Column By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – WICHITA, KS – Plenty of focus has been on Giovanni Scelzi as he’s delivered one of the best rookie campaigns in World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car history. But there’s been another impressive rookie season taking place within his team.
Adam Clark, crew chief of Scelzi’s KCP Racing #18, is not only in his first year with the World of Outlaws, but also in his first full year as a crew chief in general.
Long before he landed at his current role, Clark’s interest in the sport began like many – as a fan in the stands. He grew up in Savannah, MO, roughly an hour north of Kansas City, and joined his father on trips to tracks such as Knoxville Raceway, Eagle Raceway and I-80 Speedway.
But it wasn’t until after college that he began to dabble in working on race cars. Upon paying off his tuition, Clark purchased a Micro Sprint. Balancing a full-time job with racing as a hobby, the hunger grew to make racing the focus of his life. Around that time, an ad appeared on a popular racing website from a team seeking help. Clark answered to knock down the first domino on his path to today.
“It just seemed like throughout time I had more fun working on my race car than my full-time job at the time,” Clark recalled. “And there happened to be a post or something on Hoseheads, I think. Matt Wood Racing was looking for someone to come out on the road and work for them, and I decided I might as well give it a try and see if I like it. I answered him, and within a month I was in a car heading out to California to go work for him.”
Oddly enough, Clark’s first race with Matt Wood’s team led to meeting Scelzi. Wood brought his fleet of Midgets to the 2014 Chili Bowl Nationals where Scelzi’s brother – Dominic – was going to be driving one and Gio came along.
Clark’s career blossomed over the next handful of years as he worked for the organization through its evolution into Stenhouse Jr.-Wood Racing and Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing. Eventually, he went on to make the move to KCP Racing in 2020 to serve as a dual car chief and tire specialist. During that time frame, Clark was able to work under the wing of a variety of mechanical minds like Shane Bowers, Tyler Swank, Bernie Stuebgen, and Dylan Buswell.
Then, in June of last year, Clark was on the way to Beaver Dam Raceway for the World of Outlaws race when KCP owner – Matt Barbara – called to let him know he’d be the crew chief for that weekend. He held the position through the end of 2022, and heading into 2023 that status was officially cemented as they readied to take on the World of Outlaws tour.
For Clark, who didn’t grow up in a family embedded in racing, it marked a major moment in his life.
“It was really rewarding just for the fact that you work your ass off on these teams,” Clark said. “You sacrifice time with your family and friends. You sacrifice a normal life, really, to work on these teams. To keep moving up like that and ultimately getting handed the reins and being able to see firsthand making changes and actually seeing what those changes do is so rewarding.”
Clark’s first full season has been nothing short of success, highlighted by a win with Scelzi at Beaver Dam Raceway in June – roughly one year since he got the opportunity to fill in as crew chief. Both Clark and Scelzi agreed their strength has been built through a fair dynamic.
“Everywhere that he’s (Scelzi) driven he’s kind of had to work on the car as well as part of the crew and even had to do that here when he first started,” Clark said. “So, he knows his way around the car. As far as making changes throughout the night, his butt is the one in the seat. He’s feeling what’s going on, so I obviously rely firsthand on what he’s saying and what he needs. Obviously, I don’t know everything about Sprint Car racing and the mechanical side of the thing, and he doesn’t know everything about what each thing does to the car. So, we work pretty damn good together as far as discussing, ‘OK, this is what the car’s doing. Let’s just take a swing at it and put this in and see what it does.’ And he’s got really good feedback for a young kid like himself.”
“He’s one of the hardest workers I’ve ever met and someone that’s willing to be open minded and never say, ‘I know better than you.’ I appreciate that a lot, especially with it being my rookie year because we both are learning together,” Scelzi said. “I think it makes our learning curve faster. I’ve been in the dynamic where there’s a crew chief and a driver, and you both kind of don’t cross those paths. I think Adam’s done an incredible job with helping me with driving and giving the input as a crew chief as well.”
Only seven races remain before the 2023 World of Outlaws campaign comes to a close. Scelzi, Clark, and the rest of the KCP crew currently sit fourth in points. If they stay there, Scelzi will match the best Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year season ever. But no matter where they finish, the year has been undeniably impressive with not only a rookie driver, but also a rookie crew chief with Clark on the wrenches.
“Where I kind of thought we’d be finishing is around sixth or seventh or so,” Clark said. “To be fourth right now, I didn’t expect it. I thought if you can even get close to the top five your rookie year, you’d be doing pretty damn good. To be fourth, Gio’s first year and my first year, and to think about the teams we’re beating is pretty incredible.”
Clark and the KCP team continue the year this weekend at 81 Speedway (Friday, Oct. 13) and Lakeside Speedway (Saturday, Oct. 14).