Jac Haudenschild Now WoO's Elder Statesman
His hard-charging driving style earned him legions of fans and one of short-track racing's most familiar nicknames, a moniker still with him today, the "Wild Child."
However, as he prepares for the Eckerd Outlaw Showdown on Wednesday night, May 24, at The Dirt Track @ Charlotte Motor Speedway-the first WoO race at the four-tenths-mile oval since 2003-Haudenschild is far from a child. In fact, he is the elder statesman among the full-time racers on the World of Outlaws tour.
With Steve Kinser and Sammy Swindell running only selected events, the 48-year-old Wooster, Ohio, native has a lot of experience as he battles younger drivers-most half his age-night after night.
"That doesn't bother me too much," Haudenschild said about the age difference. "There are a lot of fast young guys out there, but we have been to all of the tracks quite a few times and we have experience. We feel we will be as competitive as anybody."
Still, Haudenschild is quick to admit, he drives a little differently than when he was one of the kids.
"I'm a little smarter than I was when I first started," he said laughing. "Now, I know that you have to finish the races if you are going to make any money. I guess that I have mellowed it down quite a bit."
While he may be older and a little wiser, Haudenschild still makes his living flat out in the high groove. But now he tries to make the car do most of the work.
"You know by the way the car is handling whether or not you have a chance to win the race," Haudenschild said. "If you can win, you better get going, but if your car is way off, you are probably better off to just take the position where you are running. If you have a really good race car late in the race, you better get up through there to the front."
Haudenschild started racing in 1974, driving his father's car at Lakeville and Wayne County Speedways in Ohio, and he's been fortunate to make a living at a job he loves ever since.
He's won hundreds of races, competing with USAC, the All Star Circuit of Champions and the World of Outlaws, among other sprint car sanctioning organizations. He's won many of the sport's most prestigious races including the King's Royal, the Historical Big One and the Gold Cup Race of Champions.
"I've never had to take another job," he said. "There are a couple of times when I probably should have, but I've always hung in there. When I didn't have a good ride, I'd just go race somewhere local or something like that. But I had to keep racing to keep going."
Driving this season for team-owner Rick Wright, Haudenschild got off to a consistent start and hopes to do something he's never done-win the World of Outlaws championship.
"Second is the best we've ever done in the championship," he said. "It would be nice to win it before we quit."
While Haudenschild says the May 24 Eckerd Outlaw Showdown "is just another race I want to win," he knows had a few things gone differently, he very well may have ended up in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing.
"I always liked sprint cars and when I was starting out, I never thought I would be making a full-time career out of racing," he said. "I was just doing it for the fun of it, and I did end up making a living doing it, but I wish I would have tried stock cars.
"Tim Richmond was a good friend of mine and he went down to NASCAR land and I wish I had headed down there the same time he did, but I never did it."
Haudenschild knows his chance to race NASCAR will never come, but he's content to be racing with the World of Outlaws and knows he still has what it takes to give the young guys a run for their money.
"I have felt just as good in a race car the last few years as I ever have," he said "You have to have good equipment and good engines if you are going to do anything good, or if you are going to win any races. And you have to have a good team under you. Having a good team is one of the biggest battles."
If purchased in advance, reserved tickets for the May 24 Eckerd Outlaw Showdown are $25 for adults and $10 for children 12 and under. They can be purchased by calling the Charlotte Motor Speedway ticket office at 1-800-455-FANS or online here.