Logan Schuchart wasn’t surprised when Rico Abreu slid ahead of him coming to the white flag Friday night at Eldora Speedway.
Nine years on the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car tour has taught him someone is always lurking. The nation’s top Sprint Car drivers are prepared to pounce on the smallest mistake. Even though he’d led every lap entering the final one, Schuchart still didn’t expect to go unchallenged. What matters is the response to the challenge. Composure can be the difference between celebrating a win and settling for second.
This experience and expectation allowed the 10th year veteran to stay poised and map out his answer to Abreu’s slider. Schuchart executed a perfect response slide job of his own in Turn 1 and held off Abreu’s last gasp in the final set of corners to claim his first checkered flag of 2023.
“I was kind of expecting it sooner,” Schuchart said of Abreu’s bid for the lead. “I felt pretty confident that when he did drive across in front of me I knew that it was going to be hard for him to keep speed or block me into (Turn) one that I could kind of wait for him for a second coming out of (Turn) four and down the front stretch to make a move or decide what I was going to do. I know he wanted to get right back to the top, and I just kind of had to short slide him and park it in front of him because it was going to be very tough to drive back down off of (Turn) one and drive across the racetrack. I’m just happy to get this thing in Victory Lane.”
The trip to Victory Lane was Schuchart’s 36th with The Greatest Show on Dirt, equaling him with Bixby, OK’s Shane Stewart for 19th on the all-time Series win list. Schuchart now owns four triumphs at Eldora, which sits tied with Jackson Motorplex and The Dirt Track at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the tracks he’s won the most at with the World of Outlaws.
Schuchart is also tied as the winningest Pennsylvanian at Eldora in World of Outlaws competition. He, Tim Shaffer (Aliquippa, PA), and Brent Marks (Myerstown, PA) all own four wins apiece.
Perhaps most importantly, Schuchart knocked the first win of the season monkey from his back. With seven top fives, including three podiums heading into Friday, the speed of the Shark Racing #1S had unquestionably been there. But with a zero in the win column, pressure had begun to build.
“It’s definitely huge to get that pressure off your back,” Schuchart admitted. “I feel just as good as anybody out here. I feel like we have the team to compete at the highest level and compete at the top. It’s just making those calls. Sometimes it’s me putting the wrong setup in the thing like last week at Haubstadt. It’s just learning and trial and error over the years of making these things right.”
Schuchart’s path to victory began quickly. The Hanover, PA native lined up third on the grid aboard the Drydene/DuraMAX machine with Brad Sweet and Abreu in front of him. Both Sweet and Abreu opted for the cushion in the first set of corners when the green flew. Schuchart decided to roll the middle and sailed by the top two.
From there, Schuchart maintained a decent advantage throughout the race. He was never able to pull too far ahead but kept those behind him at bay.
Meanwhile, a war erupted for spots within the top five as Abreu, Sweet, and Donny Schatz swapped spots in the early going. The Big E was in tip top shape allowing that trio to utilize many lanes as they battled for the runner-up spot. Even with racing each other, Schuchart stayed within their sights.
It wasn’t until Abreu fully established control of second that he was able to really begin to chip away at Schuchart’s advantage. Traffic helped Abreu have that one last chance as the white flag flew, but he didn’t quite have enough to hold back Schuchart after swiping the lead briefly. Schuchart felt appreciative that it was Abreu who offered the challenge and grateful he was able to best him.
“Rico is a class act guy on and off the track,” Schuchart said. “Him and Ricky Warner make a great team. They’re really tough to beat right now. They’re really fast everywhere we go.”
Abreu settled for second aboard the Rico Abreu Racing #24. The St. Helena, CA native continues to flex his early season muscle with his third World of Outlaws podium of the season and the 31st of his career. With Schuchart’s execution on the final lap, Abreu didn’t feel he could’ve done much more in search of the win.
“I was just waiting for him to slip one time,” Abreu explained. “I knew it was getting down to the wire there. It just comes down to a matter of sticking that last corner and him taking my lane away just startled my car a little bit to get back down to get a run. It was just smart racing on his end. Our car was unbelievable tonight.”
Rounding out the top three was 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz. The 45 year old looked smooth all race and appeared he may challenge for the win. But traffic in his lanes slowed Schatz enough to keep him from the top of the board. The third-place effort marked his first podium of the season and the 741st of his career.
“We were kind of hanging on there at the end, but I kind of knew that about 10 laps in,” Schatz said. “I had to get the wing back to stay with them. We can work from there. It’s a respectable finish for the night and gives us an opportunity for tomorrow.”
Completing the top five was Brad Sweet and David Gravel. With Carson Macedo finishing sixth, Sweet trimmed Macedo’s points lead down to only eight markers.
The night’s KSE Racing Hard Charger was Kyle Larson with a 22nd to 10th drive aboard Paul Silva’s #57.
Early in the night Logan Schuchart collected his third Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award of the year and the 34th of his career.
CASE #No1EngineOil Heat One was topped by Brad Sweet (222nd of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were claimed by Sheldon Haudenschild (81st of career), Logan Schuchart (105th of career), and Donny Schatz (506th of career).
The MicroLite Last Chance Showdown victory went to Kraig Kinser.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars return to Eldora Speedway on Saturday (May 6) for night two of #LetsRaceTwo. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all the action live on DIRTVision.
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 2. 24-Rico Abreu; 3. 15-Donny Schatz; 4. 49-Brad Sweet; 5. 2-David Gravel; 6. 41-Carson Macedo; 7. 1A-Jacob Allen; 8. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 9. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 10. 57-Kyle Larson; 11. 39M-Anthony Macri; 12. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 13. 5-Spencer Bayston; 14. 29-Parker Price Miller; 15. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg; 16. 21-Brian Brown; 17. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 18. 71-Cory Eliason; 19. 19-Brent Marks; 20. 4-Chris Windom; 21. 13-Justin Peck; 22. 42-Sye Lynch; 23. 7S-Robbie Price; 24. 101-Kraig Kinser