Written in December of 2017
Sheldon Haudenschild and Brent Marks have a lot in common: both are young, outspoken throttle stompers with a history of success on a regional level. Both drivers started racing Sprint Cars in 2009, and both qualified for their first Knoxville Nationals in 2015. Haudenschild, 24, and Marks, 26, cut their teeth in Ohio and Central Pennsylvania, respectively, two of the most competitive areas for Sprint Car racing in the world.
Haudenschild spent 2016 following the Arctic Cat All-Star Circuit of Champions and had an eye-opening, series-leading nine wins on the tour, trailing only Ohio veterans Chad Kemenah and Dale Blaney in the points standings at year’s end. Marks was still based out of Central Pennsylvania in 2016, but ventured out of the friendly confines of Posse-land more often, setting the stage for bigger and better things in 2017.
Both Haudenschild and Marks joined the grueling World of Outlaws Craftsman® Sprint Car Series full time in 2017, competing against each other for the prestigious Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award. And while their paths to the Series were similar, how they tackled their first year on the tour could not have been more different.
Sheldon — sporting the familiar Haudenschild name, which brings thrilling expectations in its own right — had experience to lean on with the ageless Bonzai Bruns turning the wrenches on the Haudenschild Racing No.93.Marks, on the other hand, joined the tour with a pair of young Pennsylvania natives that had never traveled west of the Mississippi.
In early July, Stenhouse-Marshall (then Stenhouse-Wood) Racing made a driver switch that brought Sheldon’s dad, Jac – more commonly known as the ‘Wild Child’ – on the World of Outlaws tour full time as well. “It was a dream come true to race on the World of Outlaws tour with my Dad. On and off the track, it was a blast,” Sheldon said.
“We’ve always worked towards both being out on the road full time, but never really knew how it would work out. When the 17 ride opened up and they called Jac, we were both pumped. Not a lot of people in this world, in any regard, can say they did something at the highest level with their dad. To race with him every night on the World of Outlaws tour meant a lot and made for an unforgettable year,” Sheldon added.
Sheldon also enjoyed the added benefit of another veteran in his corner. Jac, a member of the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame, has 56 career World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series wins to his credit and had raced on every track the Series visited in 2017, most often with Sheldon’s crew chief, the aforementioned Bonzai.
“Someone would be lucky just to have one Bonzai or one Jac helping them; I was lucky enough to have both. All these tracks that were new for me this year, they had both been to multiple times,” Haudenschild explained following the season, in which he finished an impressive seventh in the Series Point Standings en route to claiming the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year award.
Things couldn’t have been more different for Brent Marks in his family owned No.19. Marks started the season with two crew members, Kevin Osmolski and Jesse Lentz, and ended the season with just the latter. None of the trio had seen any tracks west of Knoxville prior to the season. “We overcame so much this year. It was definitely harder than I thought it would be going in,” Marks said in an interview on Open Red.
Throughout the season, Marks and company saw upwards of 40 tracks for the first time. Being a rookie on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series is a challenge; being a rookie on the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series with no experience or notebook to lean on is borderline insane.
“I’m glad we did it. Everything is different; even the way you drive the tracks is different. Obviously, we would have liked to give Sheldon a better run for his money for the Rookie of the Year, but it was an honor racing with these guys and be semi-competitive,” Marks said with a chuckle. Marks never looked out of place, and given the circumstances, what he was able to accomplish was impressive. Marks caught fire late in the season and surged into the top ten in the Series points standings in the final race of the season.
While neither Marks nor Haudenschild scored an Outlaw win in 2017, both scored regional victories on April 22, 2017. A rare early rainout allowed some World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series teams to compete locally. Haudenschild came from the third row to beat the All-Stars at Wayne County, while Marks decimated the Pennsylvania Posse by seven seconds at Port Royal the same night. Proving once again, the World of Outlaws drivers remain in an echelon of their own in regard to competition.
As 2018 approaches, both drivers will return to the Series for a second consecutive season, this time with the rookie label removed. Sheldon was hired by Stenhouse-Marshall Racing and will pilot the sharp looking NOS Energy Drink No.17 with Tyler Swank turning the wrenches, while Marks will return to his family-owned machine ready to build off his strong conclusion to 2017.
As both Sheldon Haudenschild and Brent Marks continue to fight for that elusive first career World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series victory, they will remember their rookie endeavor and the plentiful lessons learned along the way. If you want to be the best, you’ve got to race with the best.