that much better. I was ready to race that much harder.”
With only 13 races in the books and more than 60 remaining, Scelzi has plenty of time remaining this year to continue getting better and building his notebook. And factoring in the growing level of parity even at the top of the sport, Scelzi is confident that, with the right balance of perspective and patience, he and KCP have what it takes to one day challenge for a World of Outlaws title.
“I think sitting back and realizing I have all of the same equipment they have, I have as good if not better running engines than they have and the funding I need to win, I shouldn’t say there’s no reason I shouldn’t win, but my guys give me every opportunity to be competitive and potentially win a championship,” Scelzi said. “I feel like, obviously, it takes time, and that’s the hardest thing – waiting and learning as much as you possibly can, but there’s really nothing that money can buy that I don’t have right now.”
Scelzi and KCP will be in action next weekend at Tri-City Speedway (Granite City, IL) on April 28 and Tri-State Speedway (Haubstadt, IN) on April 29.