Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – ROSSBURG, OH – After three weeks on the West Coast, the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series is finally eastbound and down.
Another three-week venture through Ohio and Pennsylvania begins this weekend with scheduled stops at two of The Buckeye State’s most exciting venues. From a three-way championship chase with Brad Sweet, David Gravel, and Carson Macedo, to home state heroes like Sheldon Haudenschild and Dave Blaney, there are plenty of storylines to follow.
The Greatest Show on Dirt opens the 4-Crown Nationals on Friday, Sept. 23, with a one-night show at Rossburg, OH’s Eldora Speedway, followed by a four-hour journey to the other side of the state for a Saturday, Sept. 24, showcase at Hartford, OH’s Sharon Speedway.
ACT FAST: With only 11 races remaining, the 2022 World of Outlaws championship chase is seemingly down to a three-horse race.
Brad Sweet, chasing his fourth consecutive title with the Series, has held command of the top spot since March aboard his Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49. “The Big Cat” enters a doubleheader weekend in Ohio with a 74-point advantage over David Gravel’s Big Game Motorsports #2 and a 94-point gap to Carson Macedo’s Jason Johnson Racing #41.
Sweet has maintained his hold thanks to numbers such as 1,909 (the only driver to complete every lap) and 5.60 (the best average finish on tour). To topple the Grass Valley, CA native, Gravel or Macedo will either need to piece together an otherworldly stretch and beat Sweet by an average of four spots per race, or take advantage of a DNF by the #49 – which hasn’t happened in 159 races since July 2020.
BACK 4 THE CROWN: A quartet of Kings Royal champions will return to the site of their coronation this weekend in hopes of adding another type of crown to their collection.
King Brent XXXIX, who rose to the throne in remarkable fashion this July by sweeping the Historical Big 1 and Kings Royal for a $275,000 weekend, became the 19th different sovereign to rule Eldora’s realm. Brent Marks, of Myerstown, PA, is currently the second-winningest driver in the country at 17 wins, with five of those coming in World of Outlaws competition. The Murray-Marks #19 pilot is the only of these four kings to have previously conquered the wings at 4-Crown, doing so during the 2018 running.
King Tyler XXXVIII has made his name by creating a reign unlike any other when it comes to Earl’s house. Tyler Courtney, of Indianapolis, IN, owns a total of 12 triumphs at the track with wins in three pillars (USAC Non-Wing, USAC Midget, USAC Silver Crown) of the 4-Crown Nationals. The current All Star Circuit of Champions points leader hopes to add a winged win to his resume at the event this weekend in the Clauson-Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #7BC.
King Donny XXXV has ruled Eldora in the seasons of April, May, and July to total 17 wins at the track owned by his boss, Tony Stewart, but a September score has always eluded the 10-time World of Outlaws champion. Donny Schatz, of Fargo, ND, owns six top-five finishes and two runner-up results through 12 starts at the 4-Crown in his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, Ford Performance #15.
King Brad XXXVI hasn’t stood atop the stage in Rossburg, OH since his second crowning in 2019, and hopes to not only end that streak but his tough spell of runs with a wing on top during 4-Crown. Brad Sweet is a former winner of the event during his younger days in USAC Midgets and USAC Sprint Cars, but he’s struggled with zero top-five finishes through 10 World of Outlaws starts at The Big E in September.
SHARKS IN SEPTEMBER: For Shark Racing, they prefer to be woken up when September begins and hopes it never ends. The Hanover, PA team spearheaded by Hall of Famer Bobby Allen has finished 1-2 in three World of Outlaws events since hitting the road in 2014, and the latter two have happened in back-to-back fashion over the last two weeks in California.
Jacob Allen, amid a career-best 11 straight top-10 finishes (best active streak, too), led the first occurrence by topping a photo finish to bank $25,000 with the biggest win of his life at the Gold Cup Race of Champions. Logan Schuchart, a winner in three of the last 10 outings, followed him six days later by scoring a heated $21,000 Feature at the Tom Tarlton Classic.
Schuchart also enters this weekend as the two-time and defending winner of the World of Outlaws portion at the 4-Crown Nationals. The DuraMAX Oil, Drydene Performance Products #1S goes for a third-straight September score at Eldora Speedway on Friday, which would bring him within one of Joey Saldana’s event record of four wins.
THE BUCKEYE BULLET: A return to Sharon Speedway in Hartford, OH on Saturday night brings us the return of Dave Blaney, the 1995 World of Outlaws champion, who earned his first Series win in 24 years when the track returned to the schedule last year. At 59 years old, “The Buckeye Bullet” continues to amaze behind the wheel, earning a start in both the Historical Big 1 and Kings Royal earlier this summer at Eldora.
Blaney, who earned his 95th career win with a stunning last-lap pass over Sheldon Haudenschild, will be joined by the likes of A.J. Flick, of Apollo, PA, and George Hobaugh, of Chicora, PA, both of whom are Sharon winners this season.
O-H… A-U-D: The Buckeye State faithful are set to enjoy the final chance this season to watch their native gasser, Sheldon Haudenschild, of Wooster, OH, compete in his home state. “The Wild Child’s Child” has already claimed three of his 31 career World of Outlaws wins inside state lines and has a strong chance to grow that number this weekend aboard the Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #17.
A nine-time winner in 2022 with The Greatest Show on Dirt, Haudenschild heads home with high hopes of reaching the double-digit mark for the first time in his young, but storied career. The 29-year-old earned his first-ever Eldora Speedway victory last year and led all but one lap in the Series’ return to Sharon Speedway last spring.
STILL CHASING: James McFadden earned his ninth podium of the season last week in California, but he’s still chasing his first win in the Roth Motorsports #83 – which would be the 99th for owners Dennis & Teresa Roth with the World of Outlaws. The Australian has 11 more chances to change that as he hopes to avoid joining Jac Haudenschild (17 in ’93), Bobby Allen (11 in ’84), Tim Shaffer (11 in ’07), Mark Kinser (10 in ’87), Johnny Herrera (10 in ’92), and Daryn Pittman (10 in ’04) as the only seven men in history with 10-plus podiums and zero wins in a single season.
The good news is that J-Mac heads for two tracks – Eldora and Sharon – where he’s shined before with both venues offering a career-best second-place effort in the past.