He’s known for his exciting driving style. He’s known for venturing to lanes on the racetrack others shy away from. He’s known for bringing the fans to their feet. And he used every ounce of those traits on his way to victory on night one of the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals.
With a drive that undoubtedly made his legendary father – Jac Haudenschild – proud, Sheldon wheeled the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing machine from 16th to the win. The Wooster, OH native sliced through the field in a thrilling display and snatched the lead from Brad Sweet on the final lap to secure a revitalizing victory.
“I feel like we say it every time, but it’s been a struggle of a year,” Haudenschild said. “We want to win more than anything, and we just haven’t put ourselves in position. We didn’t tonight either, but we got it done.”
The 16th spot is the farthest back a driver has won a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car race from since Logan Schuchart drove from 19th at Kings Speedway (Hanford, CA) on March 31, 2017 – a 466 race gap.
Haudenschild is up to three World of Outlaws wins for the season and 34 for his career. The win was his third at Skagit, putting him in a tie for the second most in Series history at the Burlington, WA oval.
Another fact making the triumph even sweeter? Haudenschild was celebrating his 30th birthday – the second time he’s topped a Skagit race as a b-day celebration.
When the 30-lap Feature began it was Tanner Holmes and Giovanni Scelzi leading the field to green. Heading into Turn 1 Scelzi pulled ahead for the early advantage to pace the opening circuit.
Scelzi quickly neared traffic only a few laps into the main event, and the racing up front ramped up. Holmes closed in and took a swing at the top spot but Scelzi fended him off. Shortly after Holmes’ attempt for the lead, Brad Sweet and James McFadden slipped by to take the second and third spots.
Chaos struck on the 10th lap when Scelzi smacked the front stretch wall and bounced into McFadden who was challenging for the lead. The contact caused McFadden to spin and brought out a caution.
In the second half of the race the leaders again faced heavy lapped traffic. Scelzi struggled to work through the slower cars, and Sweet closed in. Then on Lap 19, “The Big Cat” pounced with a slide job to take over the top spot. The four-time and defending champion then pulled ahead as the race dipped inside 10 laps to go.
Behind Sweet, Haudenschild was surging in the NOS Energy Drink #17. He located a line in Turns 3 and 4 that nobody else could navigate. The gasser from “The Buckeye State” put all four tires in the fluff entering Turn 3 and powered down the banking to the bottom to get a huge run down the front straightaway.
“I feel like there after one of the restarts I kind of packed it in a little bit,” Haudenschild said of finding the groove. “I saw the 18 (Scelzi) up there doing it. Then it looked like he kind of aborted mission. I felt really smooth up there and could diamond that corner off and stay away from that ledge in Turn 4.”
On the 21st circuit, Haudenschild moved into fourth. Two laps later he moved into the runner-up spot.
Over the next few circuits Haudenschild quickly closed on the tail of the Kasey Kahne Racing #49. A couple close calls with lapped traffic nearly cost him an opportunity to take the lead as the laps waned.
But Haudenschild rallied with a major run with two laps to go and looked underneath Sweet heading into Turn 1. Sweet fended him off and took the white flag a car length ahead. Sweet went low in Turns 1 and 2 while Haudenschild went high and blasted by Sweet exiting Turn 2. Haudenschild protected in Turns 3 and 4 and held on to cap an incredible drive.
“I thought I got my nose under Corey (Day) and he’d let me by there but had to kind of take one lap off and regain how to get around him,” Haudenschild said of being in traffic late. “I had to see if it was plausible to go run the 49 down. It was close. He pushed in Turns 3 and 4 the one time, and I kind of figured we had to go then.”
Sweet’s runner-up marked his 23rd podium of the World of Outlaws season. While coming up short after taking the white flag with the lead was disappointing, Sweet did manage to extend his points lead as he pursues his fifth straight championship. The Grass Valley, CA native admitted he might’ve become a little too conservative in the closing laps.
“I wasn’t getting by those last couple lapped cars,” Sweet said. “I felt like they were setting a pretty good pace and I was setting a good enough pace, I thought. But obviously Sheldon found a new line, and that’s what it takes to win these races is searching around. My car didn’t really like to go up in the rough stuff, so I just kind of committed to staying down in the racing groove. I got a little free at the end but maybe just a little too conservative.”
Rounding out the top three was early race leader – Gio Scelzi. The KCP Racing pilot led the opening 18 laps, but the damage sustained after his contact with the wall made it difficult to drive his #18 machine. He still managed to hold on for his fifth podium of his rookie World of Outlaws campaign.
“I knocked the Jacobs Ladder off of it, and it wasn’t undriveable, just made it really hard to get up and get your right rear (tire) propped up and run above all the stuff like Sheldon was,” Scelzi said. “You could pass guys high and low. It was just really treacherous off (Turn) 4 where the curb was and on exit.”
Tanner Holmes and Spencer Bayston completed the top five.
Haudenschild’s 16th to the win drive earned him the KSE Racing Hard Charger honors.
Tanner Holmes claimed his second Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award in six races since joining Shark Racing.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Tanner Holmes (first Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Donny Schatz (520th of career), Carson Macedo (109th of career), and James McFadden (47th of career).
Tanner Holmes won the Toyota Racing Dash.
Robbie Price claimed the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are back at Skagit Speedway for night two of the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals on Friday, September 1 before Saturday’s $26,000 finale. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 2. 49-Brad Sweet; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 4. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 5. 5-Spencer Bayston; 6. 15-Donny Schatz; 7. 9-Kasey Kahne; 8. 2-David Gravel; 9. 41S-Dominic Scelzi; 10. 24-Rico Abreu; 11. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 12. 83-James McFadden; 13. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 14. 41-Carson Macedo; 15. 18S-Jason Solwold; 16. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 17. 2X-Justin Sanders; 18. 7S-Robbie Price; 19. 14-Corey Day; 20. 21S-Jesse Schlotfeldt; 21. 95-Justin Youngquist; 22. 21-Cole Macedo; 23. (DNF) 9A-Luke Didiuk; 24. (DNF) 20G-Noah Gass