TEXAS HEAT: Giovanni Scelzi Holds on for Cotton Bowl Speedway Victory

One night after taking the points lead Scelzi gets his first win of 2024. (Trent Gower Photo)

PAIGE, TX (March 16, 2024) - Cotton Bowl Speedway delivered yet again.

One night after a race of the year candidate, the Paige, TX oval provided another thriller that brought the crowd to its feet. Huge slide jobs. Crossovers to counter. Battles all over the track. And a second straight late-race duel to decide the Texas Two-Step winner.

This time it was Giovanni Scelzi making his way to Victory Lane with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars. The KCP Racing pilot started on the front row, pulled away early, and out-dueled a fast-charging Brent Marks to seal the deal. On Friday night he took the World of Outlaws points lead for the first time in his career, and on Saturday night he scored his first win of the season.

“I need to go find a top-dollar machine at the casino right now,” Scelzi said of a smile with his recent good fortune. “Man, the car is so fast. It minimizes the mistakes I make, so I can stick it in the slick part of the racetrack. Hats off to Adam (Clark). Bob (Curtis) if a new addition to the team, and he’s done an incredible job. And Aaron (Beiler) is doing great, too. Like I said, thank you to my guys.”

Scelzi is now up to seven career victories with The Greatest Show on Dirt, equaling him with Jeff Sheperd, Chad Kemenah, and Brian Brown for 55th all-time. Last year it took the Fresno, CA driver 29 races before notching the first triumph of his rookie campaign. Seven races were all that was required for him to grab his first of the sophomore season. Scelzi’s early season points lead grew to 16 markers courtesy of his win.

The result also made it seven different winners through seven races in 2024. That moves within one of equaling the record of eight different winners in the first eight races of a season established in 2015.

After topping the Toyota Racing Dash, Donny Schatz led the field to green with Scelzi alongside. Schatz slid up in front of Scelzi in Turns 1 and 2, but Scelzi turned down the banking on corner exit and drove ahead of the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15.

As the early laps unfolded, Schatz was able to stay close behind Scelzi. But as the leaders entered traffic Scelzi sliced through lappers to build his advantage north of a second. The lead grew as large as two-and-a-half seconds.

But on the 13th circuit a new contender began to emerge. Friday’s winner – Brent Marks – threw a slider on Schatz that stuck and quickly set his sights on Scelzi. 

Lap by lap the margin between the two began to shrink. Marks worked through traffic masterfully as the Murray-Marks #19 began to reel Scelzi in. On Lap 15 the gap was under two seconds, and then six circuits later it dropped to under a second.

Then on Lap 24 the battle for the top spot heated up. Marks got a huge run down the back straightaway and launched a massive slider in Turns 3 and 4. Scelzi barely got back by on corner exit to retake the lead down the front straightaway. Then in the next set of corners Marks threw another slide job at “Hot Sauce.” Scelzi again turned low to counter and drove back ahead. Meanwhile, Logan Schuchart and David Gravel were engaged in just as intense of a duel for fourth behind them. The two traded several sliders and crossovers for the position.

More traffic waited ahead as the laps continued to wane. Scelzi made a few strong moves through the lappers and looked as if he had the win in the bag. But the red flag flew with two laps remaining as Gio’s brother – Dominic Scelzi – got upside down on the back straightaway. 

The crash set up a green-white-checkered finish and gave Marks one last shot at Scelzi. But on the restart Schatz challenged Marks for second and forced him into a defensive mode. While Marks fended off the 10-time World of Outlaws champion, Scelzi pulled away to secure his first checkered flag of 2024.

“I just couldn’t get the thing squared up right to drive off the corner, and I started getting tight on entry,” Scelzi said of late struggles that allowed Marks to close. “Brent got to me and started bombing me and broke my momentum like he had to. I felt like once I got him the last time he didn’t slide me in (Turns) 3 and 4, and I was clear.”

Marks brought the Murray-Marks #19 home second, falling one spot short of a Texas Two Step sweep at Cotton Bowl. The “Myerstown Missile” had plenty of speed but couldn’t quite piece together a challenge for the victory on the final restart.

“We just needed to get a good start there,” Marks said. “Gio went pretty early in the corner and being the second guy on the start there it’s just really hard to judge where they’re going to take off. He did a good job at tricking me a little bit, and when he took off it kind of left me in the slick a little bit more than I wanted to be. I spun the tires and just couldn’t quite get down the straightaway and into (Turn) 1 like I wanted to have a shot at him.”

Rounding out the top three was Donny Schatz, marking his second podium of the season. The Fargo, ND native had high hopes of a win but still came away encouraged as his early season speed continues.

