SCHUCHART LOOKS TO KEEP HEAT ON OUTLAW COMPETITORS
BLACK HILLS, South Dakota – A weekend double header in Big Sky Country continues what has been the most successful month of the 2018 World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series season for Shark Racing’s Logan Schuchart. The 25-year-old driver of the No. 1s Drydene Performance Products/Priority Aviation/Ausherman Properties XXX is seeking to bookend the month with victories as he makes his second career starts at Black Hills Speedway in Rapid City, South Dakota Friday and Big Sky Speedway in Billings, Montana Saturday night.
The summer heat of St. Louis can be almost unbearable. Schuchart opened the month of August still chasing his first 2018 victory on U.S. soil and that didn’t sit well with the fifth-year WoO traveler. After making an appearance with former NASCAR star Ken Schrader at a Sears location for Craftsman in the St. Louis area on August 2, Schuchart looked to be a man on a mission in the annual Ironman 55 doubleheader at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55 in Pevely, Missouri.
In the opener, what was billed as the Night Before the Ironman and 2017 Ironman 55, Schuchart qualified second in the field of 30 cars and won the second heat race before finishing third in the Sears Craftsman Dash. In the 55-lap main event, Schuchart was in contention throughout the contest that was slowed several times by cautions and red flags. He had a good battle late with his Shark Racing teammate Jacob Allen for the third position, he came home fourth at the finish.
He came back determined to score a better result the following night in the 2018 Ironman 55. He was the first car to make a qualifying lap and posted the fastest lap in the field to pick up his fifth fast qualifier award of the season. After finishing second in the opening heat, he started third in the Sears Craftsman Dash. While Allen battled Donny Schatz for the top position on the opening lap, Schuchart drove past both of them before checking out on the field in the six-lap dash. It was his first pole position of the season and the Hanover, PA native was looking to make it count.
Daryn Pittman started outside Schuchart in the 55-lap main event and took the early lead. Schuchart closed in on the leader as the two reached traffic but a caution slowed the action on lap 13. Two laps later, Schuchart took the top spot and never looked back setting a blistering pace. The final 42 laps went nonstop and Schuchart drove a smart race including finding the rubber late. The win was his first of the season and seventh career WoO A-Feature triumph.
“Man, this is awesome,” said Schuchart in victory lane. “I feel like we have the best team we’ve ever had. This is Drydene Performance’s first Outlaw win and we can’t thank them enough for their support. This is one of the big ones – Ironman 55. It’s tough, it wears you out. It’s awesome to get one of these wins and a big one at that. I had a good car all night. We proved that. At the end, I tried to hold my line as the rubber set in and force someone to go around me. What a great way to head into the Knoxville Nationals.”
The Drydene Performance Products team headed northwest on Sunday full of confidence and plenty of momentum behind them. Schuchart was making his sixth appearance in the sport’s biggest event. He was the third car to make a qualifying lap in the 58th annual 5-hour ENERGY Knoxville Nationals at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway behind former WoO champions Donny Schatz and Daryn Pittman. He posted the fastest two laps of the night and was the only driver to post lap under 15 seconds (14.933).
The challenging format would then place Schuchart eighth in the opening heat. After contact with Pittman at the start, Schuchart dug deep and one by one advanced toward that all important fourth and final transfer position. The track was still narrow and fast, but he had a final lap shot at Roger Crockett for the spot, but couldn’t quite make the pass.
The finish relegated him to the stacked B-main that included five other WoO regulars. He started on the pole and after Schatz took the lead on the start, Schuchart passed the 10-time Knoxville Nationals champion to take the lead. Schatz regained the top spot, but Schuchart would pass him again for the top spot before driving away to score the victory. The emotional high from the win quickly turned to disappointment once Schuchart pulled into to his pit before making a trip to scales, which is mandatory for all transferring cars. He was disqualified and his night was done.
