THE DIRT NETWORK: Haud Weighing Options
He’s still around. And still ready to win..
The author of one of the most legendary careers in Sprint Car racing which spans 42 years and includes over 300 feature victories, still figures he’s got a lot yet to do before all is said and done and judging by recent seasons, he’s completely right.
To do so though will take support, and that’s something that hasn’t come easy for him in recent years, as well as for many other drivers who make a living racing 60 nights a year or more. And even though support hasn’t been consistent, when it’s been provided, Haudenschild has risen to the occasion, collecting wins and podium finishes for a variety of owners. He can win in different cars, with different crew chiefs and in his own car as well. When he’s in another car, he straps in ready to win, needing very little in the way of adjustment time. But consistent support or ownership situation could take him to an even higher level.
Wooster, OH native Jac Haudenschild will be out and about in 2017, though where and when and driving for whom are still up in the air at this point. He’s done just about everything in his career shy of winning a Knoxville Nationals title or a World of Outlaw championship, and all over the world too. His trophy room contains hardware from the multiple King’s Royal and Gold Cup wins, to wingless wins like the Mopar Million at Eldora and even a few Grand Australian Sprint Car trophies to boot. And age 58, still relishes the opportunity to drive at a high level once again.
“Drivers nowadays can race until they’re 65 with no problem, Haudenschild said in a recent interview with us at TDN. “I’m not 60 years old yet and I know I can still run with anybody and still win races.”
“For years I’ve been in and out of different cars and if you’re familiar with them, the car is handling or not handling. You just have to figure out what kind of car you’ve got and talk it over with your mechanic good. It all comes down to communicating with your mechanic mostly and we just try to figure stuff out. I wouldn’t mind running my own team next year if I could find some help. The ideal thing for me now is run my own car and get a good sponsor behind us and run our own deal. I’d like to run the Outlaws a couple more years if I could, maybe finish out my career with them. You have to have some pretty good backing to do that though. The All Stars would be good too, it’s still mostly in Ohio and it’s well run. Picking and choosing, I wouldn’t mind doing that either and do all the big races.”
In 2016, Haudenschild found victory lane seven times as he saw action with the Leidig Racing #59, the Miller Racing #6 and also the Paul Silver/Abreu Vinyards #57 where he saw some action on the west coast that included podium finishes with the World of Outlaws and some wingless action as well. It’s a journeyman’s schedule, but Haudenschild drives at a higher level as his wins came running with the All Stars and OSCS (Ohio Sprint Car Series)
“I started running at those Ohio tracks when I started racing back in 1974. I raced all those tracks for so many years that I just got comfortable on them. When I first started, we’d race without the wing one night, and with it the next. I think I’ve raced about all of those Ohio tracks both ways over the years. I’ve always felt comfortable there, there’s a lot of great tracks there.”
It was in his native Ohio that Haudenschild earned the nickname “The Wild Child”, a name that has stuck with him for years, adding to the legacy that has seen him has his own line around the famed Eldora Speedway surface. “The Haudenschild Line”. It refers to the groove that appears mere inches from the wall, the most dangerous way around the speedway. and also the fastest. Haudenschild discovered the need to go up top more often than not, as a necessity to make forward progress in the early stages of his career.
“I just always felt comfortable running up there and I started out like that. When I first started, a lot of guys just ran the bottom and that was it. So I had to try somewhere else to get to the front which is what I did. I always felt comfortable up there for some reason.”
Racing close to home has granted him the opportunity to watch his son Sheldon develop into an extremely competitive driver at an early age. Haudenschild has been helpful, but insists that the student hasn’t required much in the way of instruction to this point.
“He started racing when he was three or four years old. I’ve watched him race all my life, he’s always been pretty smooth. And at 16 he was in the Sprint Car and was smooth right off the bat, and ran hard too. I just tell him bits and pieces of what I could, what I knew, and helped him out as much as I could but he just figured out stuff on his own so quick.”
Haudenschild admits it’s a good bit tougher to find support these days. A tighter economy, less interest in racing from the business world, and a large influx of youth into the sport has made competition for support dollars or rides capable of handling large amounts of touring very tight.
“It’s harder now. It was a little easier to find rides back then. But still, even when I was racing and I started out it was hard to find a World of Outlaw ride or commit to 100 races which was what we always ran back then. It was hard to find somebody back then to help with all 100, so you had to drive for a couple different guys. It’s a lot harder today. You’ve got a lot of young kids out there that started out in quarter midgets and they’re coming up through. These kids definitely get good quicker than we used to. I raced three years and probably didn’t race 60 races either one of them. And they do that right off the bat anymore. They definitely get good much faster than we did coming up through the ranks.”
The Wild Child approaches 2017 as a true wild card. One that would make a young team credible and competitive instantly, or one that could make the right sponsors or partner stand out on a winning car. And he brings 42 years of winning under his belt. It’s been a while since we’ve seen Haudenschild with equal cars and equipment consistently on the stage with national tour drivers week in and week out. The Sprint Car world should get to experience this again, the younger fans that never got to see him could use more opportunities to do so. And the longtime fans would like to see more of him altogether. Haudenschild has been one of the more popular drivers over the years, and seemingly finds his way into conversation at dirt tracks all over the country when the all time greats are discussed. “Remember that one time that Haud_______” has become a part of many different conversations over the years. However, he’s still here, still ready to win, and hasn’t lost the competitive fire or the passion for the sport and has a lot left to give.
“I’ve always felt if I was in equal equipment that I could win on any night. I bring a lot of experience and I still feel like I can get those wins on any night.”
Potential sponsors or any interested parties can contact Haudenschild Racing for more information on how to become involved in the 2017 season.