If it wasn’t for bad luck, Sheldon Haudenschild might not have any luck at all.
The Wooster, OH native was coming to the white flag on Friday night, just 1/3-mile away from collecting a wildly popular home state win at Attica Raceway Park, but then it all went south. Running ahead of him, DJ Foos lost his left rear tire and spun around in turn four, leaving Haudenschild with nowhere to go as the NOS Energy Drink #17 plowed into him.
You could hear the gasps from the crowd and feel the energy shift as he was towed to the trailer.
Enter David Gravel. Who albeit lucky, placed himself in the perfect position to capitalize on Haudenschild’s misfortune.
The Big Game Motorsports #2 returned to the point for the third time in the 40-lapper, and fended off a hungry Donny Schatz and a hard-charging Brent Marks for their fourth victory of the season with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Sprint Car Series.
“I’ll take them anyway I can get them,” Gravel admitted in victory lane. “I thought I was closing on him, but he was probably going to win that race no matter what. Obviously Sheldon is a fan favorite here, so you don’t want to see stuff like that happen. 40 laps around Attica man, a lot of crazy things happen, and they sure did tonight.”
While Gravel basked in the confetti on the frontstretch, Haudenschild was forced to wonder what could’ve been. Friday’s show at Attica marked the fourth occurrence since the beginning of April that he lost the lead due to something out of his control with less than ten laps remaining.
“He lost that tire, and I just had nowhere to go,” Haudenschild explained. “Nothing you can do about it. It sucks, man.”
From the beginning, the Kistler Engines Classic brought the heat on the hottest raceday of the 2021 season. Slick Woody’s Qualifying went to Gravel, who led a top-seven that timed within one-tenth of each other. The Team Drydene Heat Races were thrilling too, highlighted by Trey Jacobs denial of Carson Macedo at the checkered flag.
Jacobs, of Wooster, OH, kept the spotlight rolling when he proposed to his girlfriend at the redraw, and then promptly drew the one pill. Haudenschild entered the picture in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash when he thrilled a packed house bye going from last-to-first.
When the 40-lap NOS Energy Drink Feature went green, it was outside pole sitter Brandon Spithaler of Evans City, PA leading the first official lap of his World of Outlaws career. Unfortunately, his moment was short-lived as the #22 slid off the banking and over the cushion while battling Haudenschild for the lead on Lap 2.
A handful of stoppages slowed the action in the beginning, but once rolling the fans witnessed the good stuff. Racing into lap traffic, Haudenschild and Gravel swapped lanes from ripping the cushion to rolling the bottom, and they split lappers and exchanged the lead on multiple occasions.
Gravel took it from him on Lap 10 and started to sneak off, but Haudenschild snookered him on Lap 18 to get it back. Gravel came back fighting to resume command on Lap 20, but again Haudenschild snatched it from on Lap 22 as they went back-and-forth for the lead. Finally, Haudenschild gained some breathing room when Gravel was pinched off by a lapper, and actually slipped to third as Schatz rolled by for second.
Building a massive advantage, Haudenschild was leading Schatz by a whopping 3.397-seconds with ten to go. There was no such battle for the top spot, so fans turned their attention to second as Gravel eventually stole it back from Schatz on Lap 37.
The race was all but over on Lap 38 when Haudenschild received the two-to-go signal. Gravel was gaining ground, but simply had no time to offer a move on the #17. It all changed coming to the white flag, however, as Foos’ left rear fell off and the #16 collected an innocent Haudenschild with nowhere to go.
A green-white-checkered became close between Gravel and Schatz, but ultimately the Watertown, CT native survived his second-ever victory at Ohio’s Attica Raceway Park.
“I told my guys after the Dash that we had a good car, and we didn’t make any adjustments,” Gravel said on the Big Game #2. “I was just as good as Sheldon there in the early going, but I got too free and he ran away from me big-time. Once I fell back to third I slid the wing back and felt better. I really had no idea where to run on that green-white-checkered and felt like I made two terrible laps. Really glad we held on.”
Coming up short by 0.540-seconds was Donny Schatz aboard the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing #15. Friday’s result was the seventh podium finish of 2021 for the 10-time Series champion. He and the Ford Performance, Carquest crew are on a streak of eight-straight top-1o finishes, the most of all active drivers.
“I don’t know if we could’ve got him, we just seemed to struggle at the end,” Schatz claimed afterwards. “These guys are digging, though. We’re doing everything we can. We’ll get there, it’s just taking longer than we expected.”
Closing out the podium was Brent Marks of Myerstown, PA with an incredible 19th-to-3rd run worthy of KSE Racing Hard Charger. It’s his fourth podium finish against the World of Outlaws in his last seven races since returning to the family-owned #19.
“The car was just so good,” Marks bragged. “I could run where I needed be it top, bottom, or even middle. We started off really uncomfortable tonight, but sometimes those extra laps through the Last Chance Showdown are a blessing. We just kept getting better and better. I’m really proud of this whole team right now.”
Rounding out the top-ten at Attica was Carson Macedo in fourth-place, Brad Sweet in fifth-place, James McFadden in seventh-place, Logan Schuchart in seventh-place, Brock Zearfoss in eighth-place, Wayne Johnson in ninth-place, and Craig Mintz in tenth-place.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series will keep it in the state of Ohio on Saturday night as The Greatest Show on Dirt returns to Sharon Speedway for the first time since 2007. Fans can BUY TICKETS HERE.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (40 Laps): 1. 2-David Gravel [$10,000]; 2. 15-Donny Schatz [$6,000]; 3. 19-Brent Marks [$3,500]; 4. 41-Carson Macedo [$2,800]; 5. 49-Brad Sweet [$2,500]; 6. 9-James McFadden [$2,300]; 7. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$2,200]; 8. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$2,100]; 9. 2C-Wayne Johnson [$2,050]; 10. O9-Craig Mintz [$2,000]; 11. 1-Nate Dussel [$1,600]; 12. 18-Cole Macedo [$1,400]; 13. 35-Stuart Brubaker [$1,200]; 14. 5T-Travis Philo [$1,100]; 15. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,050]; 16. 70M-Henry Malcuit [$1,000]; 17. 22-Brandon Spithaler [$1,000]; 18. 83-Aaron Reutzel [$1,000]; 19. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$1,000]; 20. 16-DJ Foos [$1,000]; 21. 23-Chris Andrews [$1,000]; 22. 27S-John Ivy [$1,000]; 23. 70-Trey Jacobs [$1,000]; 24. 39M-Anthony Macri [$1,000]. Lap Leaders: Brandon Spithaler 1; Sheldon Haudenschild 2-9, 18-19, 22-38; David Gravel 10-17, 20-21, 39-40. KSE Hard Charger Award: 19-Brent Marks[+16]
NEW Championship Standings (25/83 Races): 1. Brad Sweet (3,516); 2. David Gravel (-58); 3. Carson Macedo (-90); 4. Donny Schatz (-138); 5. Aaron Reutzel (-166); 6. Sheldon Haudenschild (-170); 7. Logan Schuchart (-198); 8. Kraig Kinser (-454); 9. Brock Zearfoss (-524); 10. James McFadden (-528).