CONCORD, N.C. – Wherever Jac Haudenschild went Saturday at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, cameras, attention and, in periods, commotion followed.
To the 63-year-old, it was all a means of appreciation. Haudenschild said farewell to his illustrious sprint car career this past weekend during the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series World Finals.
Those in attendance did what they could to soak in the legend of the Wild Child, the nickname coined through 48 years of racing excitement, one last time.
That included World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series announcer Johnny Gibson, who started the chant, “Go, Jac, go! Go, Jac, go! Go, Jac, go!” over the public address system during an intermission on the blustery afternoon.
“Let me hear you!” Gibson shouted.
“Been around a lot of great people over the years and drove for a lot of great owners over the years,” Haudenschild said. “I’m going to miss being around the people mostly.”
Unfortunately for Haudenschild the end didn’t coincide with a checkered flag.
Haudenschild, driving his family’s black and white No. 93 machine fielded by son Sheldon and daughter-in-law Zana, flipped out of the 25-lap main event.
The National Sprint Car Hall of Fame member looked the part in his final weekend, however, qualifying for both main events in outright fashion.
Haudenschild started 10th in Saturday’s feature and, ripping his hallmark top groove, even worked his way to eighth in the early laps. But the backpedal began right as things appeared they’d end on a high note and Haudenschild slipped outside the top 12 by the race’s halfway point.
With 10 laps to go, he and Paulie Colagiovanni tangled in turn four and Haudenschild went for a somber, discomforting tumble.
There was no departing gesture, such as his moment of reverence at the Knoxville Nationals, where he stood on the Knoxville (Iowa) Speedway frontstretch waving to the many attendees cheering down.
Instead Haudenschild needed a ride in a safety truck back to the pits, his mangled No. 93 in tow. While the race resumed, he packed up his belongings and understandably declined to comment on his frustrating end of the road.
Haudenschild did go out a winner in 2021, triumphing Aug. 28 at Wayne County Speedway in his native Ohio. This year Haudenschild placed in the top 10 six times in 25 races.
“I’ve felt good in the race car most of this year,” Haudenschild said.
Some find it difficult to believe it is Haudenschild’s final stand. When asked if Saturday was truly the final ride, Haudenschild said “this is it.”
His body has taken a beating over the years and he wants to go out on his terms.
With the help from Rico Abreu, Haudenschild returned his iconic No. 22 Pennzoil colors made popular in the 1990s and early 2000s in select events this year, a sweet tribute in the ride that resembled the ride Jack Elden owned.
He drove the Pennzoil No. 22 in sprint car racing’s return to Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway, the double King’s Royals at Eldora Speedway and the Knoxville Nationals.
Before Saturday’s feature, Shark Racing called Haudenschild over for a photo op. They posed with a banner that commemorated his storied sprint car career that surpassed 300 victories, 72 of those with the World of Outlaws.
“Thanks for the great ride, Jac,” the sign read. “You’ve been a great friend, role model and inspiration to all of us. Congratulations on your incredible career — Shark Racing.”
“He’s a badass,” Jacob Allen said.
“I’m going to miss it for sure,” Haudenschild said.