ALGER, Wash. — A turbulent week for the No. 9 Kasey Kahne Racing team ended with driver James McFadden in victory lane on the opening night of the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals at Skagit Speedway.
It was McFadden’s second World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series triumph this season.
The week started with a brutal crash last Sunday, followed by an 18-hour drive and included a rebuild and a last-minute engine change. Through it all, crew members Justin Adams, Gary [Woodman] Patellaro and Rob Beattie endured and put a winning car on the track.
“It’s rewarding to rebound like this, especially after the big drama at the last race,” McFadden mentioned. “These guys worked their butts off this week. The long drive here, then the day we had yesterday, then the motor change, just so much has happened. How fast they changed that motor tonight might’ve won us this race.”
Indeed, the timing of the engine change ended up playing a huge role in McFadden’s win. They began the process following the second of three hot-lap sessions and barely beat the clock to make it to staging for their 14th qualifying spot. McFadden ultimately timed in fourth-quick and joked, “I didn’t have any time to think about screwing it up.”
From there he transferred to the dash and finished second to earn his fourth front row start of the year.
Before James gave his baby boy Maverick McFadden his first wing dance, he had to survive a relentless attack from Sheldon Haudenschild. McFadden led all 30 laps, but it wasn’t without a ferocious challenge from Haudenschild.
The duo ran 1-2 for the entirety of the race, splitting their battles between lap traffic and clean air restarts. Haudenschild got close on lap 10 with the aid of backmarkers but struggled to find room to make his move on the No. 9. He had another shot on lap 22 with more traffic looming, but a caution set the stage for an eight-lap dash to the finish.
With both gassers committed to the tall cushion, Haudenschild stalked McFadden and patiently waited to strike at the right time. He saved his moment for the 30th and final lap, following McFadden to the curb in turn one and setting himself up for a last-corner slide job at the win. However, the No. 17 slipped over the cushion in turn two and caught the wall, killing Haudenschild’s momentum and taking away his chance at a sneak attack.
Ultimately, Haudenschild fell short of McFadden by 0.514 seconds at the checkered flag.
“I could hear him,” McFadden said n. “Obviously, Sheldon is gonna pound it, so I knew getting the start was crucial. I thought if I could short slide myself and hit the cushion coming off that I would be okay. I’ve never raced here, but it seems pretty narrow and I tried to play that to my advantage as the leader. I wanted to run a little harder, but felt I should protect at the end.”
Haudenschild extended his wildly impressive four-race top-two streak by claiming runner-up honors. The NOS Energy Drink No. 17 has been firing on all cylinders recently with crew members Kyle Ripper, Drew Brenner and Stephen Hamm-Reilly clicking down the homestretch.
“James did an awesome job, a near-perfect race for him,” Haudenschild said. “I wanted to get more traffic, but the cautions just fell at the wrong times. I planned on stalking him and waiting for the right shot. I saw the white flag and knew I needed to rip it, but I ruined my run at the slide job when I slipped high and caught the wall. We’ve got an incredibly great car right now, though. We’ll try to build on that the rest of the week.”
David Gravel finished third, with Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet rounding out the top five.
To see full results, turn to the next page.