The excitement of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series was on full display on Friday night.
Hosting a race of the year candidate at Volusia Speedway Park, the DIRTcar Nationals Feature was highlighted by three different leaders over the final two laps at the Barberville, FL 1/2-mile. Simply put, it was an instant classic.
Reigning champion Brad Sweet was in the catbird seat with two to go, then points leader David Gravel (of Watertown, CT) asserted himself as he led the white flag lap, but ultimately it was Sheldon Haudenschild inching out the victory by forty-four one-thousandths of a second (0.044) at the checkered flag.
The epic ending promptly sent the massive crowd into a frenzy at Volusia and lit social media ablaze with praise as the Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #17 pulled into victory lane.
“What a wild race,” Haudenschild said to a standing ovation. “Man, that was so much fun. Those two were gassing it up and I can only imagine how it looked from the stands. I’m really looking forward to this year. We’ve got a great group focused on having fun and winning races.”
Haudenschild’s 23rd career World of Outlaws win gives the Wooster, OH native his second Golden Gator almost exactly four years after he won his first-career Feature at Volusia’s DIRTcar Nationals back in 2018.
Brad Sweet, who rebounded from a rough opening night 16th to finish third on night two. The Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 controlled Laps 22-28, but costly mistakes in turns one and two combined with the pace of lap traffic ultimately cost The Big Cat his 75th career win.
“Wow, that was a really fun race,” Sweet noted afterward. “You hate to come up short, but Sheldon and David did a phenomenal job. I struggled as I got to traffic with my pace and couldn’t get off turn two as well as them. These last five to seven laps are what wins and loses races in this Series. I was searching and that’s not a feeling you want late in the going. We’ll get better for tomorrow.”
NEW Championship Standings (After 2/89 Races): 1. David Gravel (288); 2. Donny Schatz (-2); 3. Sheldon Haudenschild (-8); 4. Aaron Reutzel (-14); 5. Kyle Larson (-16); 6. James McFadden (-18); 7. Tyler Courtney (-20); 8. Carson Macedo (-22); 9. Anthony Macri (-24); 10. Brad Sweet (-26).