ROSSBURG, Ohio – At Eldora Speedway, the announcement that Jac Haudenschild is taking to the track never fails to generate massive applause.
Despite hailing from Wooster, Ohio, on the other side of the Buckeye State, there is no doubting that the man known as “The Wild Child” is the track‘s adopted son.
According to Haudenschild, this Saturday will mark his final appearance at Eldora.
Earlier in the year, it was announced that this season would be a farewell tour of sorts, with Haudenschild running a limited schedule in a car owned by his friend and fellow driver Rico Abreu. To make his final season even more memorable, at an unveiling Abreu surprised Haudenschild with a mount carrying the iconic yellow Pennzoil No. 22 graphics, the car most associated with Haudenschild’s best years.
“I had no idea he was doing that,” Haudenschild explained. “Rico did that all on his own and that makes it kind of nice going out the last year with the Pennzoil car.”
Haudenschild has claimed the checkered flag during Eldora Speedway‘s biggest events. He nabbed his first Kings Royal victory in 1987. When Earl Baltes promoted the Historical Big One, a landmark $100,000-to-win winged sprint car race, he took the checkers in the inaugural 1993 running. Haudenschild claimed the crown in two more Kings Royals, in 1994 and ’98.
At a time when many non-winged fans debated whether winged drivers could still take the barn door off and compete with non-winged racers, Baltes staged the USAC-sanctioned $1,000,000-purse Mopar Million at Eldora in 2003. Haudenschild removed the wing and earned the biggest payday of his career, holding off Stevie Smith to earn the victory and $200,000 winner‘s check.
In the last running of the Royal, in 2019, Haudenschild recorded an eighth-place finish, marking the 11th time he‘s finished within the top-10 in the event.
On Thursday, as he looked around at the pits of the Rossburg, Ohio half-mile, he stated, “This‘ll be it; this weekend.”
It‘s clear that, after experiencing so much success at the legendary oval, saying goodbye this week carries some emotions.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” he agreed. “My mom came this year. She‘s never really came to the races for years, but she came here, so that makes it kind of nice too. I‘ve got some family coming here this weekend, and they‘re all having a good time, so I‘m just looking forward to the last time here.”
When discussing what factored into the decision for this the be his final year behind the wheel, the 2009 National Sprint Car Hall of Fame inductee explained, “We‘ve had a long run and I still feel pretty good, so I‘m gonna go out while I feel good. And, we‘re gonna try and race quite a few races the rest of the year, at Nationals at Knoxville with Rico, and then we‘re just gonna go from there and end up running maybe some more All Star races. We‘re trying to get another 20, 25 races in this year.”
“[Rico‘s] stacking up a few more races on me, but that‘s fine with me since it‘s my last year,” he continued with a laugh. “So, we‘re looking forward to the rest of the year.
As for what he‘ll be doing next year after he‘s retired from racing, he laughs before stating, “I don‘t know. Not too much. As little as possible.”