“I would’ve liked to have won that, but I guess third is better than fourth,” Schatz said. “You’ve got to think about the big picture. All in all a decent night. This isn’t one of my best places. I think everybody that has a cell phone could see that all weekend it didn’t look like we were going to get to race, and we got two great nights of racing.”

Logan Schuchart and David Gravel rounded out the top five.

A 22nd to 12th run gave Jace Park the KSE Racing Hard Charger in only his third career Series start.

Giovanni Scelzi took Simpson Quick Time honors in Sea Foam Qualifying.

NOS Energy Drink Heats One and Three went to Brock Zearfoss (15th Heat Race win of career) and Brent Marks (33rd of career). Milton Hershey School Heat Two was topped by Logan Schuchart (122nd of career).

UP NEXT: Two new Texas tracks are on tap for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars when the Series heads to Big O Speedway (Ennis, TX) on March 22 and Kennedale Speedway Park (Kennedale, TX) on March 23. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, catch every lap live on DIRTVision.


NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[2]; 2. 19-Brent Marks[3]; 3. 15-Donny Schatz[1]; 4. 1S-Logan Schuchart[4]; 5. 2-David Gravel[8]; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[12]; 7. 17B-Bill Balog[5]; 8. 41-Carson Macedo[13]; 9. 83-Michael Kofoid[10]; 10. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[6]; 11. 87-Aaron Reutzel[16]; 12. 45X-Jace Park[22]; 13. 7S-Landon Crawley[7]; 14. 1A-Jacob Allen[19]; 15. 6-Bill Rose[17]; 16. 25B-Blaine Baxter[21]; 17. 70-Kraig Kinser[15]; 18. 16TH-Kevin Newton[18]; 19. 41S-Dominic Scelzi[9]; 20. 23-Garet Williamson[14]; 21. 95-Matt Covington[11]; 22. 42P-Preston Perlmutter[20]

BIGGER IN TEXAS: Brent Marks Comes Out on Top of Wild Cotton Bowl Thriller

The Myerstown, PA native bests Carson Macedo and Sheldon Haudenschild for 15th career World of Outlaws win

PAIGE, TX (March 15, 2024) - They say everything is bigger in Texas. And the action on track Friday night at Cotton Bowl Speedway lived up to that reputation.

Sliders everywhere. Crossovers everywhere. Mind-blowing saves. A late pass for the win. The racing couldn’t have been any bigger and better at the Paige, TX oval.

When the checkered flag waved on the 30-lap thriller, it was Brent Marks who arose victorious after a spirited charge from the fourth row. The “Myerstown Missile” worked his way forward in the Murray-Marks #19 and sealed the deal by topping a wild late-race duel with Carson Macedo. The winner of night one of the Texas Two Step rolled into Victory Lane and celebrated in front of a roaring crowd.

“It was a lot of fun,” Marks said. “Hats off to this team. They just have worked their butts off all year so far. We’ve been qualifying a little bit better but haven’t been good in our race trim, and we just made the necessary changes coming into this weekend, and here we are. This is amazing.”

The victory was Marks’ 15th with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars and second in the state of Texas. He became the fifth different driver to top a race with The Greatest Show on Dirt. Marks also continued the early streak of no repeat winners as six different competitors have topped the first six races of the year. It’s only the sixth time in Series history we’ve seen that accomplished. The record is eight winners in the first eight races (2015).

A front row consisting of Sheldon Haudenschild and Carson Macedo brought the field to green. It was two-time Cotton Bowl winner – Haudenschild – darting out to the early advantage.

Haudenschild pulled ahead in the opening laps and quickly began to approach the tail of the field. Right as the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing pilot started to navigate traffic, disaster nearly struck. Haudenschild got sideways in Turns 3 and 4 and nearly spun the NOS Energy Drink #17. The Wooster, OH native managed to hang on and also maintain the lead. Right after Haudenschild’s save, the race’s first yellow came out for two cars spinning in Turns 1 and 2.

On the ensuing restart Macedo took a shot at Haudenschild with a slide job in the first corner. Macedo managed to clear him, but Haudenschild promptly countered with a crossover down the back straightaway to regain the lead. The yellow came back out with eight laps complete for Jacob Allen spinning in Turn 4.

The next restart saw Macedo snatch the lead from Haudenschild as he was able to dip under the #17 exiting Turn 2 and drive by heading down the back straightaway. Giovanni Scelzi briefly squeezed ahead of Haudenschild in Turns 3 and 4, but Haudenschild powered back by exiting the corner.

The methodical Brent Marks had worked his way from seventh to third by the halfway point and began closing on the top two of Macedo and Haudenschild. Once the leaders entered traffic, the action warmed up.

