PEVELY, Mo. — Sheldon Haudenschild earned his second World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series victory of the season in Friday night’s Night Before the Ironman at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.
The victory came in dominant fashion as he’s turned the third-mile track into his personal playground. The raceway was built 16 years before Haudenschild was born, but he drives the track like it was built with him in mind.
“I don’t know if there is a secret,” Haudenschild said. “It’s a combo of everything. Having the confidence in this race car and being really comfortable.”
However, he led 34 of the 35 laps. Throughout the majority of the race, reigning champion Brad Sweet was on his tail.
Sweet, who won the Night Before the Ironman last year, dove under Haudenschild in turns three and four on the first lap to claim the top spot and lead the first lap. Haudenschild had the better run off turn four, though, from running high, and crossed underneath Sweet down the front stretch to reclaim the lead by the time they reached turn one.
Multiple early cautions fizzled their battle but when the race saw consecutive green flag laps, the fans in the stands saw a war for the lead with Haudenschild blazing around the high side of the track and Sweet continuously throwing his car underneath Haudenschild every corner.
At times, they’d exit turn four side by side, inches apart, able to reach out and touch each other.
About halfway through the race Sweet was able to dive far enough underneath the NOS Energy Drink No. 17 car to slide in front of him and take the lead on the exit of the turn, but a caution came out before the lap was completed. The lead went back to Haudenschild and ultimately the race.
Despite his valiant efforts to try and claim another I-55 win, Sweet couldn’t keep pace with Haudenschild in the closing stage of the event. Haudenschild sliced through lap traffic with ease in the final 10 laps, while Sweet struggled to do the same.
That allowed Haudenschild to pull away and bring his Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing team to victory lane for the second time this year and for the second time at I-55.
“She was on the fence and fast,” Haudenschild said. “It wasn’t powder up there. It was tacky and grabby. I definitely got tight on the right rear a few times and pushed. I was waiting to see Brad’s nose after I did that. I feel like we recovered from our mistakes and learned on that (early) restart. So, I couldn’t ask for much more.”
Sweet’s runner-up finish is his second in a row at the track and third podium finish in a row, as well.
“Sheldon, he’s just a gasser,” said Sweet. “He was up on the fence and you had to be aggressive. He’s a Haudenschild for sure. I was watching him make moves. It was fun to watch… It’s good to be on the podium. That was a tough 35 laps. We’ve got to make our car a touch better. There’s things we can take away from tonight and go after that Ironman 55.”
Rico Abreu raced his way from seventh to third in the 35-lap event, passing Donny Schatz and Logan Schuchart in the closing stage of the race to steal a podium finish.
To see full results, turn to the next page.