(11/24/2021 – Alex Nieten) Fresno, CA… If you’ve heard any of Dominic Scelzi’s more than 20 victory lane interviews from 2021, then you’ve undoubtedly heard him offer gratitude to crew chief, Jimmy Carr.
Carr has played a vital role in engineering Scelzi’s historic West Coast racing season that culminated in a NARC-King of the West Fujitsu General Sprint Car title with six victories, 13 podiums and 16 top-fives in the 21-race season. Carr himself earned NARC’s prestigious Billy Albini Mechanic of the Year courtesy of the team’s performance.
The Canadian’s racing ventures started back in 1982 when he began wheeling a sprint car at Washington’s Skagit Speedway before expanding his travels south to California a few years later. In 1991 Carr took on the World of Outlaws and earned rookie of the year honors. Driving and mechanical roles at Williams Motorsports and Roth Motorsports in the late ‘90s preceded Carr’s most notorious endeavor to date, a lengthy tenure with Tony Stewart Racing.
“In ’99 we basically started, from the ground up, building Tony Stewart Racing,” Carr reflected. “It was a shop in Missouri, a truck and trailer and everything. We actually, in 2000, did a bunch of testing. Danny Lasoski ran the car some. I ran the car some. We were testing for the World of Outlaws. Then in 2001, Tony Stewart Racing began competing for championships in the World of Outlaws, and we won the very first year.”
The team experienced boundless success over the next two decades with Carr helping oversee operations before he moved to his current role with Scelzi Motorsports last year. Though his official partnership with the No. 41 team only began in 2020, Carr’s friendship with the family dates to when Dominic was still in diapers.
“I’ve known Gary and Julie (Scelzi) basically before their kids were even born,” Carr said. “I met them when I first came to work for Dennis Roth out here in 1998. That winter we were out here working and got to know Gary, and the relationship has stuck for all these years. Gary actually came to a test where we were at and got in my car and raced it around Manzanita a little bit. I think Dominic was maybe two years old at that point.”
Nowadays the quiet Carr can be found in California pit areas on cool Pacific evenings, a hoody draped over his head as he surveys Scelzi’s No. 41 machine and the Golden State’s heavy racing surfaces, a welcome shift to his roots.
“It’s awesome because it’s going back to racing at racetracks that I cut my teeth on,” Carr said. “It’s good for both sides of the partnership for me because I can help him (Scelzi) with when I raced at these racetracks, and I can also help him with setup.”
The partnership has clearly clicked with Scelzi’s career year. Heading into 2021, Scelzi had collected a respectable 27 sprint car victories over his first nine years of racing. In year 10, he’s nearly doubled that mark, adding 22 to his career total including the six with NARC that led the series this season.
Carr’s first task in ushering his driver to this substantial leap was getting Scelzi comfortable on areas of the track he might’ve not been in previous years.
“When I first started helping him, I kind of threw him under the bus,” Carr said with a laugh. “I threw him out there as a typical California guy, head straight to the cushion and go up and lean on it. So, I shamed him into moving off the cushion, and now he loves it. He searches all over the place.”
The positive influence has been evident each night Scelzi’s hits the track. Many times over the course of the season Scelzi steered his machine out of the preferred groove, searching for grip and often finding it.
The Fastest Four Days in Motorsports race at Stockton stands out as a prime example. After an early race restart, Scelzi kept faith in the lowline as the five cars ahead of him all went to the cushion. Just a handful of laps later, Scelzi snatched the lead and went on to win, a tangible testament to Carr’s impact.
Carr believes that the necessary talent and drive have always been present with Scelzi, and that what he needed was simply a car that would allow him to demonstrate those talents. Carr’s efforts have helped Scelzi ascend to a level that’s put him ahead of the competition.
“All Dominic really needed was something that went around the racetrack pretty easily every night,” Carr explained. “He’s got determination that a lot of kids don’t have, and he’s got great ability. He’s a super driver.
“He’s been doing it long enough now that when it starts to play out in your mind in slow motion, then that’s when everybody else is really in trouble,” Carr continued. “Everything is happening at normal speed to him where everybody else, they’re behind. He’s never behind. He’s always in full control and ahead of what’s going to happen. And all he needed was just a car that was capable of doing what he wanted it to do.”
Moving forward the pairing don’t plan to take their foot off the gas. The seasoned Carr has been around long enough to know the sprint car racing world is constantly evolving, and if they don’t remain diligent the rest of the pack may catch up quickly despite their 2021 dominance.
“I’ve been around forever and seen a lot of stuff,” Carr said. “It’s a learning curve every time you hit the racetrack. In my whole career of doing this it’s always changing. You’re always learning, and Dominic and I are learning together. There’s always something that we can be better at. The nice thing about dirt track racing is your notes don’t mean crap most of the time because you never ever go to the same place twice and it’s the same.”
Heading into 2022 the No. 41 team will enter as the defending NARC-King of the West champions with the best of the West Coast aiming to unseat them. With Scelzi and Carr continuing to sharpen their dynamic, though, the task will be tough. After working with him for just two seasons, Carr has already gained the utmost confidence in his driver.
“He’s (Dominic) sure caught on quick,” Carr said. “He’s learned how to win very quick.”