Gio Scelzi in victory lane Saturday at Knoxville Raceway. (Paul Arch Photo)
Gio Scelzi in victory lane Saturday at Knoxville Raceway. (Paul Arch Photo)

Gio Scelzi Goes The Distance In Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Iowa – Gio Scelzi led wire to wire to garner his third career win at Knoxville Raceway Saturday night in the headlining 410 sprint car class.

The Fresno, Calif., native earned $5,000 for his win aboard the KCP Racing No. 18.

Clint Garner, whose car fashioned a tribute to 1990’s Two Winners teammates Jeff Swindell and Greg Hodnett, won for the 42nd time in the 360 class.  Matthew Stelzer scored his third win of the season in the Pace Performance Pro Sprints feature.

Scelzi and Anthony Macri battled for the lead going into turns one and two to begin the 20-lap 410 feature, but it was Scelzi who took command.  Kerry Madsen was quickly in the equation and after a good battle with Macri, took the runner-up spot on lap four.  Brian Brown also shot by Macri for third on lap five.

Scelzi was in lapped traffic by the sixth circuit, extending his lead over Madsen.  Madsen reeled in the leader a bit, but never seriously challenged the quick cushion riding Californian.  Brown maintained third, but it was not easy.  At the halfway point, Austin McCarl began advancing through the field at a good pace.  He challenged Brown in a drag race for the checkers, but settled for fourth.  Macri, Lynton Jeffrey, hard-charger Shane Golobic, Davey Heskin, Sam Hafertepe Jr. and Ayrton Gennetten rounded out the top ten.

Madsen set quick time over the 29-car field that saw several visitors, including some paying tribute to Greg Hodnett’s induction into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, including Chase Dietz aboard the John Trone No. 39 (Hodnett’s former ride), the Heffner No. 27 (another Hodnett ride) driven by Tim Shaffer, who was inducted as well on Saturday, and Macri. Madsen, Brown and Jeffrey won heats, while Shaffer took the B.

“I feel like I haven’t been here in years,” said Scelzi in victory lane.  “My car was awesome.  I knew Macri was going to go to the bottom of one and two and slide me.  He slid me and cleared me (on lap one), but I knew I had to get going on the top.  I tried to put a whole race together…that’s definitely what I’ve been struggling with this year.  Wins like this get you motivated to win more.”

Garner’s normal No. 40 sprint car featured a split paint scheme featuring the No. 7TW and the No. 8TW of 1990’s Two Winners teammates Jeff Swindell and Greg Hodnett, who were both inducted Saturday into the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame.  He was a man on a mission on Saturday.

Garner didn’t waste his opportunity starting on the pole and shot to the fore immediately.  Last week’s winner, Jamie Ball, settled into second, ahead of Dylan Westbrook, Ryan Giles and Calvin Landis.  Garner was in lapped traffic by lap six, and continued to extend his lead.

The 18-lapper went non-stop, with Garner working traffic efficiently, and never being challenged.  Westbrook made a surge in traffic late, and shot by Ball for second with two laps to go.  Ball settled for third, ahead of Giles and J.J. Hickle, who made a late move for fifth.  Landis, Josh Higday, Lee Grosz, Matt Moro and Ricky Montgomery completed the top ten.  New National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee, Jeff Swindell was the hard-charger.  Westbrook set quick time over the 28-car field, and Giles, Moro and Ball were heat winners.  Christian Bowman won the B-Main.

“Greg (Hodnett) was with me,” said Garner in Victory Lane.  “I thought about it earlier today, and I thought I have a guest with me tonight.  I’m out there leading the race, and I’m saying, ‘C’mon Greg, let’s do this.’  (Robert) Hubbard’s in town, and he’s the reason I knew Greg Hodnett.  He’s been flying into town keeping an eye on us, and he and my brother tag-teamed it…the car was perfect!”

Stelzer utilized a quick low side of the track to lead early in the 15-lap Pro Sprints feature over Devin Wignall, Matt Allen, Devin Kline and Jeff Wilke.  While Stelzer pulled away.  Wignall (high side) and Allen (low side) battled for the runner-up spot most of the event.  It would prove to be the best battle on the track, as Stelzer was gone.

Stelzer entered lapped traffic and had to move higher on the track.  It wouldn’t matter as he went on to win his class-best fifteenth main event.  Wignall finally secured second with two to go, followed by Allen, hard-charger Chase Young and Devin Kline, who gained fifth on the last lap.  Wilke, Brandon Worthington, Tyler Groenendyk, Mike Mayberry and Alex Vande Voort rounded out the top ten.  Eric Bridger and Worthington were heat winners.

“My guys gave me a great car,” said Stelzer.  “They drew an eight pill (for feature inversion) that gave us the luck to start on the front row.  We haven’t been good in the heat race.  We have to get better there.  We’ve got a good car come feature time when it slicks off.”

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