By Ashley Zimmerman
Photo by Devin Mayo
We wanted to know a little bit more about our Issue 6 cover subject, Dominic Scelzi, and got him to go a bit off script – not a hard thing to do with such a big personality – as we learned more about the career, life and philosophy of the 2021 NARC champion and King of California.
Dirt Empire: What is your earliest racing memory?
Dominic Scelzi: My earliest racing memory was actually, believe it or not, the World of Outlaws in Sedalia, Missouri. I think I was five years old. I used to take toy dragsters and toy racecars that I had, and go play in the dirt by the front of our house. I would just get so muddy, I mean, I’m a boy, I loved to play in the mud and all of that. We went to the sprint car race, and I was looking at all of these cars before we went, with the wings and the horsepower, and everything like that, it was just so cool. I just fell in love with the way they look, then seeing them at the racetrack in Sedalia, they had the vapor trails coming off the wings and they were just wide open, flat out. I just fell in love with them. From that point on, I wanted to be a sprint car driver, and it’s my earliest memory of the racetrack.
DE: Favorite music artist or some in your top five?
DS: I love Chris Cornell, but I’m kind of all over the place when it comes to music, but I do really love Chris Cornell. I like old grunge, like nineties grunge. I like older rap, as well. I’ve kind of gotten into country as of late, probably the last year. I don’t know that I really have a favorite, anyone who travels with me down the road kind of looks at my sideways, I’ll go from Tupac to Conway Twitty back to Sound Garden, and I may even have some Dubstep in there. I really am kind of all over the place when it comes to my music.
DE: Best Way to Spend a Saturday Night Away From A Racetrack?
DS: I would say having a good dinner or something, but anymore, it’s just hanging out at home with my daughter, my fiancé, and my dogs. I have such an awesome family. I’m very close with my parents, and my brother. The weekends that I’m away from the track, I’m doing something with my family, whether it’s you know, my little family that I have here that lives with me, or my mom, dad, or my brother that live fifteen minutes up the road. I love doing stuff with my family. I’m very family oriented; we all get along really good. We do a bunch of stuff together as well. I like being with my family.
DE: Bucket List Races Still Remaining To Run?
DS: We’re right there at the end of the NARC championship, we’ve got two points paying races left one show, a points race, and we’ve all but got it locked up. I mean, we pretty much need to just show up. Winning the NARC championship is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time and being this close to it here with less than a handful to go, it gets very exciting. I want to win all three of them and really make a statement that we’ve got six wins more than anyone else in the series. And we’ve led a lot of laps. It’s been really good, we’ve been very consistent, I want to end very strong. Winning a NARC championship would be very cool. My two goals left are to win a World of Outlaw race and to win the trophy cup points. Those two deals they’re really big. Those are my final two pillars that I really need to accomplish to feel like, you know, I’ve done everything I dreamed of. And then, you know, stuff under that I really would like to see how, how far up on the win total I can get with the NARC series. I think that would be very special. I’d like to, you know, maybe at one point in my career, go back and race a little bit more with the Outlaws and the all-stars and see what we can accomplish, back there. I feel like Jimmy and I have really gotten a good package together, so maybe in the next couple of years, we’ll be able to, you know, hopefully go back there for a couple of weeks or something and see how we fare against some guys in their own territory.
DE: Sports Team You’ll Pay Money To Watch?
DS: I just love going to sporting events. I have a really good time going to watching the sharks play hockey. I went to my first professional hockey game two years ago. One of my really good friends played a semi-professional hockey, we would go to in Fresno and we would watch him play, but going a sharks game, I’m telling you right now, hockey is the most exciting sport you’ll ever see. I just love it. I think I’ve been to like three or four sharks games since I’ve yet to see them win a single game in person, but I really enjoy watching hockey in person. I love watching baseball, like, watching the giants, I’m actually a Yankee fan, but I’ve never been able to see them play. So the giants are the next best thing. I love going to the giants games. I’m a Colts fan with football, but I haven’t been to a football game a few years. I just enjoy sports. I’m a very casual sports fan, but I love going to games, I’ll go to games all over the country. Whenever I was traveling throughout whatever town we were in, we’d always look and see if there was a minor league game or a major league game that we could go to the nights that we weren’t racing.
DE: What is the one drag race event you’d recommend to a first timer?
