Sheldon Haudenschild Trent Gower Photo
Sheldon Haudenschild. (Trent Gower photo)

Sheldon Haudenschild’s Dirt Bike Racing Roots

BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Not often do dirt bike roots lead to sprint car stardom, but Sheldon Haudenschild is accustomed to reaching uncommon feats.

Before he became one of the most thrilling gassers in a sprint car, Haudenschild embraced a different dirt discipline — dirt bike racing. He first hopped in a go kart to begin his racing experience, but the nearby dirt bikes caught his eye.

“I actually started racing go karts when I was real young, probably four or five years old,” Haudenschild recalled. “The go kart track was right beside the dirt bike track when I was a kid, and I kind of just found myself always going over to watch the dirt bikes. Pretty much from then on, I had a dirt bike. I started racing those when I was five.

“It’s pretty much all I did from five to 16 years old. We raced dirt bikes my whole childhood and pretty much every single weekend.”

Haudenschild has the opportunity to blend the past with the present this weekend.

Before the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars invade Volusia Speedway Park (Barberville, Fla.) on March 3-4, AMA Supercross makes a trip to Daytona Int’l Speedway on March 2.

The Wooster, Ohio, native enjoys the chance to revisit his roots by taking in the sport’s top level as a fan. Dirt bikes shaped him as a driver. They’re a big part of the reason why Haudenschild has gained his reputation as fearless behind the wheel of a sprint car.

“For me I think a dirt bike teaches you way more than what go kart racing, or even micro or midget racing would,” Haudenschild explained. “And a lot converts over. A dirt bike track is like no other. I don’t think people quite realize how rough they are, how many lines there are, and how long the tracks really are.

“I think, for me, it gives me a whole different mentality when racing a sprint car than what a lot of these other guys have. A dirt bike is just gnarly. Nothing really compares to it.”

Not only did dirt bikes build Haudenschild as a driver, but they also equipped him with a sense of financial responsibility. With his dad — Jac Haudenschild — still building his own historic sprint car career during Sheldon’s younger years, Jac couldn’t always be at the dirt bike track with him. So, Jac would supply him a budget.

These lessons proved to be vital later when Sheldon began his own sprint car operation.

“Racing dirt bikes probably taught me more of money management and things like that,” Haudenschild said. “My dad would send me racing on the weekends with buddies and hand me $500 bucks as a 14-year-old and make me manage that money and figure out how to make it last over the weekend.

“I think that’s a lot of what people don’t realize that kind of converted over to me being able to start a team when I was young and manage that at a young age and get into the sport a little different way.”

Skills provided through dirt bike racing, combined with lessons learned from his Hall of Fame father, paved the path for a smooth transition to sprint cars when the time came. Haudenschild might’ve focused on racing dirt bikes as a kid, but he still watched and learned plenty from Jac.

“Still to this day I’d say I’ve watched more sprint car races than I’ve raced,” Haudenschild said. “Kind of being able to grow up watching sprint cars and also grow up racing dirt bikes was kind of a perfect combination. I don’t think the transition was easy by any means. I just think a dirt bike toughens you up in different ways than growing up racing with a cage…

“Just growing up racing gnarly race tracks as a little kid and never complaining about it. It could be pouring down rain, mud races, it didn’t matter.”

Haudenschild’s sprint car career is a testament to his dirt bike talents translating when he made the switch.

He’s always been known for being unafraid to venture anywhere on the race track no matter how on edge or rough. It’s led to him supplying some of the sport’s most mind-blowing moments including a charge from 16th to the win last year at Skagit.

And most recently a thrilling victory at Volusia in early February to cap DIRTcar Nationals — making him the most recent winner heading into the World of Outlaws Bike Week Jamboree.

But before he gets back to competing with the nation’s best sprint car drivers, he’ll return to his two-wheel roots on Saturday at Daytona. 

“These last couple years when we’ve paired up with Bike Week is awesome,” Haudenschild said. “I’ve still got some buddies that will be racing at Daytona and working on bikes, mechanics and what not. So that’s pretty cool for me to get to go there, see a couple friends, and hang out a little bit. It’s kind of cool.

“Right now, I’m 30 years old, and there’s a couple dudes out there that I grew up racing with every weekend that are still racing and making them 450 main events every week. It’s cool to see them be able to do it for a living and then getting there this weekend and watching them.”