Gio Scelzi Trent Gower Photo
Giovanni Scelzi in victory lane at River Cities Speedway. (Trent Gower photo)

Scelzi Holds Off Haudenschild At River Cities

GRAND FORKS, N.D. — Giovanni Scelzi grew up racing on the bullrings of California. He ripped around the tracks often characterized by tight confines and tacky conditions during his teenage years.

That experience sure came in handy on Friday night at River Cities Speedway.

Mother Nature threw a wrench in the evening right before the start of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car feature. A shower delayed the conclusion to the Don Mack Classic and dropped plenty of moisture on the North Dakota quarter-mile. The result? A fast, cowboy up racing surface for the 40-lap main event.

Scelzi started on the pole, carefully worked his way through lapped traffic and bested Sheldon Haudenschild in a battle for the checkered flag.

In only his third appearance at River Cities, “Hot Sauce” took the KCP Racing No. 18 to victory lane.

“I heard Donny (Schatz) on those restarts,” Scelzi said. “I didn’t know if it was just momentum building as he got going on the top. It worked for me in the dash, but the track was obviously way wetter there. Kudos to the track crew for sticking this out. Whoever had the idea to add dirt to the racetrack was brilliant. It kind of helped it dry out a bit, but what a great show. The stands are packed. I got to meet some of you guys last time, so this is pretty cool.”

The victory bumped Scelzi up to eight in his career with The Greatest Show on Dirt.

The green flag waved with Scelzi and Schatz leading the way. Scelzi grabbed the early advantage and opted for the bottom, but Schatz looked high and kept his left-front tire right behind the right-rear rubber of Scelzi’s machine. 

An early caution set the stage for a restart and one of the race’s wildest moments. Garet Williamson came together with David Gravel as the green lights came back on. The contact stacked up the field as Bill Balog connected with Gravel and flipped, and Gage Pulkrabek also got collected and went over. The point leader Gravel was left with significant damage but managed to return to the track after a trip to the work zone.

On the next restart, Scelzi pulled ahead and Schatz again kept him within sight for the first few circuits. When traffic became a factor, Carson Macedo used a lapped car as a pick to roll by Schatz for second on lap 10.

Sheldon Haudenschild followed Macedo by Schatz to take third on the same circuit. And then only two laps later the surging Haudenschild, who started seventh, drove around Macedo to take over the runner-up spot.

It didn’t take long for Haudenschild to drive the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing No. 17 right up to the tail tank of Scelzi. The Wooster, Ohio, native pressured Scelzi in traffic, and then on lap 19 he blasted around Scelzi on the top side to take the lead. 

But Scelzi refused to be rattled. It took him hardly any time to respond as two trips around the track later he snuck back around Haudenschild on the low line to regain the lead.

From there it became a game of cat and mouse through traffic. Haudenschild refused to let Scelzi get away, but Scelzi also refused to let Haudenschild alongside again. Haudenschild would close in as they navigated traffic, but then Scelzi would clear a slower car for breathing room.

The gap between the two was close for many laps. But ultimately Scelzi managed to hold on for his second World of Outlaws win of 2024 and first since mid-March at Cotton Bowl Speedway.

“We freed up there a little bit during the rain and then left it after the Hot Lap session,” Scelzi said. “And our hot-lap session was really kind of drying the racetrack out. Forty laps is a long time to run here and have the racetrack blow off, but it never really changed a whole lot. Definitely got tighter as I went, but the car was phenomenal.”

Sheldon Haudenschild brought the NOS Energy Drink machine home second after his fierce charge from seventh. He knew he had a car capable of winning, but the battle for victory came down to minimizing mistakes.

“I don’t think I needed anything out of my car. It was really good,” Haudenschild explained. It was a winning car for sure. (Kyle) Ripper had her dialed in. I could run Gio down there in a lap pretty quick, and then he kind of got behind David and David was trying things. And then I got to David and really couldn’t do anything with him. I think Gio made one mistake and I got him, and I made a mistake, and he got me back.”

Completing the podium was Schatz.

“I was just too tight from the word go,” Schatz said. “The only shot I had really was on the restart trying to get around Gio on the outside and then obviously traffic. I don’t know what happened in traffic there. We lost a bunch of spots. I went in, got under someone, and I guess I got freight trained for a little bit, but I was able to make some spots back up.”

Carson Macedo and Mark Dobmeier rounded out the top five.

The finish:

Feature (40 Laps): 1. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[1]; 2. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[7]; 3. 15-Donny Schatz[2]; 4. 41-Carson Macedo[3]; 5. 13-Mark Dobmeier[13]; 6. 1S-Logan Schuchart[10]; 7. 83-Michael Kofoid[25]; 8. 7S-Landon Crawley[5]; 9. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[21]; 10. 2-David Gravel[11]; 11. 22K-Kaleb Johnson[4]; 12. 64-Andy Pake[18]; 13. 0-Nick Omdahl[8]; 14. 70-Kraig Kinser[22]; 15. 23-Garet Williamson[6]; 16. 17Z-Zach Omdahl[20]; 17. 4-Brendan Mullen[19]; 18. 3-Tim Kaeding[9]; 19. 6-Bill Rose[24]; 20. 8-Jack Croaker[23]; 21. 17B-Bill Balog[14]; 22. G5-Gage Pulkrabek[17]; 23. 14T-Tim Estenson[12]; 24. 4Y-Colton Young[15]; 25. 26-Blake Egeland[16]