The Shark Racing pilot takes the lead with three to go and holds on for second River Cities triumph
GRAND FORKS, ND (August 25, 2023) – River Cities Speedway is known for delivering thrilling finishes. And the Grand Forks, ND bullring produced yet another one on Friday night.
Sheldon Haudenschild controlled the majority of the 40-lap World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Feature. But a shark fin rose from the water in the final laps as Logan Schuchart closed in. The driver of the Shark Racing #1S snatched the lead coming to two laps to go and drove away from Haudenschild to steal a victory in the Gerdau Presents The 2nd Leg of The Northern Tour.
For Schuchart, who lost in a close finish at River Cities in 2020, the triumph served as a form of redemption.
“Happy we were able to win like that,” Schuchart said. “I watch highlight videos over the winter time. The Outlaws love to show a race here a few years ago where Kyle (Larson) passed us on the last lap, so it feels good to get one kind of like that. Hopefully they add that to their highlight reel.”
Schuchart moved up to four wins this season with The Greatest Show on Dirt. It also put him at 39 for his career as he’s only one away from becoming the 19th driver in Series history to reach 40. Schuchart became the seventh different competitor to own multiple World of Outlaws wins at River Cities as he also topped a 2019 visit.
When the green flag dropped it was Donny Schatz and Sheldon Haudenschild leading the field. An opening lap red flag necessitated a second attempt, and Haudenschild rocketed around the outside to the lead when the race got underway, and Schuchart settled into third behind the lead duo.
During the opening portion of the race the leaders stayed mostly in line as they clicked off the early laps. A restart following a red flag with 26 laps to go gave Schuchart an opportunity at taking a step toward the front, which he took advantage of. As the green lights came back on, Schuchart accelerated perfectly out of Turn 4 and used the momentum to slide Schatz for second. Schatz wasn’t able to counter with a crossover allowing Schuchart to secure the spot.
After taking over runner-up, Schuchart began to stalk the Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing #17. As they crossed the halfway mark, Schuchart wasn’t necessarily gaining on Haudenschild, but he also wasn’t letting him escape. Lapped traffic proved to be more problematic for Schuchart as he preferred the bottom groove where the slower cars were while Haudenschild ripped the top around them.
“I felt like I could run the bottom pretty good,” Schuchart explained. “I was hoping some lapped cars would kind of slow him down, but lots of times when lapped cars aren’t feeling comfortable they go to the bottom side of the racetrack. So, a lot of lapped cars weren’t really getting in his way. They were just kind of letting him run his line.”
As the race dipped inside 10 laps to go, Schuchart suddenly found the speed he needed. The Hanover, PA native stayed committed to the low line and began to close in on the tail tank of the NOS Energy Drink #17. On Lap 36, Schuchart used a big run off of Turn 2 to show Haudenschild a nose and put him in a defensive mode. Haudenschild responded to switching to the bottom, and that was all Schuchart needed.
Schuchart promptly moved to the top and got a big run coming to the finish line with two laps remaining. The Drydene/Duramax machine squeaked around Haudenschild’s outside to lead the 38th circuit. And with the lead secured, Schuchart never looked back on his way to parking in River Cities Speedway Victory Lane for the second time.
“I just tried to run hard laps. I could get close to him, but I could never really make anything happen,” Schuchart said. “When he kind of went to the bottom there the last few laps I just really got a run on him.”
Haudenschild still held on for a strong second place finish – his eighth World of Outlaws podium of the season. The result marked the fifth time in which he’s led laps at River Cities but come up short of the checkered flag. Haudenschild admitted seeing Schuchart’s nose made him adjust and potentially cost him the race. But overall, he left feeling satisfied having contended so strongly for the victory.
“That was probably a little better situation to be running second there at the end,” Haudenschild noted. “He was able to show his nose in the bottom of (Turns) 1 and 2 and kind of got me thinking, and I probably should’ve just kept running up where I’d been all night and kept my momentum up. It just feels good to be racing for a win. It’s been a little bit of a struggle bus here.”
Behind Haudenschild was Donny Schatz to complete the top three. The finish added to Schatz’s remarkable résumé at River Cities as he notched his 22nd podium in 31 races with the World of Outlaws at the North Dakota oval. The pilot of the Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15 felt that they were missing a little something with the car to be able to move around like Schuchart and contend for the win.
“It (the bottom) was there the whole race. I just couldn’t get down there,” Schatz said. “I just can’t stay there in my tracks, so we’ve got a little work to do with that. We were okay, just kind of married to that top. It kind of gave away the start there, and Sheldon got the run kind of like what we did in the Heat and the same thing in the Dash. I think being on the inside kind of cost us a little bit. We still had 40 laps to get it done but didn’t.”
Brad Sweet and Carson Macedo completed the top five. Finishing a spot ahead of Macedo extended Sweet’s points lead by two markers up from 50 to 52.
It was also Sweet claiming the Simpson Performance Products QuickTime Award for the second time this year and 71st time of his career.
After flipping, a trip to the Federated Car Care Work Zone, and returning with no nose wing, Brock Zearfoss still managed to earn the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a 22nd to 10th run.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Brad Sweet (231st Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Donny Schatz (519th of career), James McFadden (45th of career), and Sheldon Haudenschild (95th of career).
Donny Schatz claimed the Toyota Racing Dash.
Tim Estenson won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown. The Smith Titanium Brake Systems Break of the Race went to Jack Croaker after an opening lap crash ended his hopes of a strong outing.