Schuchart owned up to the mistake and was determined to take advantage of the Nationals’ Friday night Hard Knox Night which had four spots remaining for Saturday’s 50-lap A-Main. He was the 30th of 31 cars in the first group to make a qualifying lap and once again he was quick time. He finished second in the opening heat and earned the pole position for the 25-lap A-Main. He led the opening laps before Brian Brown, a six-time Knoxville winner in 2018, took over the top spot. Schuchart stayed in his tracks and regained the lead in traffic and would end up leading 19 laps on his way to his first career Knoxville Raceway victory and earn one of the coveted four spots in Saturday’s A-Main.
“If anyone was going to ask, I know where the scales are now,” said a happy Schuchart in Victory Lane. “My leader of this team (grandfather Bobby Allen who is in the hospital) has taught me its not about how you get knocked down, it’s how you get back up. He’s taught Jacob (Allen) and I since we were young kids if you work hard enough, you can get to where you want to go. He’s the man and a champion. He won this thing in 1990 with little to nothing. He’s my hero, and it’s weird him not being here. It’s the first race my grandpa has not been at since I was about ten years old. I know he’s watching, and he’s proud. He’s got both his cars in the A main tomorrow night.”
In Saturday’s A-Main, Schuchart knew it would be an uphill climb. Earlier in the day, he identified some issues with the engine he used both Wednesday and Friday. He climbed from 17th to 11th in the opening 25 laps and following the pit stop he was looking to continue moving forward. He made his way inside the top-10, but was smoking the final 10 laps. He held on to finish eighth despite having a hole in his oil pan, which looked to be caused by some debris from the track.
“To have the best finish I’ve ever had in the biggest race of the year, we will call that a success,” admitted Schuchart. “After the way the week started, this team just kept working. This is the biggest race of the year and you have to have a lot go your way. We were coming forward, but just didn’t have enough drive out of the corners to get where we wanted to be. We lost a lot of oil late in the race, but a top-10 in the Knoxville Nationals is something we can build on for sure.”
NORTH DAKOTA RETURN
Following his most successful Knoxville Nationals, Schuchart and the Shark Racing team headed north to continue their run with the Outlaws. He returned to North Dakota with high hopes and in search of his first WoO triumph in the Rough Rider state. River Cities Speedway in Grand Forks is one of his favorite stops on the tour and he qualified sixth in the field of 29 cars. In heat three, he three he would battle Rico Abreu for the second position early. He smacked the frontstretch wall with his right rear, but looked like he would survive the miscue until a red flag halted the action halfway through the heat. While waiting for the track to be cleared, his right rear tire lost air because of the damage. He wasn’t able to get the tire replaced in time to return to action. The DNF pushed him into the Last Chance Showdown. Schuchart won the B to transfer into the 40-lap A-Feature. Starting 19th, he knew early on it was going to be a matter of avoiding any trouble. Unfortunately, a crash in front of him on the first lap left him with nowhere to go and he was involved in the crash. Extensive top wing and front axle damage ended his night.
It was a 70-mile trip down Interstate 29 the following night for his second appearance at Red River Valley Speedway in Fargo. A late qualifying draw put him behind early, but on the first lap of the opening heat he moved from seventh to second, but was put back for allegedly starting early. After being put back he charged back up to third, but a broken rod on the final lap spurred his chances to transfer directly into the A. Following an engine change, he came back and won his second consecutive Last Chance Showdown. From the 19th position, Schuchart charged forward 14 positions in the 30-lap A-Feature to earn his fourth KSE Hard Charger Award and 14th top-five finish of the season.
The weekend ahead continues Outlaws’ 40th Anniversary Season with stops in their only stops in South Dakota and Montana. Last year, Schuchart was credited with a 23rd-place finish in his debut at Black Hills Speedway and charged from 13th to seventh in his first start at Big Sky.
He is currently tied for sixth in the WoO championship standings with Sheldon Haudenschild and the two trail fifth-place Shane Stewart by 80 markers with 25 nights of racing remaining. If you can’t make it to the track this weekend, watch all the action live on dirtvision.com.
Podium Finishes: 7
Fast-time Awards: 7
KSE Hard Chargers: 4
Photos courtesy of DB3 Imaging (Ironman & Fargo), Paul Arch (Knoxville).