Bill McAnally has been in the race game for many years, so it’s hard for him to experience something for the first time. However, the owner of the racing team that bears his name enters the 2020 season in uncharted territory.
Coming off a 2019 campaign that saw Bill McAnally Racing win its ninth NASCAR K&N Pro Series West (now ARCA Menards West) title, there are no returning drivers on the team.
“We’ve built our program for years where we’ve always had one returning driver to be the senior driver and help our rookies,” McAnally said. “Chris Eggleston to Todd Gilliland to Derek Kraus to Hailie Deegan – we’ve always had a senior driver. So this is unique to not only have four rookies, but four rookies who haven’t spent a lot of time on asphalt.”
McAnally’s team consists of a trio of 18 year olds – Gio Scelzi, Holley Hollan and Gracie Trotter – and 15-year-old Jesse Love.
All four will get their first taste of ARCA Menards West racing when they enter The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Feb. 20 for the Star Nursery 150.
The last name Scelzi may sound familiar to drag racing fans. Gio’s father, Gary, is a four-time NHRA world champion – three in Top Fuel and one in Funny Car.
“My dad is supportive, no matter what I want to race,” Gio said. “He just wants me to do what makes me happy, and this is something that I’m really going to enjoy.
“Between Bill McAnally Racing and Toyota Racing Development – the people in those organizations want a young driver push to get us up to their higher-level NASCAR team. With the resources they have behind them, and putting us in this position to be a part of a team like this, it’s really something special.”
While Scelzi blazes his own path in the racing world, Trotter is also hoping to make her dad, Tracy, proud.
“My dad wanted to go racing when he was my age, and he just couldn’t afford it. So he says I’m out here living his dream,” Trotter said. “I was out in Vegas a few years ago at Legend Car nationals, and I never would’ve thought I would be back in an ARCA car doing this. It’s pretty exciting and surreal, and I’m looking forward to taking this challenge on.”
Trotter has experience racing on pavement, but two of her teammates are new to it.
Hollan, like Scelzi, has exclusively raced on dirt in her young career, and will now transition to the pavement. However, just because they are green when it comes to asphalt doesn’t mean they’re going to be slow learners.
“It’s hard to pinpoint what I want to accomplish, but I’m a race car driver, so I want to win races,” Hollan said. “I’m setting attainable goals and I know I’ll work hard to achieve them. You want to be in the top 10, then the top five, and then on the podium.
“I’m a big believer that if you aren’t ready for an opportunity, it won’t be there, so I’m looking forward to coming in with BMR.”
Love, the youngest of the group by several years, doesn’t lack for confidence.
“I’m really excited, and not nervous at all, because I’m prepared for the task and have been working to get to this point,” Love said. “I’m really confident in my abilities, and in this team. I like pressure, and I feel like you can use it to help yourself sometimes. I’m looking forward to helping Bill bring home his 10th championship.”
McAnally, whose team dominated last season led by Derek Kraus’ five wins and Hailie Deegan’s two victories, brought his team to The Bullring at LVMS on Jan. 28 for a practice session ahead of the Star Nursery 150.
He says he’s realistic about bringing in four rookies, and knows it’s going to take some time to get them acclimated. But the end of the season goal is clear.
“We’re going for a championship – that’s what we do every year,” McAnally said. “We go out to win every race and go for a championship. But we will do everything we can to help them, and I want the kids working hard going into every race.”