Marks threw a slider at Haudenschild in Turns 3 and 4. Haudenschild not only crossed him over, but he also found the speed to launch a slide job at Macedo for the lead in Turns 1 and 2. Macedo crossed back over to retake the lead. On the next circuit, Marks attempted a slider on Haudenschild but made contact with a lapped car. Both held on, but behind them a three-car crash that involved point leader David Gravel, Donny Schatz, and Sam Hafertepe Jr. brought out the red flag.

When racing resumed Marks used a huge run on the bottom to roll ahead of Haudenschild for second entering the first set of corners and immediately set his sights on Macedo. Marks could move his machine anywhere on the racetrack and began to track down the Jason Johnson Racing #41 primarily by using a unique line in Turns 3 and 4.

As the race dipped inside 10 laps to go, a war between Macedo and Marks began. Marks used his line in Turns 3 and 4 to get a run on Macedo down the front straightaway and toss multiple sliders at him in Turns 1 and 2. Macedo used multiple crossovers to maintain the top spot. But with only three laps remaining, Marks found the momentum he needed and made a slide job stick that Macedo couldn’t counter.

“It was just about finding enough grip there on exit,” Marks explained. “That was a pretty wild race. That was really fun, especially when we got in lapped traffic there. Hats off to the Cotton Bowl track crew for doing an amazing job.”

The yellow flag flew one lap after Marks secured the top spot setting up a two-lap dash to the finish, but Marks had no plans of an exciting final restart. He mashed the gas when the green lights flashed and pulled away to victory.

“It was just really about finding the right line that worked best for my car,” Marks said. “Carson was really good. I was able to roll the middle really well down here through (Turns) 3 and 4, but once we got to exit it was hard to get ahold of anything. I showed my nose to Carson a couple times, and he started taking my line there, so I had to try to get creative a little bit. I started coming off of (Turn) 4 a little higher sooner and catch the moisture right up against the wall just enough to shoot me down the front stretch and get some runs on him. That was a hard fought race.”

Macedo held on for the second spot after leading 20 laps aboard the Albaugh #41. The result marked his second consecutive podium as he and the JJR crew begin to get some momentum rolling. Macedo felt he did all he could to hold off Marks but just didn’t have quite enough.

“I feel like we were pretty solid,” Macedo said. “Once we took the lead I thought it would be really tough to get by us. And then he started pressuring me, and I could see him almost the first run he made at me. I was trying everything I could. I felt like I was moving around, trying different lines, trying to get my wing back a little bit. Then I felt I’d get a little tight in (Turns) 1 and 2, so it was like a give and take. He just did a good job. His car was really good there at the end. My guys did an incredible job, too.”

Rounding out the top three was Giovanni Scelzi as he put the KCP Racing #18 on the podium for the first time this year. The Fresno, CA driver made an incredible save early in the race that saw him drive off the wall on the back straightaway. Scelzi’s strong effort combined with Gravel’s misfortune gave him the points lead for the first time in his career.

“Man, it’s awesome,” Scelzi said of taking the point lead. “I escaped death a few times there. My car was awesome all night. This place seemed to give me some fits over the last couple years we’ve been here. Hats off to my guys… It’s cool to be as consistent as we’ve been just kind of rolling with the punches right now I feel like. We’re making Dashes and putting ourselves in position.”

Logan Schuchart and Aaron Reutzel completed the top five. Reutzel drove all the way from 22nd to fifth, giving him the night’s KSE Racing Hard Charger.

Reutzel also snagged his ninth career Simpson Quick Time in Sea Foam Qualifying.

NOS Energy Drink Heats One and Three belonged to Bill Balog (eighth Heat Race win of career) and Sam Hafertepe Jr. (52nd of career). Milton Hershey School Heat Two went to Sheldon Haudenschild (102nd of career).

Haudenschild also topped the Toyota Racing Dash.

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars finish up the Texas Two-Step at Cotton Bowl Speedway on Saturday, March 16. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, catch every lap live on DIRTVision.


NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 19-Brent Marks[7]; 2. 41-Carson Macedo[2]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[3]; 4. 1S-Logan Schuchart[4]; 5. 87-Aaron Reutzel[22]; 6. 1A-Jacob Allen[17]; 7. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[1]; 8. 17B-Bill Balog[5]; 9. 15-Donny Schatz[10]; 10. 83-Michael Kofoid[9]; 11. 41S-Dominic Scelzi[14]; 12. 2-David Gravel[8]; 13. 95-Matt Covington[11]; 14. 70-Kraig Kinser[20]; 15. 23-Garet Williamson[13]; 16. 7S-Landon Crawley[12]; 17. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[15]; 18. 45X-Jace Park[18]; 19. 6-Bill Rose[23]; 20. 25B-Blaine Baxter[19]; 21. 16TH-Kevin Newton[16]; 22. 42P-Preston Perlmutter[21]; 23. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[6]