HARTFORD, MI – Sheldon Haudenschild raced three times in the state of Michigan last year and was victorious in two of those starts. One of those wins came at Hartford Speedway. This year, he’ll make just a single appearance in the “Great Lakes State” and looks to continue his success there.
Haudenschild and his fellow World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series competitors visit Hartford Speedway this week for the “Battle of Michigan” on Friday, July 28. The event will mark the series only race of the season to the state of Michigan and the first at the track since it was re-configured from a sprawling half-mile to a three-eighths-mile in the off-season.
“We’ve been there twice and we’ve been good there twice,” said Haudenschild. “I’m excited to get back there with the Outlaws. When you go back to a place like that, where you’ve had success, it definitely boosts your confidence. We’ve been running good this season at new tracks, so to go back to a place we’ve been to before is hopefully a little advantage.”
When he won last year at Hartford with the Arctic Cat All Star Circuit of Champions, Haudenschild picked up that victory over Dale Blaney and Chad Kemenah, who both are multi-time champions with the series. The second-generation driver opened the night as the fourth-fastest qualifier, with a stout 33-car field in attendance. He finished second in the second heat race, which put him in the dash. Haudenschild won the dash to earn the pole position for the 25-lap main event. That race was contested on the former half-mile.
“I try to approach each race and track the same and take it race by race,” he noted, when asked about the new configuration at Hartford. “When we get there, we’ll see how we are feeling and what’s happening. We’ll see what they’ve done to the track and try to compare it to what it was like last year as well as other places we’ve already been to this year.”
Haudenschild, who is the leading contender for the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series, is having a very strong first year on the road with the series. The native of Wooster, Ohio is currently seventh in the series standings on the strength of 22 top-10 finishes, of which seven are top-five performances.
“Our season has been going pretty well,” said Haudenschild. “We are a top-seven to top-five car just about every night. I don’t think a top-five in points is out of reach, if we can get going this second half of the year. I’m definitely excited to see how the next 40-some races go.”
While he faces some of the stiffest competition in all of motorsports night in and night on the track, it’s the off-track logistics that have presented the biggest obstacle this season to the rookie driver, who also runs his racing operation. Haudenschild looks to continue building his team as they move forward and get more of the precious experience that can only be gained by being on the road and grinding it out.
“Keeping up with these guys equipment-wise and motor-wise is probably the biggest challenge we face, especially being a car owner,” he explained. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job keeping up with it. The longer we go, the more experience we’ll get and the better we’ll be.”
Haudenschild is teamed with longtime crew chief Dean “Bonzai” Bruns, helping make the learning curve a little less steep. Bruns worked with Sheldon’s father, Jac Haudenschild for many years and certainly knows the ins and outs of life on the Outlaws trail. The younger Haudenschild has known Bruns for most of his life, which leads to a great camaraderie among the team.
“It’s been huge having Bonzai out here,” shared Haudenschild. “I don’t think we could have done it without him. To have his experience is huge for us, being a rookie Outlaws team. I’m glad he is with us and we have a couple of other good guys with us as well. That part of it makes it easier on me.”
The 23-year-old has been close to winning his first World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series race on a couple of occasions this season. He dominated the first 35 laps of the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway two weeks ago, before getting over the cushion and into the wall, coming off turn four, while leading. Haudenschild also led a number of laps at Tri-State Speedway in Indiana back in August, before getting tangled up with a lapped car, while out front. Haudenschild has a pair of third-place showings earlier this season at Lone Star Speedway in Texas and Perris Auto Speedway in California, which to date are his best-career runs with the series, as he closes in on his first win.
“Getting through a whole night is very important and putting yourself in a position in the feature,” he said. “Starting up front is really important right now. We’ve been in a few strong positions this season and just need to finish nights off. When you look at guys like Donny (Schatz) they are there the last 10 laps and that’s what it takes. That’s what we have to do.”
Tickets for the “Battle of Michigan,” featuring the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series at Hartford Speedway in Hartford, Michigan on Friday, July 28 and can be purchased online at slspromotions.ticketforce.com or by calling SLS Promotions at 815-344-2023 and at the track on race day.
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