For the third time in three nights of the west coast swing, a Californian walked away with the win; only this time, it was a full-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series driver getting the job done.
In true bullring fashion, Merced Speedway ended an eight-year absence from The Greatest Show on Dirt and promptly delivered a spectacular battle for the win between Lemoore’s Carson Macedo, Grass Valley’s Brad Sweet, and Fresno’s Giovanni Scelzi.
Friday’s 35-lapper officially saw two lead changes but featured off-the-charts action from green-to-checkered. Among many highlights included Scelzi’s top-shelf pass for the lead, an intense lap traffic battle at the front, and several sliders shared by Macedo & Sweet.
Ultimately, the 25-year-old rising star (Macedo) welcomed every attack that the 36-year-old wily veteran (Sweet) threw his way in the late stages. The Big Cat tossed several scenarios his way, forcing Macedo to cross over, stay in it, and make every difficult decision you could imagine while manhandling a 900+ horsepower beast.
The duo was ultra-close as the white flag waved, but Macedo slightly gapped Sweet to cross the finish line ahead by 0.559-seconds. The victory marks his second win of the season aboard the Jason Johnson Racing, Albaugh #41, and brings Macedo to 19 career World of Outlaws wins with four of those coming in California.
“Wow, California Sprint Car Racing is awesome,” Macedo shouted. “It doesn’t get any better than bullrings like this. I was pushing it so damn hard those last 8-10 laps. I can’t tell you how nervewracking it is in lap traffic like that while you still have to battle for the lead. It’s a fine line between being aggressive enough to split cars, but patient enough to not give the win away.
“Racing at home is always so special. We’re not exactly down by Lemoore, but this is only an hour away and I still had so many people close to me make the drive up to support us. I’m thankful for every single one of these wins, especially ones like this.”
For the second time in as many races, Brad Sweet was again the bridesmaid, not the bride. The Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 controlled the opening 21 laps of the 35-lapper, but the final restart of the race spelled doom for the three-time and reigning World of Outlaws champion.
Choosing the inside on a double-file restart allowed Macedo to fire off on the outside and zoom by Sweet, and then go on the defense. The moment snatched The Big Cat’s 75th career win away and extended their dry spell to 24 consecutive races without a win.
“That’s my fault for choosing the bottom,” Sweet admitted. “I had a few shots at him there near the end, and I definitely think we had a better car. A little bit of rubber came in and kind of took away the technical aspect of it. You have to be perfect to win these Outlaw races, though, so we just need to get a little better.”
Rounding out Friday’s California podium sweep was Fresno’s Giovanni Scelzi aboard the KCP Racing #18. The 20-year-old shot by Sweet to take the lead on a Lap 13 restart, but a poorly timed caution negated the pass and hurt his chances at a second win in three races.
“I hate getting beat like that,” Scelzi said. “I got out-raced fair and square. The yellow didn’t help, but man that sucks. I was hoping they would slow each other down and get me back in the hunt, but I can’t be too disappointed. We have a great car, great crew, and we’re only getting better.”
Closing out the top-five was a pair of Indiana natives with Indianapolis’ Tyler Courtney in fourth aboard Kevin Kozlowski’s #57W and Lebanon’s Spencer Bayston in fifth with the CJB Motorsports #5.
Other top-10 finishers included Kerry Madsen in sixth in the Roth Enterprises #83JR, Logan Schuchart in seventh in the DuraMAX, Drydene #1S, Dominic Scelzi in eighth in the Scelzi Enterprises #41S, Rico Abreu in ninth in the Rowdy #24, and Sheldon Haudenschild with a KSE Hard Charger Award for driving from 21st-to-10th in the NOS Energy Drink #17.
NOS NOTEBOOK (Merced – 3/18/22)
Carson Macedo‘s 19th career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory pushes him beyond Brad Doty to reach 31st on the All-Time Win List. Brad Sweet‘s dry spell is extended to 24 consecutive races since his last victory at Skagit (WA) on September 4, 2021.
Championship leader David Gravel was involved in a Lap 13 crash (running sixth) but rebounded from the work area to salvage a season-worst finish of 15th. He still holds the top spot in the standings with a 10-point margin over Brad Sweet.
10-time Series champion Donny Schatz was collected in a Lap 1 crash and returned from the work area to finish two laps down in 22nd-place. That’s three consecutive finishes outside of the top-10 for the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #15 since heading west.
Giovanni Scelzi established a new track record by turning in a lap of 10.057 seconds around Merced Speedway. He became the eighth driver in eight races to earn the Slick Woody’s QuickTime Award this season. NOS Energy Drink Heat Race wins went to Giovanni Scelzi (19th career), Kerry Madsen (186th career), David Gravel (185th career), and Tyler Courtney (8th career).
Brad Sweet scored the pole position after outrunning Giovanni Scelzi in an exciting side-by-side battle in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash. Sheldon Haudenschild won his third MicroLite Last Chance Showdown of the year, a Series best mark.
16-year-old Corey Day (Clovis, CA) started his first-career World of Outlaws Feature and drove forward to finish 14th-from-22nd in the Jason Meyers owned #14.
UP NEXT – The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series travels to Ocean Speedway in Watsonville, CA tomorrow for a Saturday showdown on March 19. The west coast swing concludes next weekend at Bakersfield Speedway (March 25) and Perris Auto Speedway (March 26). Fans can BUY TICKETS HERE or watch every race LIVE on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature Results (35 Laps): 1. 41-Carson Macedo (6); 2. 49-Brad Sweet (1); 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi (2); 4. 57W-Tyler Courtney (3); 5. 5-Spencer Bayston (7); 6. 83JR-Kerry Madsen (8); 7. 1S-Logan Schuchart (13); 8. 41S-Dominic Scelzi (10); 9. 24-Rico Abreu (11); 10. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild (21); 11. 26-Cory Eliason (17); 12. 16A-Colby Copeland (15); 13. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss (18); 14. 14-Corey Day (22); 15. 2-David Gravel (5); 16. 17W-Shane Golobic (24); 17. 83-James McFadden (23); 18. 21-Mitchell Faccinto (14); 19. 88-Austin McCarl (20); 20. 1A-Jacob Allen (9); 21. 83T-Tanner Carrick (4); 22. 15-Donny Schatz (16); 23. 11K-Kraig Kinser (19); 24. 2X-Justin Sanders (12).
NEW Championship Standings (After 8/86 Races): 1. David Gravel (1,124); 2. Brad Sweet (-10); 3. Carson Macedo (-30); 4. Sheldon Haudenschild (-32); 5. James McFadden (-68); 6. Logan Schuchart (-88); 7. Giovanni Scelzi (-90); 8. Donny Schatz (-92); 9. Cory Eliason (-98); 10. Spencer Bayston (-124).