Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – WAVERLY, OH – For the first time since 2009, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series is returning to Atomic Speedway in Waverly, OH. The eight-ever appearance by The Greatest Show on Dirt at the 3/8-mile oval comes this Saturday, May 28.
Among the top storylines is Ohio’s own Sheldon Haudenschild chasing a home-state win, Donny Schatz looking to extend his dominance at the track, and Brad Sweet hoping to pad his points lead, while the duo of Carson Macedo and David Gravel hope to cut it down.
K-C KING: When it comes to Atomic Speedway, or K-C Raceway as it was called back in the day, nobody on the World of Outlaws tour owns as much experience or hardware as Donny Schatz does. The 10-time Series champion owns an astounding 1.67 average finish in six starts with four victories and a worst finish of fourth. It’s been 13 years since the Fargo, ND native won four out of five shows at the Waverly, OH track, but you can expect the same type of dominance this week.
A return to Atomic comes with perfect timing for the Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, Ford Performance, Carquest #15. They’re building momentum with three consecutive top-10 finishes, including their first podium in more than a month.
PACING THE POINTS: Just over a week ago, it appeared as if Brad Sweet was going to lose his point lead for the first time since February, but then Carson Macedo rolled across the scales light and that changed everything. The Big Cat was set to be down -4 points, but now two races later, he finds himself padding the lead and bolstering a +38 advantage entering Atomic.
The Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 team is still hungry for more success, though, as it has been more than a month since they last finished on the podium at Tri-State (IN). They’ve managed a 9.3 average finish over the last six shows, but have still made all the right moves to maintain and even grow their points lead. This weekend, the Grass Valley, CA native visits Waverly, OH for the first time in more than a decade.
BOUNCE BACK: Last Friday’s Feature at Attica chewed up and spit out two of the longest top-10 streaks on tour, and forced a pair of drivers and teams to start from scratch this week at Atomic.
Spencer Bayston, the leading Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year contender, built the longest streak this season with 11 consecutive top-10s before faltering with a 13th at Attica due to a flat right rear which sent him to the work area. The CJB Motorsports #5 pilot is a former winner at Atomic, topping the 2018 Dean Knittel Memorial.
David Gravel battled through his toughest night of the year at Attica, ending up 18th after a whopping three trips to the work area in the 35-lap Feature. The Big Game Motorsports #2 was rolling with eight-straight top-10s prior to the disastrous night. The Watertown, CT native can head to Atomic with confidence, though, as he owns five starts and five top-10s at the track including a career-best of second in 2011.
DOUBLING DOWN: Last week, Jason Sides announced that Robbie Price of Cobble Hill, British Columbia, Canada would fill the seat of the #7S for the remainder of the 2022 season. The 24-year-old native has started 21 World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Features in his career, but most notably owns a pair of ASCS National Tour victories in a 360 Sprint Car. This weekend at Atomic will be one of many tracks the young gun encounters for the first time this year with Sides still on the wrenches and performing driver coach duties.
BUILDING STEAM: It’s been a bit of a tough go for James McFadden in 2022, remaining winless through 21 starts in the Roth Motorsports #83. Last year, it took the Alice Springs, NT, Australia native only six shows in the United States to get a World of Outlaws win. He’s finally building some momentum again, though, with consecutive results of ninth, sixth, and third landing him his third podium finish of the year.
J-Mac will look for his first chance at World of Outlaws victory lane this weekend at Atomic, where he won back-to-back All-Star Features in 2019.
PHONE-A-FRIEND: With Philip Dietz at home as his wife Brooke Dietz gave birth to newborn Jase, the Jason Johnson Racing, Albaugh #41 team was without their lead man last week. Carson Macedo still managed to earn a strong runner-up finish at Attica and even challenged Kyle Larson for the win at multiple points. A determined work ethic at track plus Dietz’s call-in advice from watching DIRTVision proved to be a sustainable model for the time being.
It’s still unsure if Dietz will make the trip to Atomic Speedway this Saturday, but if not, car chief Clyde Knipp and tire specialist Nate Repetz will step up again. Every night remains crucial for the Rocky Mount, MO-based operation as they continue to fight for the championship lead, trailing Sweet by only -38 points entering the week.
CLOSING THE GAP: For much of the past month, it’s been a three-horse race out front in the championship standings with Brad Sweet, David Gravel, and Carson Macedo. Over the last two weeks, though, Sheldon Haudenschild (-56) and Logan Schuchart (-92) have closed the gap.
Haudenschild, of Wooster, OH, is amid the best active three-race streak on tour right now. He finished second at Williams Grove, won at Bridgeport, and fourth at Attica last week in the Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #17. His attention remains in his home state of Ohio this weekend with Atomic on deck, a place he’s won before with the All-Stars in 2016.
For Schuhcart, the Hanover, PA native is piecing together a brilliant turnaround in the Shark Racing, DuraMAX Oil, Drydene Performance Products #1S. He opened the season with a 10.6 average finish through 12 shows and has since recovered to average a 4.7 finish in the last nine nights. He also owns a Series best seven top-five results over that same span.