COLUMBUS, Miss. — Sheldon Haudenschild became the fifth World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series winner in as many races this season as the series made its long-awaited return to Mississippi Saturday night at Magnolia Motor Speedway.
Uncharacteristically, patience made the difference for Haudenschild on this night as he waited out lapped traffic and track conditions before stealing the point from Logan Schuchart en route to his 15th career victory.
“I’m just so happy to win a race here this early in the season, you know I don’t think we won until like July last year,” Haudenschild noted. “That’s a big goal of mine, winning early and building some momentum. It’s always cool to get a win at a track that the Outlaws haven’t been to before too. Ripper, Nikolas, Drew, they’ve got this NOS Energy Drink No. 17 dialed in right now. I’m glad the fans made it out. This is a beautiful race track and I think it put on a really great show.”
Rolling from the outside pole of the 30-lapper, Haudenschild’s biggest challenge was alongside him in the form of Schuchart, who was the fast qualifier, won his heat and the dash.
Schuchart was as dominant as anyone in clean air, but traffic proved to be his Achilles heel on this night. He caught fortunate breaks with three stoppages. However, the final restart, and more importantly, final run through traffic played the most pivotal role.
Restarting with 16 to go, Schuchart drove away to a near two-second advantage over Haudenschild before traffic slowed him with 10 laps remaining. That’s when the fun began.
At one point, a heart-stopping four-car battle for the lead ensued with Schuchart and Haudenschild along with Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet.
One failed slide job attempt on a lapper set Haudenschild up for a successful run on lap 25 to clear for the lead. Schuchart came swinging back with his own slider, but Haudenschild pinned the throttle and threaded the needle around the outside to make it stick.
The duo continued to wage war in the waning laps with Haudenschild only covering Schuchart by 0.054 seconds with three to go. It was still anyone’s race until the checkered flag waved with a mere 0.286-second victory.
“We got to the lappers like twice and the caution would come out every time,” Haudenschild said. “I was just chilling, keeping calm in second, trying not to get passed and see where my car was at. He was really good in open track, I didn’t have much for him. We hit traffic though and the rubber kind of came in while we were in the middle of that. It got really tricky. He tried those sliders on a few lappers and I was getting runs off that. If I wouldn’t have got under him off turn four, I don’t think he would’ve messed up again.”
After leading the opening 24 laps, Schuchart settled for runner-up honors while regaining the point lead.
“Freakin’ guy beat me in golf this week, and now on the race track,” Schuchart joked. “It’s just hard to tell when you’re out front leading in traffic by yourself. It’s hard to gauge how hard you need to push, especially when the track is like this, really wide and not a ton of grip. I pushed the limit too hard with Parker (Price-Miller) and let Sheldon get by me. I had that chance to get him back in turns three and four, but underestimated his entry and couldn’t make it work. Hopefully we can come back here and park it in victory lane.”
Rounding out the podium was Brad Sweet with a 12th-to-third bid in the Kasey Kahne Racing.
“The goal is to be up here standing on the frontstretch every night, and we’re doing that,” Sweet said. “The real adversity and grind of an 80+ race Outlaw tour is sometimes you’re starting up front, but other times like tonight you’re digging yourself out of a hole. I felt like we could’ve contended for the win there, but by the time we got up here the track got top dominant I think and I used up my tires to get this far. It was fun watching Sheldon and Logan be aggressive there, and Donny and I had another fun battle too.”
Schatz and Kasey Kahne, who started 23rd, rounded out the top five.
To seee full results, turn to the next page.