Last ride for Wild Child — Haudenschild on Farewell Tour

Last ride for Wild Child — Haudenschild on Farewell Tour

Jac Haudenschild, a Wooster resident and National Sprint Car Hall of Famer known to race fans everywhere as “Wild Child,” is ending a career spanning 48 years with a Farewell Tour this summer.


Speed defines a racer’s DNA. Having to slow down makes the hair on a driver’s neck stand up.

Yet National Sprint Car Hall of Fame leadfoot Jac Haudenschild always knew the day would come when he would need to gear down. A fierce and fearless wheel man, he realized Father Time would pass him somewhere on a backstretch who knows where and he would have to put the brakes on a lifetime of barnstorming dirt-track bullrings throughout America.

A Farewell Tour? The ageless hotshoe from Wooster — known to race fans everywhere as “Wild Child” — never gave such a thing much thought. There was always another green flag — another checkered flag — to stoke his passion, another tricky surface to tease his conviction.

If it meant buckling in for a Thursday night date with the Atomic Speedway south of Chillicothe, Haudenschild was eager to unload. Whether the destination was California or Australia, missing the race was not an option.

Eldora was — and forever will be — heaven in Rossburg. No dirt-tracker would argue that, not Steve Kinser, not Sammy Swindell, not Doug Wolfgang — the sport’s all-time showstoppers.

And certainly not Rico Abreu, Haudenschild’s biggest fan, a fellow driver who recently stepped up to make Jac’s 2021 Farewell Tour a reality. A well-kept secret that not even “Wild Child” himself knew about until April 22, the swan song already is in progress.

Abreu just wants to make sure fans get a chance to see Haudenschild in action as the 63-year-old makes the last laps of a career spanning 48 years. The best opportunity for locals will be during the Speedweek event at the Wayne County Speedway on June 14.

“Jac is my hero, and what better way to honor a hero than reviving a car that’s most synonymous with his career,” Abreu said at the Bristol Motor Speedway on the day he handed over a bright yellow No. 22 winged sprint rocket to the man whose best nine years were behind the wheel of a Pennzoil-sponsored ride owned by the loyal Jack Elden. “It’s going to be a fun but emotional summer.”

Abreu, who pilots the No. 24 machine, had all the ducks in a row. He not only gave Haudenschild a new driver’s suit, but also he’s supporting the No. 22 with a full team from his own ace shop. Basically, all Haudenschild has to do is show up at the track and drive toward the finish line with all the gusto he can muster — no wrench-twisting involved.

“We’ve got two cars ready right now. We’re going to run 25-30 races. But Rico hasn’t put any restraints on me as far as taking care of the equipment goes. I’m not doing this just to make laps. I’m out there to win,” Haudenschild said recently at his shop on Wooster’s east side.

That’s the only way Haudenschild knows how to race. He said his style always has been to “go for it hard right off the git.”

Haudenschild’s relationship with Abreu began many years ago when he and Sheldon Haudenschild, Jac’s son, were both 16-year-old young guns. Jac doesn’t struggle when expressing his gratitude for Abreu’s willingness to provide a proper sendoff.

“I know how to say thanks. I gotta win. That’s my way of sayin’ thanks. I’ve gotta win,” the elder statesman said.

The “Wild Child” — he was given the nickname at the age of 16 by driver Dick Bartley — was never shy about running close to the wall if necessary. Though the “cushion” of dirt shrank with each lap, he often found that daring line to be the fastest way around the track. No amount of nasty tumbles, of broken arms and concussions, seemed to waylay his determination.

Sheldon Haudenschild continues to be a nightly favorite at the wheel of his NOS-sponsored machine owned by NASCAR regular Ricky Stenhouse, Jr. He races more than a hundred events each season in the World of Outlaws series, in which his mentor and father ran for 30 years.

Jac Haudenschild, who grew up in Millersburg, can think of at least 300,003 reasons to rank the illustrious Eldora Speedway in Western Ohio as his favorite: It’s the one track where two races netted Haudenschild $300,000 of owner/promoter Earl Baltes’ money.

In 1993 “Wild Child” pocketed $100,000 when he won the Historical Big One. A decade later Haudenschild scored his most lucrative payday ever, earning a $200,000 check by winning the Mopar Million, a USAC special for nonwing cars. It was called the most important event in sprint-car history, attracting the top drivers from throughout the U.S.

Raising his family on the road in a motor home, Haudenschild drove in 80-100 events in the states each year. He had little or no interest in racing anything with fenders.

Haudenschild’s ultimate dream ride would have been in the Indianapolis 500. In 1998 he was given a tryout in a Pennzoil-sponsored Indy car at the Texas Motor Speedway. The deal never came to fruition, largely because he would have had to abandon his sprint car program. He wasn’t willing to give that up.

Jac Haudenschild wasn’t easily intimidated.

“In the race car, people try to push you around. You push back. That’s all there is to it,” he said. “You’re supposed to be in control. It looks like you’re out of control all the time, but you’re just trying to get that win. Everybody wants to get that win. They’re hard to get.”

Now it’s time to slowly adjust his lifestyle, to begin to back out of the throttle.

He’s owned a partially restored 1958 Ranchero for 20 years. Gazing high toward the back of the shop where the vintage Ford is perched, Haudenschild thought about the future and his next project:

“I put a Windsor motor in it. I’m gonna finish it,” he said.

No rush.

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