Haudenschild for dad’s annual big date hunt
Sheldon Haudenschild (photo by Paul Arch)
If Sheldon Haudenschild wins the Grand Annual Sprint Car Classic at Premier Speedway this weekend, he’ll complete an impressive father-son pair.
In 1981, Jack Haudenschild, a then 22-year-old native of Worcester, Ohio, visited Warrnambool for the Classic. By the end of the weekend, Haudenschild had won the final, sweeping through most of the field, including compatriot Rich Vogler, to defeat Australian superstars Bill Barrows and Noel Bradford.
Jack Haudenschild came back a year later to take back-to-back wins, passing the nation’s greatest driver Gary Rush on sight of the checkered flag when his Australian Chevy engine stalled.
Haudenschild was not the first American to win the race. That honor goes to Jimmy Seals, who claimed victory in 1978. Seals toured Australia with Larry Burton and Mike Andretta in the summer of 1974-75. It was the first of 14 flights.
In 1977, Seals finished third in the Classic behind two of the best Australian drivers of the era, Gary Rush and Steve Brazier.
The following year, Seals finished 13th on the grid, ahead of He Won’t Relinquish in the final 14 loops, winning from Les Harrows and Noel Bradford.
A year after Jack Haudenschild’s second win in 1982, Danny Smith claimed the first of his six wins at the Classic, just one short of the record seven wins held by Rush, the 10-time Australian champion.
The classic became the national open sprint car when Sprint Car Council officials restricted the Australian championship to domestic drivers in the late 1970s. Being Australian champions was one thing: winning the Classic against all-comers was another.
“I don’t think I’ve made any secret of the fact that I consider this annual race to be the most important on the motor racing calendar,” said Gary Rush in 1984.
In subsequent years, seven more Americans won Australia’s biggest sprint – Jack Hewitt, Danny Lasocki, Donny Schatz (twice), Joy Saldana, Shane Stewart, Tim Kidding and Kyle Hurst.
In all, American drivers won 17 of the 49 editions. Other Americans took part in the race – Mike Ward, Greg Hudnett, Chad Kimina, Jason Johnson, Craig Dolansky, Terry McCarl and Carson Macedo.
This year, Sheldon Houdenshield is one of 10 Americans entered in the $50,000 race to win out of 119 entries.
He will be joined by Brad Sweet, Carson Macedo, Brooke Zervos, Justin Sanders, Chase Randall, Cole Macedo, Corey Ellison, Aaron Rutzel and Tyler Courtney.
Haudenschild, Sweet and Reutzel were questionable starters after visa issues delayed their travels, but these were resolved when appropriate applications were processed.
Ellison and Courtney have been the most successful in US unit races on the West Coast, while Carson Macedo, who was runner-up in 2018, has the most wins in usually stronger East Coast competitions.
Haudenschild and Sweet arrived in Australia a week early. Haudenschild impressed in his only race so far, but was up against a lower class overall in the 360 advantage.
Among the Australians, Jock Goodyear, Lachlan McHugh, Luke Oldfield, Jimmy Vail and Marcus Dumesny were all in fine form with others like James McFadden showing speed in the competition.
With Premier Speedway selling for $225,000 for three days, the 50th Classic is the most anticipated race in decades.
Half of the field will attempt to qualify on Friday January 27th, and the other half on Saturday January 28th, with the final night on January 29th.