Column: Pevely Prepares For World Of Outlaws Invasion With Ironman 55 This Weekend

Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – PEVELY, MO – The month of August has arrived and the tradition continues.

Before the Knoxville Nationals (August 11-14) captivates the entire Sprint Car world next week, the Ironman 55 takes center stage on the first weekend of August.

The 13th annual race at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 offers a grueling test of 55 consecutive laps at the 1/4-mile venue with $20,000 on the line to the champion.

From Craig Dollansky’s three-peat and Rico Abreu’s daring double to Sheldon Haudenschild’s masterclass in 2019 and Kyle Larson’s return to glory last year, this race has time and time again produced unforgettable moments. You can expect nothing less this Friday and Saturday when the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returns to Pevely, MO.

Here are some of the top storylines to follow:

WEEKEND WINNERS: Last weekend, the World of Outlaws returned to New York for the first time in three years, and it didn’t disappoint. Both races at Ransomville Speedway and Weedsport Speedway left fans stirring as late-race drama and exciting finishes capped each night.

Aaron Reutzel continued his strong rookie season, collecting his fourth win of 2021 at Ransomville on Friday night. The Roth Motorsports #83 led all 30 laps, but it wasn’t without challenge from local hero Paulie Colagiovanni, who hounded Reutzel in the closing laps. The Clute, TX native ultimately survived and now goes for a $20,000 payday this weekend at I-55.

More drama ensued on Saturday when David Gravel became the third and final leader at Weedsport. Sheldon Haudenschild had the race in the bag before lap traffic trouble sent him spinning with two-to-go. Gravel capitalized and scored his seventh win of 2021, the momentum he hopes to carry into I-55, where he’s won once before in 2016.

SHOW-ME SWEET: Grass Valley, CA is where Brad Sweet calls home, but The Big Cat sure has taken a liking to the state of Missouri lately. Entering the Ironman 55, he’s undefeated in The Show-Me State this year with a perfect four-for-four record going.

The Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 swept both nights of the spring doubleheader at Pevely in April, then returned to the state for another sweep at Odessa’s I-70 Motorsports Park later that month.

In total, Sweet has claimed four of his 72 career wins at I-55, however, none of them have come in the form of the $20,000 payday at the Ironman 55. A weekend sweep would mean several things. He bats a perfect 1.000% in Missouri, he finally wins his first Ironman title, and he surpasses Steve Kinser, Craig Dollansky & Sammy Swindell as the winningest Outlaw in track history.

WEIGHT-LIFTING EXPERIENCE: Only three drivers in this weekend’s field will enter as a former champion of the Ironman 55. Those drivers being Sheldon Haudenschild, Logan Schuchart, and Rico Abreu.

First ran as a 55-lap affair in 2009, the Ironman 55 has seen nine different drivers lift the dumbbell through 12 events. Only Craig Dollansky (2011-13) and Rico Abreu (2016-17) own multiple titles, let alone back-to-back scores.

Haudenschild will be the most recent champion in attendance with his unbelievably dominating 2019 title still fresh in everyone’s memory. Logan Schuchart and Shark Racing swam to Pevely glory the year before in 2018. Abreu, of St. Helena, CA, will have a shot to equal Dollansky with the most titles in event history if he can conquer the 1/4-mile again.

WHAT COULD’VE BEEN: There is no denying that Sheldon Haudenschild has risen to the next level in 2021. With 30 races remaining, the Wooster, OH 27-year-old is on pace for career-best numbers in Wins, Top Fives, Top Tens, Laps Led, and a whole galore of other statistical categories.

However, the “what if” question has been raised significantly more lately. On eight notable instances, all within the final eight laps, Haudenschild has lost out on at least 196 points, which would currently make him second in the championship chase -80 to Sweet. The most recent instances came last weekend when he suffered a flat tire running fourth with four-to-go and then dropped from the lead due to a crash in lap traffic with two-to-go.

The good news for Haudenschild is he heads to one of his best tracks this weekend. Of his 19 career World of Outlaws wins, Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 is the only one he’s conquered twice. He’ll go for a third, and potentially fourth, this weekend with $20,000 up for grabs.

WAY OFF THE PORCH: Danny Dietrich of Gettysburg, PA is beginning his Knoxville trip a week early with an 800-mile detour to Pevely, MO. The five-time World of Outlaws winner has left his porch as one of the PA Posse’s most respected competitors for Missouri’s bullring on five occasions in the past.

The Gary Kauffman Racing #48 has faced plenty of ups and downs this year with The Greatest Show on Dirt. Dietrich was runner-up at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals and claimed $20,000 for second at the 38th Kings Royal, but has struggled on homeland with a best of 10th in five Outlaw starts in Pennsylvania. He’ll try to get back on track at Pevely with crucial momentum leading into Knoxville on the line.

KNOXVILLE IS COMING: The pressure continues to mount with it being only eight days away from the 60th running of the NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals pres. by Casey’s. The Granddaddy of ‘Em All offers the greatest purse in Series history with four days in the Sprint Car Capital of the World capped with a potential $200,000 payday.

Although I-55’s tight 1/4-mile bullring is incomparable to Knoxville’s sweeping 1/2-mile corners, the momentum and monetary value of the Ironman can be seen as much greater than the mechanical knowledge. However, it’s worth mentioning that since formed in 2009, not a single Ironman 55 champion has proceeded to win the Knoxville Nationals.

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