There is no substitute for track time. Dominic Scelzi knew this before entering the 2017 Knoxville Nationals, so he signed up for both the 360 program, which wrapped up last Saturday at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, and the 410s that begin on Wednesday, August 10.
Sclezi is more comfortable in 410 sprint cars than the less powerful 360s, and that has shown up on the track so far in Iowa. With 90 cars entered last week, making the B-Main was an accomplishment on par with reaching the A in most races during the season. Scelzi finished 14th in the 360 Last Chance Race.
"At the moment I have more confidence in the 410 than the 360," Scelzi said. "But I think at the end of the day you have to roll in with your 410 and now you're racing with every good guy in the country and beyond... if they ran the race a 100 different times, you're going to have a 100 different people in the show."
On Sunday night following the Knoxville 360 Nationals, the track hosted the Capitani Classic, a 410 race that bridges the gap between the two weekends of competition. In a slightly smaller field, Scelzi advanced all the way to the A and finished 16th.
Many of the same drivers were in both divisions, but a host of part-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car competitors rolled out their big cars, so the 19-year-old Scelzi got a chance to test himself against a new group of drivers.
That experience was duplicated this last winter with extended trips nationally and internationally in Australia.
"I think the biggest thing is just getting up to speed and being able to adapt to the race track faster than what I did when I just raced in California," he said. "You get to the Midwest and you race with the World of Outlaws guys at Knoxville and it really raises your game.
"Being able to see all the types of race tracks I saw in Australia as well helped me a lot. To me the biggest thing that I've learned is how to be quick when you're maybe not the most comfortable and how to race with a guy that has a better race car than you do. Possibly be in the line that you want to be in and you just adapt and try to race around that and overcome the obstacles that are in your way."
In a sport that is constantly looking for the next big driver, there is a never-ending shuffling of competition. It can be difficult to know who you are racing against on any given night, which is something both young and veteran drivers must balance.
"As a racer, you just go into every race like it's a just a race even though it's the (Knoxville) Nationals," Scelzi said. You have guys from all over the country and even Australia and Canada. At the end of the day they all put their pants on one leg at a time just like you, and there's no one in there that can't be beat and there's no one in there that can't win it."
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