Editor’s Note: With the outbreak of COVID-19 forcing racing around the globe to a sudden stop, SPEED SPORT is reaching out to members of the racing community to find out how the outbreak is impacting them, both as racers and in their daily lives. This story is part of that ongoing series.
CONCORD, N.C. — Dominic Scelzi had aspirations of competing in more than 100 sprint car events this season, but with the ongoing fight against COVID-19 across the United States, things have obviously changed.
“I think we’ve got four races under our belt this year,” said Scelzi, a resident of California. “It almost feels like it’s not real. Like we’re in a movie or something.”
The shutdown of racing across the United States has had differing effects on those within the industry, but for Scelzi the shutdown has cost him pivotal races in what he has previously said will be his last season on the road.
The plan was to hit the road hard and compete in as many races as possible this year. That included races in California and across the country for Scelzi, who was slated to work with veteran crew chief Jimmy Carr with the Scelzi Motorsports sprint car operation.
Instead, Scelzi’s equipment is sitting at the shop collecting dust. He admits it is frustrating, but he also understands there isn’t much he can do about it given the circumstances.
“It’s really weird,” Scelzi acknowledged. “We’ve got race cars ready to go, we’ve got engines ready to go, we’ve got a trailer fully stocked, we’ve got everything that we need to go racing and there’s no racing. So for us, for me especially, it’s disheartening because we had really built up to have something this year.
“In the quick little glimpse of racing that we had, we were strong. So it’s frustrating. It’s frustrating knowing that we’re sitting on the sidelines right now,” he continued. “But there’s nothing we can do. There’s nothing any of us can do. All we can do is just kind of make sure we’re ready to go whenever we get the call that we’re able to get back to work.”
Scelzi estimates that with the racing shutdown, he could lose as much as half of the races he had planned to compete in. For someone who was planning to stop traveling to race at the end of the year, that’s a little more than disappointing.
“We’re going to lose half a season,” Scelzi said. “It’s frustrating. It’s disheartening, but you know, at the end of the day we want to keep everybody healthy and it just seems like everyone’s hands are tied.”
While his racing plans are taking a heavy hit due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Scelzi is keeping busy with his day job. He works for his father, multi-time NHRA champion Gary Scelzi, at Scelzi Enterprises.
The state of California is one of several in the United States that is under a stay-at-home order, which requires most residents to stay home in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus. It also means only companies deemed essential businesses may continue to operate.
Scelzi Enterprises is one of those businesses.
“Lucky for us we do work for the city and state as well as farmers. So we were able to get onto the essential list,” Scelzi said. So we’re still working here, but everyone’s really on edge. I think there’s a lot of worry of if we do get shut down…we’ve got 400-plus employees and it seems like the majority of them, if not all of them, are concerned about us getting shut down because that paycheck is important for everybody to be able to survive.
“I’m very fortunate, being a racer, that I have a family business that I can come work at in times like this. There’s a lot of guys that don’t,” Scelzi noted. “I’m definitely feeling for all the racers out there that race full time as a living and don’t do anything else because there is no income for anybody and it’s just a really weird time in our world.”
Scelzi encouraged race fans to continue to support racers amid the shutdown by buying t-shirts or other merchandise to help them stay afloat until racing picks back up later in the season once the viral outbreak subsides.
“I know all the fans want to get back to watching racing and all the racers definitely want to get back to racing. As of right now, none of us have a choice,” Scelzi said. “We just gotta be strong as a community. We have to come together. If you know of racers that are not able to do anything else, buy their merchandise if you can spare the money because a t-shirt sale goes so far or anything like that is huge.
“If you can donate to any race team or worker or racer in the racing community, do it,” Scelzi noted. “And if you’re a car owner and you have the means to do it, continue to pay your workers and maybe even try and pay your driver. It’s so difficult for everybody because when the faucet gets shut off, it shuts off from the top, not the bottom. So even the wealthy are essentially in the same boat as the middle class and everyone else because it shuts everything off.
“So just be smart with your pennies and try and support as many racers as you can.”