How cool was it to see Jac Haudenschild back in the Pennzoil No. 22 car at the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series event at Bristol Motor Speedway?! It conjured up a lot of memories for not only Jac but sprint car fans everywhere.
Jac has said this is his final year driving a sprint car and his friend Rico Abreu (who is also a big fan of Jac), with the help of Frank Bolter, put the deal together to have Pennzoil sponsor the Rico Abreu Racing (RAR)-owned car to run an “outlaw” schedule, meaning they will run 20-plus races at many sanctioned and non-sanctioned events.
This isn’t the first time Rico has given Jac a ride in an RAR car. Jac has run some west coast races in one of Rico’s car a few times in the past. They had actually planned on Jac running the WoO series races in California last Fall and this Spring before they were canceled due to the pandemic.
The original Pennzoil car was owned by Jack Elden. Haudenschild had some of his best years driving for Elden. They were together for nine years and won some of biggest races in the country, and the car was that beautiful Pennzoil yellow for six of those nine years.
To many sprint car fans, especially those of a certain generation, that car and those colors are synonymous with Jac.
I think we all have fond memories of a particular driver or car that raced during a certain time in our lives that was influential and might be the car and driver that made us lifelong sprint car fans. I’m sure that is true for many people who remember that iconic car.
For those who don’t know, Jac and I grew up together. We crashed bicycles, go-karts and minibikes together since we were old enough to walk. As teenagers we had a lot of fun together, on AND off the race track. I also wrote a little bit about our history together in a recent column, and talked about it in much more detail in my book, Still Wide Open.
So many of us who watched the WoO races from Bristol Motor Speedway were amazed by the speed. The track had less banking than the last time the Outlaws were there, and a few drivers and teams were saying the wings and tires aren’t as good today. There is also a minimum weight rule of 1,425 pounds with the driver that wasn’t in place back then.
So, many people doubted that the cars would be as fast as in the past and thought Sammy Swindell’s track record of 13.860 seconds, with average speed of 138.492 mph, would probably not be broken. Even Swindell, himself, said in an interview that he didn’t think his record would be broken because of today’s tires and wings, and he certainly was hoping it wouldn’t.
I was thinking there was still a good chance of it being broken, even with all those things mentioned above, because there have been many track records broken in recent years with these same tires and wings and weight rule. Plus, you add in the fact that 20 years ago the cars had a lot less horsepower.
Bristol was a two-day event and on the first night (Friday) David Gravel did set a track record of 13.672 seconds for an average speed of 138.502 mph and he also went on to win the A-Main that night.
After Saturday’s race was rained out, the race was run on Sunday afternoon and I expected Gravel’s new track record would stand, because anyone who knows anything about dirt racing knows that a dirt track is usually dryer and slower during daytime hours when the sun is shining down on it. Boy was I wrong. The track was in great shape and not only did Gravel’s track record get beaten, astoundingly, 17 drivers went faster than his Friday night record.
When it was all said and done it was Sam Hafertepe Jr. in the record books with a new track record of 13.326 seconds, with an average speed of 142.098 mph. I don’t care who you are that is haulin’ the mail in a dirt sprint car!
Even though Gravel’s track record got broken, he did win again on Sunday to sweep the weekend!
Unfortunately, Jac Haudenschild and the Pennzoil car didn’t do as well at Bristol as everyone had hoped, but they do have those 20-plus races yet to run this season and I’d bet I’m not alone in hoping we can see Jac and that iconic paint scheme back in victory lane at least one more time.