DS: To be honest with you, any of them are incredible, but the US Nationals in Indianapolis, is just like Knoxville only a drag race. It brings so much energy; you can cut the tension with a knife in the air. It’s just incredible. I think the atmosphere is amazing. The racing is really really good. You see guys hanging it all out for the biggest win of the year. I would say definitely that or the winter nationals are really cool as well. If you can go to any drag race, you’re not going to be disappointed.
DE: What does your brother Gio do better than you do? Flip side to that what do you do better than Gio (besides grow a beard!)?
DS: Oh man, Gio is my best friend, [he laughs}, I would say he is definitely a better mechanic than me in the racing world. I think he’s just one of the most talented drivers and mechanics that I’ve seen in my years. I think he’s amazing. But away from the racetrack, you k now, he’s just really good at being the instigator. Whenever you’re getting into mischief or we’re doing anything like that, he knows how to peer pressure you into doing whatever it is he wants you to do, he is far better than me at that. He’s not one to follow, he’s one to push somebody to just do it, like “come on, you won’t do it.” For whatever reason, I’m better at always ending up being the center of the part. No matter how it goes, I always end up one way or another being right there in the center of all the fun. I’m pretty good at having a good time! I would say honestly, it’s probably my best talent, is just being able to have a good time anywhere and everywhere. We complement each other really well.
DE: How has fatherhood been? What was something you didn’t expect from it or your favorite moment thus far?
DS: You know, it’s been the greatest thing I’ve ever done by far. Becoming a dad, this July was something I was very nervous about. I wouldn’t say unsure of, but you know, I’d always wanted to be a dad, but I was so unsure if I was ready. I can tell you without a question of doubt, it is the most rewarding, and most amazing thing I’ve ever done. I really haven’t been around babies that much, so I love kids, but I feel like I’m just a big, hairy kid, but when I hold her and she recognizes me and she smiles and she babbles and she lights up. It’s better than any win, it’s better than any moment that you could have anywhere in the world. Seeing my dogs around her, they, they just love her. They lick her, they want to be, you know, right next to her. I’m just so thankful for being blessed with a beautiful, healthy baby girl. It’s the most amazing thing that I’ve ever done. So, I mean, all the racing stuff is great and a lot of fun, but being a dad is definitely the greatest accomplishment I’ve ever been able to do.
DE: Best Part of winning Is?
DS: I think, you see some guys, they win so much that it sort of gets routine to them, and for me, if I went a local 360 show somewhere, or if I went to an All Star race, or even when I want to Knoxville, I have the same energy, I’m just so pumped up because I feel like to win a sprint car race anywhere in the country, any given night, you’re racing against yourself, you’re pushing yourself to your fullest limits. I love the feeling of at the end of the night I gave it everything I had, I left it all out there on the table, and at the end of the night, we were the best guy in the pit area, that feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction of pushing yourself to your limit. It’s what I live for.
DE: Best tip for race announcers?
DS: I think the guys that are really good at it, they know their history and as a fan, I’m a fan first, I feel like it’s so interesting when you’re sitting up in the stands or whatever, and you hear, oh yeah, Jimmy Johnson, he won a race here in 1985 or this, that, and the other. I love the history tidbits and stuff like that, you know, just because you’re racing with a series, it doesn’t mean we just need to hear about those series drivers. We need to hear, this guy’s won with the All Stars, this guy’s won three track championships at this place and whatever, you know. I like hearing stuff like that. I think that we need to see more of it. Johnny, Gibson’s phenomenal at it and Blake Anderson is extremely good at it as well.
DS: I think my highlight was not dropping an F-bomb. It’s so much fun doing it, but I was so nervous. When I talk normally, I curse and I rant and rave. I was so proud of myself for not cursing. I was really worried about it because I feel like that would cheapen up the broadcast, there are times you let your hair down and talk that way and then there are times where you need to be proper. Our sport deserves to be proper when you’re in the booth like that. I love it when racers get on the mic and they’re not afraid to let if fly because that’s emotion. I think that’s wonderful for the sport. But I think if you’re a commentator or a color commentator, I think you’re better off being able to just bring tidbits into it so that the fans can understand. If you’re driving down that road and you’re listening to it on the radio, I want to be able to know what’s going on and be able to understand the race. I had a wonderful time with Johnny; he’s the greatest announcer of all time. I had a wonderful time working with them; I’d love to do it again sometime. But, like I said, I would rather be racing if I was going to be able to do it right.
