The youngest driver in the United Rentals Patriot Nationals captured the checkered flag in a thrilling Friday-night showdown at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. Giovanni Scelzi, a 17-year-old wunderkind, passed NASCAR superstar Kyle Larson with six laps to go to score the second win of Scelzi’s young World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars career.
Larson – who won last Saturday’s Monster Energy NASCAR All-Star Race at Charlotte Motor Speedway – appeared ready to claim the first stage of his bid for two Outlaw wins and a Coca-Cola 600 triumph to complete the weekend. Larson won the dash, ran up front for nearly 25 laps and was poised to win until lapped traffic foiled his plans. Scelzi’s black-and-neon No. 71 machine followed Larson’s white No. 57 entry before getting a run exiting Turn 2 and clearing the polesitter before Larson could mount a charge.
From there, it was all Scelzi. He pulled away in the closing circuits to beat his nationally renowned counterpart Larson by 1.115 seconds to score a $15,000 payday. Larson ended up second with Logan Schuchart in third, Brad Sweet fourth and David Gravel fifth.
GIOVANNI SCELZI (Race Winner): “(Larson) was really fast. I just had to keep conserving. David (Gravel) passed me and I had to start running more toward the top. I got back to the bottom and I saw Kyle get loose in Turn 2. I got up there and slid by him and I was in the right spot to stay there.”
KYLE LARSON (Runner-Up): “Second is always a good spot to be in (late in the race) because you can see where the leader is struggling and make your move, which Gio did. I felt OK until I caught traffic and started over-driving it in Turn 2. He was obviously a little bit better than I was on exit. I made a mistake there, arced it out too much and lost my right-rear grip. I’m disappointed to not win the race, but still a good run for us tonight. This was my first time back in a sprint car in a few months, so it was good to shake the rust off there. Obviously, you’d like to win, but Gio did a good job. He’s a heck of a driver.”
LOGAN SCHUCHART (Third-Place Finisher): “It just shows these Shark Racing guys are doing a fantastic job. My grandpa gave me a great race car and it was a lot of fun to drive. We seem to run well at places like Eldora and Charlotte – places we really like. We’d definitely like to start a little bit further ahead.”
Corey Gordon charged to victory in the FUEL Racing Series dirt late model feature, keeping Kenny Collins at bay in a hotly contested A-Main.
Gordon – a Charlotte, North Carolina, native – expertly maneuvered his way around The Dirt Track at Charlotte’s high-speed, four-tenths-mile oval to cap off the first night of the United Rentals Patriot Nationals with an emotional win.
“We were really good there at the beginning,” Gordon said. “I kind of used up too much right-front (tire) there to get up to the lead. I wasn’t really good at the end. I heard Kenny and knew he was getting up there, I looked up at the scoreboard and knew he was coming.
“I’ve been racing here my whole life, on the quarter-mile (at Charlotte Motor Speedway) in Legend Cars and Bandoleros. We won here in 2016 in my dad’s car. This is just awesome.”
Tickets to Saturday’s finale to the United Rentals Patriot Nationals – as well as the 60th running of the Coca-Cola 600 – are available by visiting charlottemotorspeedway.com/tickets or by calling 1-800-455-FANS (3267).