ROSSBURG, Ohio – For so many years, frequent attenders of sprint car races at Eldora Speedway grew attached to Jac Haudenschild’s thrilling ways.
So, as the arena-like setting hidden in the farmland of Rossburg, Ohio, filled to the brim Saturday night for the 37th Kings Royal, a jamboree at the core since the COVID-19 pandemic put the event on hold for a year, another Haudenschild added life to the party.
Sheldon Haudenschild finished .415 seconds short of Kyle Larson in the race for the prestigious throne and mega $175,000 winner’s prize.
In May, the son of one of the winningest drivers in Eldora history won his first World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series race at the track. On Saturday, he nearly took the feat to the ultimate level, riding just a few car lengths shy of sticking a last-corner slide job.
“We were sending it there,” Haudenschild said. “There’s nothing to hang our heads about.”
The finish was top-notch theater: two of the most daring wall-riders sprint car racing has ever seen and a nice but technical cushion to display it.
Sheldon Haudenschild kept his No. 17 NOS Energy machine wound up on his trademark line, and nearly ran down the winningest driver in the country from a year ago. With eight laps to go, he blasted past Carson Macedo to begin the rally.
A two-second gap shrunk to eight car lengths with five laps remaining, with Sheldon Haudenschild hanging it all out to earn his place in sprint car history.
“That’s Eldora right there,” Sheldon Haudenschild said. “It doesn’t get any better than that track. It was very tough, especially once the left rear line gets cleaned off a bit, then your car starts getting a little tighter and you have to drive it differently. You’re on the edge for 40 laps. There’s nothing more fun than that.”
Looking at the big screen on the turn two hill, Larson knew he needed to get a little more out of his Paul Silva-prepared machine because Sheldon Haudenschild had grown noticeably larger in the view.
If there was a lap that stunted Sheldon Haudenschild’s charge, it was lap 36, when Larson created just enough distance in turns one and two. Instead of an eight-car lead shaving to six or five, close enough for a slide job to be executed in the deciding laps, Sheldon Haudenschild was 10 cars behind the eventual winner.
Sheldon Haudenschild gained a little more over the final three laps and tried a Hail Mary dive bomb on the last corner, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
In the end, it was the younger Haudenschild’s finest performance in a sprint car Crown Jewel. With four wins this year, it is good enough to put him fourth in the series standings as the month of money continues. He smiled through the runner-up finish without much wishful thinking.
“Congratulations to Kyle,” Sheldon Haudenchild said. “We’ll get one of these one day. We’ll keep putting the work in.”