DS: Danny Dietrich and Justin Grant for sure. I love following them for sure. I think it’s a lot of fun watching my brother and I go back and forth. I follow guys that are just real. I don’t like the politically correct stuff. Like Danny Dietrich, he’s awesome, love him or hate him, he’s real, and he’s the same guy all the time. Just is the same way, he’s kind of a cut throat kind of guy, so I dig that kind of stuff. I like guys that show emotion, like Tanner Thorson. I don’t know if we’re buddies or not, I don’t really know, we don’t talk, but he’s another cut throat guy as well. I just enjoy guys like that. The hey, this is who I am and if you don’t like it, sorry. I think that’s so much of sprint car racing; Steve Kinser was that way, Donny Schatz is that way. Those guys that are this is just me, and you don’t like it, oh well, I just love that. So, when I see guys do that on Twitter, I enjoy the hell out of it.
DS: First and foremost, becoming a dad. That’s my greatest accomplishment and a trophy that I’m going to be able to hang out with for a very long time and I’m loving that. Then I would say the Peter Murphy Classic, that weekend was incredible. I worked with Peter after he got hurt at Pro Signs, when he owned it. He taught me so much, in racing, in life. Then he worked with me as my crew chief there for a year and really got me back in after a point in my life where I was ready to throw the towel in on racing, and he sort of saved me from doing that. It’s a race that I’ve wanted to win for a long time. In 2019, Rico got by me with six laps to go, and we’ve won it in the 83 in the 360 portion. But I wanted to win the 410 portion, and this year we won Friday night in both, then Saturday night in the 360, while sweeping the whole thing in the 410. So, that was I would say my most special moment of racing sprint cars this season, and possibly one of the most special moments of my entire career. It was very special to win all four events against some amazing talent.
DE: Describe your perfect taco – ingredients, shell, spice level?
DS: That’s hard because I like it all, honestly. I think if I’m going to do like a real taco, then there’s only two ways to go. You’re going to go with a corn shell, with chicken, I’m biased, I like chicken tacos. Then a little bit of avocado on there, and then, I like them really hot. [Insert Dom running to his fridge.] I like this E-L-Y-U-C-A-T-E-C-O, its habanero hot sauce and it will light your face on fire, but I love it. Then just a little bit of raw onion on the top of those bad boys, and that is the perfect corn taco. Then a flour taco, either lightly friend or grilled, with like cod, or some sort of white fish, or even salmon if you’re feeling a little bougie, then a bit of lime juice on there, with some slaw, and avocado on there, too and maybe some mango. But again, you’re going to have your habanero sauce and it’s going to be sweet, and spicy, and everything.
DS: I thought it was so funny, one drunken tweet turned into so much. I mean, we sold countless t-shirts, and now I’m stuck with it as the taco king. It’s so funny because if you ask anybody, they know that I’m more of a pasta freak than a taco guy, but you know, I love being known and being loved for something that’s not just “yeah, he’s a really good racer.” I like being more than that. I pride myself that I’ve made a lot of amazing friendships in this sport, and being loved for the fun goofy guy, it makes me feel great. So, if that’s being the taco king, then I’ll be the taco king. I’m honestly so thankful for all the people that support me. I’ve got some truly amazing fans and some truly amazing friends that support me no matter what I do, no matter how I run, and at the end of the day that’s worth everything. So, if I’m the taco king, then I’ll wear the crown proudly, and I’ll be the best taco king that anyone has ever seen.
DE: Will there be a taco truck at your wedding?
DS: [he laughs] We have had this conversation several times already, and I can promise you that is the top runner. Any Dominic Scelzi party usually goes into the early morning hours, so I imagine there’s going to be a taco truck probably around nine or ten o’clock pull in. I guess it’s all going to depend on how business is and how racing is doing at that point in time. But it’s either going to be a taco truck or an in and out truck. I’m shooting for the taco truck; I think that would be very fitting. You can’t go any better than tacos when you’ve got a little bit of intoxication going on and you’ve had a great night.
DE: Statement about the incident with Devon Borden at the Trophy Cup? DS: Well, we were racing there in the heat race, and I had just gotten by Kofoid and Borden, and someone else to get into turn four. Borden just ran me over there into turn one, which I think we had like five or six laps left to the heat race. I proceeded to let him know that I wasn’t very happy with what he did. He seemed to not really care much about it, so I waited for his tow truck to get into the pit area and stopped the two truck. Then we decided, or I decided it was probably best that we had a physical conversation about it, and that was kind of how it went. I was pretty angry about it, I feel like that guy runs people over everywhere he goes and it’s the same story every week. The guy just threw my trophy cup away at that point, so I figured I would let him know how I saw it.