Unfortunately, no matter how much one hopes to run up front and put a string of quality finishes together, when you play with the best everything has to come together on a consistent basis. A good race car, equipped with a stout engine, is a pre-requisite when one decides to race with a top-flight traveling series. It’s taking the next step that proves to be the hardest, and it is a challenge that can catch some a bit off-guard.
Schuchart figured this out pretty quickly. “Local competition can be great in Pennsylvania and California,” he says. “And there are great drivers all throughout the country and great team members. But in the Outlaws, you get all those people in one spot. You have the best of the best drivers, the best of the best crew chiefs, and they have good sponsors backing them. So, once you get to this level, it is about limiting your mistakes. At the local level you can run hard and be fast and it feels like you can come out on top. When you get to the Outlaw level, 15 to 20 guys show up who have a chance of winning. When you go to your local show, there are maybe five cars that have a chance of winning that night. Those guys in the Outlaws aren’t going to make mistakes, and you have to capitalize on the mistakes they do make.”
While Shark Racing may have been fighting an uphill battle in the early days of the team’s existence, what Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen did have in their corner was a highly-decorated racer who understood just what his drivers were facing. His ability to instruct and help his young team manage the emotional rollercoaster of professional sprint car racing is of inestimable value. Thinking about those debriefing sessions, Schuchart says, “My grandpa is really good at that. He can be hard on Jacob and me at times, but he tends to get on our case when we are actually running well. That’s when he tells us what we should have done better. But when you have a bad night, he is right there with you. He tries to teach you, and help you. He’s not going to put you down.
“He has always known how to do that in a way that builds you up and makes you better. He doesn’t make you defensive to where you aren’t listening to what he is saying. What he really wants is for you to win. He’s been in this position; that’s one of the best things about him. Even if he wasn’t my grandpa, having a car owner who was a race car driver in his time is really helpful, because he understands. He knows you are going to have good times and bad times. He was especially good in those first few years when we were getting thrown into the lion’s den.”
In 2016 one important milestone was reached. There’s nothing more affirming than victory, and over the course of the season Schuchart won for the first time with the Outlaws at Cedar Lake, Wisconsin and then backed it up closer to home when he came out on top at Port Royal. When Logan doubled the win total in 2017, it was clear that the entire team was on the cusp of a real breakthrough. On the basis of Bobby Allen’s plan, the team was on schedule.
“The next level came with sponsorship,” Bobby says, “and getting better help. Before we got people who just wanted to be on the road and racing, but now those guys are also getting better.” While the leader may show signs of a little wear, the rest of the group is still very young.