KNOXVILLE, Iowa — Sheldon Haudenschild was an unfortunate victim of the night’s wildest incident during Friday’s World of Outlaws Invitational at Knoxville Raceway.
Haudenschild was coming down the backstretch at full speed on lap 12, when Kerry Madsen slowed with a shredded left-rear tire in the path of the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing No. 17.
With nowhere to go to avoid contact, Haudenschild ran up and over the right-rear tire of Madsen’s No. 2m, launching his car into the air and into a series of barrel rolls at the top of the third turn of the half-mile dirt track.
While the car was heavily damaged, Haudenschild walked away without injury, carrying a hint of a smile despite his obvious disappointment with the turn of events.
“I felt good about the car,” Haudenschild said. “We started off the night a little bit slow, but got a little bit of track time and from there, really got to feeling a lot better about where we were at. I was just in a bad spot there. Kerry blew a tire and I had so much momentum going into turn three that there was really nowhere I could have gone except right into the wall.
“I tried to get as close to his tire to try and thread the needle there and it just didn’t work out.”
Haudenschild, who spent his pandemic downtime “a little bit busy building a (race) shop,” sits sixth in World of Outlaws points leaving Knoxville. He’s 74 markers behind new series leader Logan Schuchart.
— Defending World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion Brad Sweet had a long way to come Friday night, after struggles in qualifying and his heat race led to a 19th-place starting spot, but Sweet proved why he’s the reigning title-holder with a stirring drive.
Sweet picked up KSE Hard Charger honors by advancing 10 positions in the main event, finishing ninth.
His charge through the field wasn’t enough to retain the point lead, but Sweet ranks second in the standings and is 10 tallies behind Schuchart after four races.
— Kyle Larson’s return to racing, following his dismissal from the Chip Ganassi Racing NASCAR Cup Series team because of his use of a racial slur during a livestreamed iRacing event, had plenty of fanfare leading up to Friday night’s event at Knoxville.
However, it was a quiet outing for the familiar No. 57.
Larson wheeled Paul Silva’s sprinter to a nondescript 10th-place finish in the 30-lap feature. It was his best result in three feature starts with the World of Outlaws this season.
The Elk Grove, Calif., native carried sponsorship from Tarlton & Son, Finley Farms, Durst Inc., Lucas Oil and Glenn Styres Racing over the weekend, after several of his other primary backers — including McDonald’s and Chevrolet — dropped their support of Larson and his eponymous sprint car operation.
— Another former NASCAR star, Washington’s Kasey Kahne, made his first World of Outlaws start since March 2019 at Knoxville Raceway.
Kahne sat out most of last season recovering from an April crash at Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway, battled among a deep field of contenders and finished 11th in the Last Chance Showdown.
He was filling in for regular Kasey Kahne Racing driver James McFadden behind the wheel of the No. 9 Karavan Trailer-backed entry. McFadden remains in his native Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
— The top four in the World of Outlaws standings through four races — Schuchart, Sweet, Daryn Pittman and Donny Schatz — are separated by a scant 18 points.
All four have finished in the top 10 in every race this season. Schuchart has been inside the top five in all four features contested since the DIRTcar Nationals back in February.
— Digging a little deeper, a pleasant surprise in the current WoO points is Grain Valley, Mo., native and three-time Knoxville Raceway track champion Brian Brown, currently ranked seventh.
Brown, who had a strong DIRTcar Nationals outing in February with a top-five effort during the Saturday portion of the tripleheader, finished eighth at The Sprint Car Capital of the World over the weekend.
The result, his second World of Outlaws top 10 in four races, places Brown 82 markers behind the series lead. Brown is expected to chase his fourth Knoxville 410 sprint car championship later this year.
— The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season continues May 22-23 at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Mo., racing in front of a limited crowd of spectators.
Haudenschild won the most-recent Outlaw feature at the track, dominating last year’s Ironman 55 and taking the checkered flag a whopping 10.3 seconds ahead of runner-up Donny Schatz.