Just a few days after stepping off the plane in Australia, World of Outlaws driver Sheldon Haudenschild claimed victory.
It wasn’t at Premier Speedway, Eastern Creek, the Perth Motorplex or any of the first-tier speedways, but at a rural, club-run track in the middle of a dairy-farming community in southwestern Victoria.
Located 35 miles east of the famous Premier Speedway, the small town of Simpson has a population of about 600 people.
In the late 1960s, the local farmers and business owners decided to form a Speedway club. Five years later they conducted their first meeting on the unique teardrop track they constructed, colloquially known as “the avocado.”
In 1987, they installed lighting for night racing, generally featuring the popular, inexpensive sedans that are raced throughout Australia.
The club also fostered young talent with the Formula 500 class, as well as the less expensive 360 sprint cars, running a major national feature for the class each season for more than a decade.
Over the years, many race meetings have been attended by a few hundred people, often the family and friends of the competitors in the grassroots competition.
Last Saturday night was a fairy-tale evening at the Heytesbury Stockfeeds Simpson Speedway when Australian star James McFadden and touring American Sheldon Haudenschild strapped themselves into 360 machines to contest the biggest race of the year, the 13th running of the Mainline DynoLog Dynamometers All Star Challenge.
“To have Sheldon come to Simpson and run our show is just unbelievable,” said Mandy Searle, the Australian 360 series promoter. “I never thought I would get to write Haudenschild in my nomination list.”
Haudenschild was also joined by young Texan Chase Randall who has impressed Australian audiences with his maturity behind the wheel.
McFadden was an expected entry, having won the 360 feature at Simpson in 2021. However, Haudenschild, who had only arrived in Australia a few days before, was a surprise visitor.
Having decided not to dash to Queensland to race after a delayed arrival in Australia, a wise decision given the inclement weather in the north, Haudenschild’s Australian Lee Contracting Racing team quickly sourced a 360 engine so the American could race the meeting at Simpson.
When word of the appearances spread, a record crowd of more than 2,100 people packed the venue to watch Haudenschild cruise to the winner’s share of $15,000 for the $40,000 race.
With the second fastest time trial of 12.663 seconds, just 0.057 seconds behind Paul Solomon (DirtXind/Melbourne Malibu) the visitor then finished second in a heat.
His win from position nine in the other heat gave the American a front row spot for the 35-lap final, alongside Rusty Hickman (Camden Signage and Building) who had claimed two heats.
The Bendigo, Victoria driver led for the first 10 circuits of the tight track until fuel problems ended his race.
Haudenschild assumed the lead and remained at the head of affairs, lapping through the field.
Randall worked from seventh on the grid to second, ahead of Grant Anderson (Anderson Motorsport).
James McFadden worked his way to fifth but his run ended when Todd Moule (Moule Motorsports) spun on turn three, leaving McFadden with a blown tire as he crashed into the wall.
Despite other incidents, Haudenschild maintained his lead to the checker.
“We knew it was going to be a long race and just had to survive,” said the victor.
The American hopes he can repeat the feat next Sunday night in the final of the 50th Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic.