AN American who became the youngest driver to race in the famed Knoxville Nationals A-Main earlier last year features in a star-studded South West Conveyancing Grand Annual Sprintcar Classic field.
Gio Scelzi, 16, is one of 102 drivers nominated for the 47th running of Australia’s renowned three-night showcase at Allansford’s Premier Speedway, which starts on January 18.
Premier Speedway general manager David Mills said Scelzi was one of five Americans vying for the title, joining fellow teenager Parker Price-Miller, Cory Eliason, Carson Macedo and past winner Tim Kaeding in the field.
The drivers have been split into two qualifying nights – Friday and Saturday – with the top 96 cars to qualify for Sunday’s finale.
Mills said Scelzi was a promising driver who would put on a show.
“He is in the USA 71 car and he’s only a 16-year-old kid and became the youngest driver ever to make the Knoxville Nationals A-Main in August,” he said.
“In doing so he replaced the previous holder of that record which was Jeff Gordon who went on to have a fairly impressive NASCAR career.
“Gio is a huge talent and Parker Price-Miller comes back for another go at it and he’s only a kid as well.”
Mills said Eliason, Macedo and Kaeding were contenders.
“Their form of recent times speaks for itself, with Carson finishing on the (Classic) podium last year and having some big rides in America during the off-season,” he said.
“Cory has arguably been one of the fastest cars in the country since his arrival here for Diamond Bay Motorsports and then you’ve Kaeding who won the thing in 2014.
“The five we’ve got are very exciting and it’s a little bit of a next generation-type thing.”
Night one features Kaeding, Price-Miller and Eliason with Warrnambool pair James McFadden and Jamie Veal, both past winners, and south-west racers Jack Lee, Darren Mollenoyux, David Murcott, Luke Walker, Jake Smith, Grant Stansfield and Rhys Baxter as company.
American-based Australian Ian Madsen will also race on Friday night.
Night two includes Scelzi and Macedo alongside experienced duo Kerry Madsen and Brooke Tatnell and reigning champion, Warrnambool’s own Corey McCullagh, and south-west drivers Peter Doukas, Jye O’Keeffe and Tim Van Ginneken.
Mills said the Chilli Bowl in Oklahoma extended by a day and impacted the Classic’s American numbers.
“It extended by a day which created a little bit of a date clash but we didn’t know about that extra day until after we’d scheduled our event,” he said.
“We had to ride with that but I am not disappointed with the quality. A lot of these young kids are fearless and they just want to go fast.”
Mills said the 102-car count highlighted the Classic’s broad appeal.
“We thought that with the national title being in Brisbane a week later and a number of the teams being in Brisbane for the World Series (Sprintcars) that a lot of the Queensland-based teams may have stayed home and that may have seen us drop down a little bit,” he said.
“We were probably anticipating high 80s, early 90s as our car count but to again exceed 100 is a credit to the cars owners and competitors and should make for a great event.
“One thing as a club we can be proud of is, provided all 102 turn up and again exceeding 100 cars, it’s still the biggest event, competitor-wise, in the world.
“I think the Knoxville Nationals this year was mid-90s when it came to actually qualifying on race night.
“There are a couple of blokes with injury concerns and that sort of thing but we won’t know about it until the last minute which may see that number changing fractionally.”
The field split
- South-west drivers in bold
Friday, January 18
Ben Atkinson, Domain Ramsay, Max Dumesny, Tim Kaeding, Tim Hutchins, Bobby Daly, Luke Stirton, Parker Price-Miller, Kristy Ellis, Brock Hallett, Daniel Sayre, James McFadden, Brad Keller, Daniel Newnham, Glen Sutherland, Jordyn Brazier, Jock Goodyer, Lachlan McHugh, Jamie Bricknell, Jack Lee, Cory Eliason, Andrew Hughes, Jayden Peacock, Brenten Farrer, Jamie Veal, Eddie Lumbar, Terry Kelly, Chris McInerney, Rusty Hickman, Daniel Evans, Ian Madsen, Darren Clarke, Robert Nicholas, Darren Mollenoyux, Jessie Attard, Andrew Thompson, Matthew Dumesny, Ryan Jones, David Aldersley, Luke Walker, Chad Ely, Jake Smith, Charles Hunter, Chris Campbell, Robbie Paton, Rhys Baxter, Peter O'Neill, Steven Lines, David Murcott, Grant Stansfield, Jamie Heyan.
Saturday, January 19
Kerry Madsen, Ben Atkinson Jnr, Max Johnston, Lisa Walker, Danny Reidy, Robbie Farr, Paul Solomon, Jason Pryde, Matthew Thomas, Aidan Hall, Dennis Jones, Leigh Barry-Mugavin, Terry Rankin, Brodie Minchin, Jamie O'Neill, Ricky Maiolo, Kyle Angel, Daniel Pestka, Stephen Spark, Grant Anderson, Jye O'Keeffe, Alex Orr, Tim Van Ginneken, Mike Van Bremen, Marcus Dumesny, Jackson Delamont, Randy Morgan, Brooke Tatnell, Mick Saller, James Aranyosi, Rhiannon Burleigh, Kevin Titman, Jordyn Charge, Tate Frost, Brendan Rallings, Brett Milburn, John Vogels, Gio Scelzi, Brayden Parr, Andrew Wright, Keke Falland, James Inglis, Luke Dillon, Corey McCullagh, Sammy Walsh, Rob Trewartha, Matt Egel, Mitch Wormall, Peter Doukas, Carson Macedo