Wooster native Sheldon Haudenschild hopes for more home state success this weekend at Atomic
Sheldon Haudenschild. (World of Outlaws photo)
CHILLICOTHE — A group of race fans gather around the back of the Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing hauler on a Friday afternoon at Attica Raceway Park.
They’re waiting to get a word or take a photo with their home state hero — Sheldon Haudenschild. He’s the kid who thrilled them early in his career on the Ohio ovals on his way to Sprint Car stardom. He’s the son of the legendary Jac Haudenschild, who also left an impression on these same fans with his courage behind the wheel. He’s the man who receives warm applause every time his name is announced in “The Buckeye State.”
Haudenschild cut his teeth in Ohio, racing near his hometown of Wooster. He followed in his father’s footsteps — perfecting the “Haud line” and racking up checkered flags at tracks like Attica, Wayne County Speedway, Waynesfield Raceway Park and more. And it’s because of those reasons Haudenschild is so admired in the community.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are halfway through a four-race stretch in Haudenschild’s homeland. The final two nights are set for this weekend (May 26-27) at Chillicothe’s Atomic Speedway, a little over an hour south of Ohio’s capital of Columbus.
As the 29-year-old navigates his seventh season with The Greatest Show on Dirt, trips home become more and more welcome.
“It’s always good to be home a little bit and kind of get your mind off things for a minute,” Haudenschild said. “And then show up to tracks that we’ve raced in the past and kind of grew up racing — especially Attica and Chillicothe, kind of where me and (crew chief Kyle) Ripper got our start, just places where you adapt to quick once you get back there and kind of feel like you never left.”
Haudenschild’s 2023 campaign to this point has been one of peaks and valleys. After beginning the season with four top 10s in the first five races, he missed the top 10 in three of the next five. The highlight of his year is a victory at U.S. 36 Raceway in early April. He’s reached the podium on three other occasions, including a runner-up at Tri-State Speedway on a night when he led 16 laps of the Feature. After 21 races, he sits sixth in points.
The performance aboard the NOS Energy Drink #17 has left Haudenschild with mixed feelings. The comfort in the car is there, but he wishes that comfort led to slightly better results.
“I feel like it’s just kind of OK,” Haudenschild said to describe his season. “I feel good in the car, and I’m happy car-wise, just kind of not on paper where we want to be. Obviously, we’d like a couple more wins and feel like we’ve had some good runs going that maybe didn’t go our way, but that’s all part of it. You’ve got to enjoy the lows and the highs.”
Fortunately for him, the most recent weekend of racing yielded his most consistent pair of races so far. In front of hometown fans, Haudenschild finished fourth on Friday at Attica and came home third on Saturday at Sharon after charging from 11th.
History suggests Haudenschild should continue building momentum this weekend at Atomic. He’s the most recent World of Outlaws winner at the 3/8ths mile, and during his most recent All-Star Circuit of Champions visit to the Chillicothe facility in 2016, he won. In five of his past six Sprint Car starts at Atomic, Haudenschild has finished on the podium.
Haudenschild’s success on home turf isn’t merely due to the number of laps. It’s as if the Ohio racetracks are built for his style. High-banked. Slick. A big cushion to rip. Those characteristics create a track right in Haudenschild’s wheelhouse.
“I think they (the tracks) definitely get a lot slicker than some of the places we go,” Haudenschild explained. “I think it’s having laps and being comfortable and knowing how the track plays out through the night from being here in the past is helpful. It’s a comfort level.”
The Ohioan will carry that comfort level into this weekend’s two-night tilt at Atomic looking to add to his history of home state success. But no matter the results, the fans will support him all the same. They’ll take photos. They’ll get autographs. They’ll watch proudly as one of their own continues to cement himself as one of the most talented and exciting drivers to ever wheel a Sprint Car.
“It’s just stress free being home,” Haudenschild said. “And I’m just enjoying it.”
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