His father – the legendary “Wild Child,” Jac Haudenschild – amassed 72 World of Outlaws victories and ranks 11th all-time on the series win list.
Sheldon is two wins away from having half of his father’s Outlaws win total, and he’s still early in his career despite turning 30 years old last August. He’ll embark on his eighth straight season on tour when the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals kicks off Feb. 7-10 at Volusia Speedway Park.
Early in his career, Haudenschild might have listened to the comparisons more than he does now.
Now, Haudenschild feels that his tenure on tour has allowed him to become his own driver and reach a point where he’s begun to carve out his own legacy among the greats of the sport.
“I think [having] a name only gets you so far,” Haudenschild admitted to Motorsports Hotspot. “On a tour like this … but with anything, really, if you put the work in then the success will come. We’re putting the time in. Year number eight is a long time, whether it’s with the Outlaws or somewhere else. At times I still feel like I’m just getting going, because it takes a long time to learn how to win these races, let alone fight for championships.
“I’m 30 years old, and I tell everybody that once you hit 30, that’s when I feel like you really learn and get going. That’s what’s different about our sport than any other; a lot of sports, you see people retire at 30 and I truly believe that in this sport, when you turn 30 it’s the beginning of your prime,” he added. “I feel like that’s where I’m at now and that I’m making my own way.”
Though the elder Haudenschild never won a World of Outlaws championship, he did finish second in points to Dave Blaney in 1995 – a threshold that his son has yet to crack.
Sheldon’s best finish in points to date is fourth, a mark he achieved during the COVID-impacted 2020 season. He ranked seventh in the standings last year in what was a “somewhat disappointing” three-win campaign.
Now that Haudenschild has become one of the veterans on tour, he believes this season is his time to show out more than ever.
“I feel like we’re getting to that stage, now, where we can fight for championships,” he said. “It’s just about putting the whole year together. … It’s tough, when you run as many races as we do, but we also race so much that it’s pretty easy to forget about a bad night and move on to the next one. Even when you win, you don’t necessarily have a lot of time to enjoy them, but that’s alright because it keeps you level.
“For me, it’s about just staying focused on the task at hand. We have a chance to win a title this year, just like we go into every year knowing, and hopefully this year it can all come together for us.”
One thing that will work in Haudenschild’s favor as he pursues a maiden World of Outlaws championship is the continued chemistry with his longtime crew chief, Kyle Ripper.
Haudenschild and Ripper have worked together at Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing, the team co-owned by NASCAR star and reigning Daytona 500 champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr., since 2020. The pair’s working relationship, however, goes back to the early days of Haudenschild’s sprint car career.
That kind of consistent communication is often rare to find in motorsports, but it’s something that Haudenschild circles as “vital” during a season as grueling as the 86-race World of Outlaws calendar.
“Ripper is more like a brother to me than anything, really,” said Haudenschild. “We’ve been through it all together. We’ve done this [Outlaws] deal with no money and we’ve done this with the most money that we could probably spend, so we’ve experienced a lot and learned a lot along the way. It helps more than people realize, to have someone like I have with Ripper who knows what I need out of a race car.
“As long as Ripper and I are on the same page, I think we’ll be all good. We’ll have a couple of new guys [on the crew], but they’re really motivated to go out and win races,” he added. “They may not have very many Outlaw races under their belts, but we’re all excited to put the work in and see how we stack up.”
Though five-time defending World of Outlaws titlist Brad Sweet has moved on this season to pursue the new High Limit Racing national championship, the competition won’t be any less stiff than in years past.
Haudenschild knows that he’ll still have to contend with the likes of 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz; three-time title runner-up David Gravel, one of the winningest drivers on tour in the past three years; and Logan Schuchart, who won sprint-car racing’s biggest prize last year in the Eldora Million.
But it’s not about individual drivers, Haudenschild tipped. It’s about survival and performance on the biggest stages in grassroots motorsports.
“Learning how to race with these guys and how to be consistent has been key,” he explained. “By no means do I think I have it perfected or have any special secret figured out, but you just have to learn what your car is going to give you and understand that might have to be enough on any given night.
“When I was younger, I’d just send it and not worry about the next night or the next race, but now it’s about learning in life and learning in racing that there’s going to be another one. I know that now.”
Great NEWS! We have taken the green flag and have officially launched our Race Face Digital Kickstarter crowdfunding. To make your pledge click on the button below. Pledges start at $10.