Gravel Haudenschild Weedsport Woo July 31 Julia Johnson Photos 330 1.jpg
David Gravel (2) and Sheldon Haudenschild battle for position at Weedsport Speedway. (Julia Johnson photo)

Gravel Triumphs As Haudenschild Crashes

WEEDSPORT, N.Y. — For the second straight night, New York fans were treated to late-race drama with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.

Sheldon Haudenschild essentially had the win in the bag as he set a torrid pace through lapped traffic, but a collision with James McFadden sent his NOS Energy Drink No. 17 spinning from the lead with only two laps remaining.

David Gravel inherited the lead and held off Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet to win the Empire State Challenge at Weedsport Speedway.

The sudden victory was reminiscent of what happened at Attica Raceway Park in May when Haudenschild fell victim to traffic trouble and gifted Gravel another win. Ultimately, Saturday’s incident gave the Big Game Motorsports No. 2 their seventh win of the year and Gravel the 65th win of his World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.

Unfortunately for Haudenschild, it was another case of what could have been. The Weedsport loss was the sixth occurrence this year of Haudenschild leading in the final 10 laps, but failing to appear in victory lane.

“He was running a wild pace up there and really living and dying by the top,” Gravel said. “Those lappers finally moved up and took his lane away, then he just got into the back of them. I don’t think I would’ve won, but I felt like I could keep him kind of close. I was better on the bottom of turns one and two, but he was full send and bangin’ it off the wall on the other end. That’s just such a hard pace to keep.”

Before Haudenschild and Gravel swapped fortunes, Wayne Johnson was the story of the night early on. The Two-C Racing pilot set a season-best qualifying effort (4th), won his first Drydene heat race of the season, made his first DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash of the season, earned a season-best starting position (5th), and ultimately tied his season-best feature finish.

However, it was 10-time series champion Schatz, on the pole for the 30-lap feature. Looking to snap an 18-race drought since his 300th career win at Dubuque, Iowa, last month, Schatz flexed his muscle in the early stages as he built a large lead and raced into lapped traffic.

The top five of Schatz, Gravel, Haudenschild, Sweet and Macedo ran patiently through the first half, but the pace ratcheted up once the cross flags waved. On lap 19, Haudenschild built his momentum and rocketed by Gravel to take second. He wasn’t done, though. Three laps later, he stormed right by Schatz to take command of the lead on lap 22.

It took only a handful of circuits for Haudenschild to build a massive lead, but at a moment’s notice, it was all gone. Receiving the two-to-go signal, the No. 17 collided with McFadden’s No. 9 on entry to turn one, and suddenly the win was stripped away as Haudenschild went spinning to a stop.

The first and only stoppage of the race created a green-white-checkered finish. Gravel lined up with Schatz and Sweet right on his tail tank, but never wavered once in the final two laps. The No. 2 pulled away once the green flag dropped and pulled away to win it by 1.738 seconds.

“I know it’s been over a month since we won, so this one was much needed,” Gravel admitted. “I just love winning here in New York, too. These fans in the whole northeast are awesome. Our t-shirt trailer was busy all day. I can’t thank these fans enough.”

Sweet snuck by Schatz to put the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 in second place.

“I’ll take it,” Sweet said. “I think we had a fourth-place car tonight, but Sheldon had his trouble and we got Donny on the bottom there. This place is tricky. I’m looking forward to these next few weeks with some more big races coming up.”

After leading the opening 21 laps, Schatz slipped back.

“We just needed to better,” Schatz mentioned. “You’re not gonna be that bad at the end of the race and end up winning. I guess we lucked into a third place tonight.”

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