By Alex Nieten
OSBORN, MO (April 7, 2023) – On Friday night at U.S. 36 Raceway, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars delivered a gem that fans will be talking about for years to come.
A race-long war for the top spot produced slider after slider and crossover after crossover along with one unforgettable three wide pass around the outside. Once the dust settled at the Osborn, MO oval, it was Sheldon Haudenschild who arose victorious after a 30-lap donnybrook against fellow stars – Carson Macedo, David Gravel, and Brad Sweet.
The triumph marked his 32nd win with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars and second consecutive at U.S. 36 after topping the 2020 race.
In fitting fashion, Haudenschild also won on his father, Jac’s, birthday. The Stenhouse Jr./Marshall Racing gasser made his dad proud by winning in the wild, white-knuckle fashion “The Wild Child” became famous for.
Haudenschild is now only the second driver to top multiple World of Outlaws races at U.S. 36, joining Joey Saldana. It’s the seventh different track where he’s earned at least two Series victories.
For Haudenschild and the team, who had been combating some early season struggles, the triumph also served as a welcome confidence boost.
“Happy Birthday to my dad. He was probably pacing around the kitchen there for a while,” Haudenschild said with a laugh in Victory Lane. “Hats off to (Kyle) Ripper, Danny, Gravy. They’ve been working hard, and when you struggle to start the season, it’s tough. You’ve got to keep your spirits up and keep the whole team motivated. So, I’m just really happy with the whole night.”
The early part of the race was controlled by Carson Macedo as he darted to the lead from the second starting spot and Haudenschild slotted into second.
Macedo went mostly unchallenged for the first third of the race, but after the second of a pair of debris cautions, the intensity of the fight for the lead skyrocketed. David Gravel went from fourth to second on the restart and then briefly to the lead on the next circuit before Macedo slid back by.
Then the next lap brought a move from Haudenschild that the entire Sprint Car community will fondly remember for a while. As Macedo and Gravel went wheel to wheel through Turns 3 and 4, Haudenschild ripped his NOS Energy Drink #17 around the top, making it three wide and squeezing by for the lead as they hit the front straightaway.
“I actually hesitated, thought about not doing it, and then just kind of sent it,” Haudenschild explained. “I actually kind of shot down the front stretch there. I was pretty much doing a wallride and just happy Carson left us enough room to squeeze through there. I feel like that’s kind of how you have to race these places sometimes – just get your elbows up and let ‘er eat.”
As soon as Haudenschild took the lead, the Wooster, OH native wasted no time pulling ahead of Macedo and the rest of the field.
A yellow flag just before the halfway point rekindled the battle for the top spot. On the restart, Haudenschild and Macedo traded sliders before Macedo secured the position.
On the next restart following a red flag, eighth-starting Brad Sweet emerged as a contender for the win as he moved by Haudenschild for the runner-up spot. The Kasey Kahne Racing pilot stayed close behind Macedo before the caution again flew with only nine laps remaining. The yellow was for championship leader Gravel who crashed entering Turn 1 and collected Spencer Bayston.
The short dash to the checkered flag set the stage for a thrilling finish. When racing resumed, Sweet threw a slider but Macedo barely got around him on the top. On the next lap, Sweet’s slide job was successful, but Macedo turned his Jason Johnson Racing #41 under Sweet and edged ahead entering Turn 3.
Behind them, Haudenschild was licking his chops as the two ahead dueled, allowing him to close in on their tail tanks. On Lap 24, Haudenschild dipped under Sweet for second heading down the backstretch. Then on the next circuit heading into Turn 1, he threw a huge slider on Macedo, clearing him and not allowing Macedo to crossover.
After completing the pass for the lead, Haudenschild pulled away and went on to claim the checkered flag with nearly a second and a half advantage, kicking off a stretch of the calendar that they’ve had circled in the best way possible.
“Ripper and I have been looking at the schedule and kind of been pointing at this weekend and on,” Haudenschild said. “I feel like we really have some tracks that we’re good at and have some work to do in some other places. But, overall I’m just happy to get a win pretty early in the season and just build off this.”
Macedo held on for second in the Jason Johnson Racing #41 after leading 18 laps. The Lemoore, CA native’s second straight podium and the 71st of his career was good enough to move him from third to second in points.
“Tonight was probably really exciting to be a fan but stressful for me in the car,” Macedo said with a smile. “Brad kind of got me talked out of the top, which was a mistake, I think. And then when I moved down, Sheldon ripped around me. I feel like, all in all, it’s tough to be upset with second, but I feel like I had a car to win there and just kind of didn’t get it done.”
Completing the podium was the red-hot Brad Sweet in the Napa Auto Parts #49. “The Big Cat” is now at six podiums in the last eight races. The biggest benefit to his 263rd career podium was the fact that it elevated him into the points lead for the first time all season after Gravel’s issue as Sweet pursues a fifth consecutive championship.
“I wish when I slid Carson, I would’ve been more committed to it,” Sweet admitted. “I figured I had him cleared, but I never want to run into anybody. So, I left a lane open, and he came to my inside. I think if I would’ve got to the cushion, I could’ve made more speed down the backstretch and cleared him. And with clear track, you never know what I could’ve done in lapped traffic, but I left a lane open for Sheldon, and he just picked his way through like Sheldon does sometimes.”
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars travel to 81 Speedway in Wichita Kansas on Saturday, April 8 for the $20,000 to win Jason Johnson Classic. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all the action on DIRTVision.
Feature (30 Laps): 1. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 2. 41-Carson Macedo; 3. 49-Brad Sweet; 4. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 5. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 6. 24-Rico Abreu; 7. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 8. 13-Justin Peck; 9. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 10. 11-Michael Kofoid; 11. 15-Donny Schatz; 12. 83-James McFadden; 13. 1A-Jacob Allen; 14. 5T-Ryan Timms; 15. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr; 16. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 17. 7S-Robbie Price; 18. 21-Brian Brown; 19. 20G-Noah Gass; 20. 14T-Tim Estenson; 21. 2-David Gravel; 22. 5-Spencer Bayston; 23. 9-Kasey Kahne; 24. 24W-Garet Williamson; KSE Racing Hard Charger: Justin Peck (21st to 8th); Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award: Rico Abreu 10.652