Monday, October 14th, 2013
Haudenschild edges Hanagan at Eldora's finish line
By Mike Ernst
ROSSBURG - A total of 119 sprint cars jammed Eldora's pit area as the Speedway closed out its 60th anniversary season with the UNOH Sprintacular on an unseasonably-warm Saturday night with three exciting sprint car features.
Jac Haudenschild returned to the familiar territory of Eldora's victory lane, while second-generation driver Kevin Swindell and Brady Bacon earned their first "Big E" wins.
Haudenschild's win capped a perfect evening for the Hall-of-Fame driver from Wooster, as he set the fastest lap in qualifying and won his heat race before earning the 30-lap main event victory. However, Haudenschild's win in the main event was anything but easy.
Haudenschild and fellow front-row starter Swindell were blistering around the top of the high-banked, half-mile and stretching their advantage when the lapped car of Caleb Helms spun in front of them in turn one. Haudenschild and Swindell both spun around to avoid Helms, while fifth-place Sam Hafertepe, Jr. was not as lucky as he flipped into the accident.
Haudenschild and Swindell restarted the event in the front two positions since neither stopped during their spins, but Swindell quickly faded through the field after suffering minor damage to the top wing of his mount in the earlier mishap.
Veteran driver Shane Stewart started the main event seventh but methodically worked his way through the field and appeared to be the fastest car on the track when he ran down Haudenschild with only five laps remaining.
After Stewart led lap 27, Haudenschild re-passed Stewart and then trapped him behind the lapped car of Mark Dobmeier. When Stewart hesitated, Randy Hannagan charged into the runner-up spot as they raced under the white flag.
Haudenschild drove through the middle of turns three and four of the final lap, while Hannagan rode the cushion around the top of the speedway. When Haudenschild slid up to the wall in turn four, Hannagan dove to the bottom and the duo raced to the checkered flag side-by-side with Haudenschild winning by less than a car length in a photo finish.
"I knew someone had to be there," Haudenschild said of the closing laps. "The bottom cleaned off there in the middle of the race and got really fast and the top was giving up a little bit. It was a close but it feels good to win another one here."
"Everyone knows Jac runs the top around here, so when he went to the middle, it really surprised me but it gave me a chance," said Hannagan. "It was close. We gave it everything we had and had a great run. Finishing second to him here is nothing to be ashamed of."
After being forced to change an engine prior to the main event, Dale Blaney moved around Stewart to finish in third place and wrap up his fourth career All-Star National title. By winning, he also picked up enough points to take the All-Star's Ohio Region title by a single point over fifth-place finishing Tim Shaffer.
"It says a lot about this team to change the motor right before the main event like that and after struggling for the first 10 laps, the car was really good those last 15 (laps) or so. We just needed another five laps, but that is the way it goes. All in all it is a pretty good night," said Blaney after joining Frankie Kerr, Kenny Jacobs and Shaffer as four-time champions of the series. "That is pretty fair company right there. Those guys are some of the best to ever race this series and I guess it means we have had a good, long career."
Rob Chaney, Danny Holtgraver, Lucas Wolfe, Ian Madsen and Swindell completed the top 10.
Swindell bounced back in the 20-lap National Racing Alliance (NRA) 360-Sprint main event. Swindell, the son of famed sprint car driver Sammy Swindell, made a daring move around early leader Butch Schroeder, the 2013 NRA Champion, at the midpoint of the race and pulled away.
A late caution was of little help to the competition as Swindell, of Germantown, Tenn., quickly powered away from the field over the final two laps to his first career Eldora win.
"This is one I can cross off the bucket list," said Swindell. "Everyone wants to win one here. Now I just need to get me that 410 (engine) win. I thought we had a shot at that tonight but things didn't work out, but we are glad we got this one."
Schroeder finished second while Chuck Hebing, Jared Horstman and Bryan Sebetto completed the top five. Mark Smith, Max Stambaugh, Hud Horton, Ron Blair and veteran Tim Allison finished in the top 10.
Bacon, of Broken Arrow, Okla., competed in all three divisions on Saturday night and after disappointing finishes in the two winged sprint car races, captured the 25-lap Buckeye Outlaw Super Sprint (BOSS) non-wing event.
Bacon took the lead after surviving an intense mid-race battle with Luke Hall and Matt Westfall. The three swapped the lead in every corner for nearly three laps before Bacon finally took the lead for good on lap 10.
Two weeks after Chris Windom capturing the Sprint Car and Silver Crown Series features events during Eldora's Four Crown weekend, he had to settle for second place on Saturday while Matt Westfall, Dallas Hewitt and Gary Taylor completed the top five.