By STEVE BARRICK
There was one joyful Victory Lane scene Thursday after the Eldora Million was over and Logan Schuchart arrived. Schuchart was elated, climbing on the roof of the Drydene No. 1S, fists pumping. He was some kind of pumped up.
“I don’t usually get nervous before a race, but I was before this one and almost psyched myself out of it,” Logan Schuchart confessed in a post race interview following his Eldora Million Sprint Car victory.
“This is what I have always wanted to do in my life. But this week, when I thought I had a good shot at it, the butterflies were there,” Schuchart shared.
“But once I got strapped in, I calmed down as we got ready to go, and was fine when the green flag dropped. All of that went away coming down for the start of the race,” Schuchart said.
“When I saw all of my family, friends, supporters there to greet me in Victory Lane, it was, and still is, an amazing feeling. You remember where you’ve come from. My grandfather who is almost 80 years old, makes sure we have the best we can day after day.”
The arrival of Allen, who had been watching the race from a camper, was greeted by a chant of ‘Allen, Allen, Allen’ by Sprint Car fans who remember the humble beginnings Bobby Allen endured when he first came north from his native Miami, Florida as dozens of others did in the mid-to-late 1960s.
Those family ties are not lost on Schuchart.
“My biggest dream, for the longest time, had been to win the Kings Royal because nobody in my family has ever won it. Won the National Open, the Knoxville Nationals, but not the Kings Royal. But to win a Million Dollars at Eldora, than ranks right up there,” Schuchart understated.
Schuchart, who was fast all week, cemented his victory after a lap 20 pre-planned caution. During the break, teams were allowed to change tires, take on fuel, and make chassis adjustments.
The mid-race break, as it turned out, had a slip up during the tire change and the adding of fuel.
Schuchart noted that there was one problem faced by his team during the lap 20 mid-race break that could have been catastrophic.
“We had a little hiccup with the car falling of the jackstand. Nobody panicked, calmly picked the car up, got it back on the stand, and went about what they were there to do,” Schuchart said. The potential was there, of course, to have damaged the fuel tank or the rear end.
Having bested that adversity, Schuchart then faced the daunting task of holding off Carson Macedo on a double file restart.
With lane choice, Schuchart surprised many by taking the bottom lane.
“I wasn’t totally confident in my decision as to where I wanted to choose. I have liked to start at Eldora on the outside, but I didn’t want to give Carson (Macedo) the chance to beat me on a start. I felt that even if I didn’t get the greatest restart, as long as I was halfway up to the side of his car, I could drive up in front of him going into turn one. That’s why I made the decision I did.”
As it happened, Macedo actually did come out of turn two with the lead but behind the pair, a five car accident red flagged the race.
When the race restarted, Schuchart was still the leader since a lap hadn’t been completed. Once again, he had a critical choice to make. He took the inside lane again but with a different approach to the restart in mind.
“I went about the second one a little differently, tried to keep my pace up a little more. The first time I had set a fairly slow pace, had been fairly confident with the car the way it was running that I could take off on any restart. He did beat me that one time, he has great engines too, so after the crash and I had the second chance, I took off a little quicker than I had the first time and it worked. I made it harder for Carson to get to my right front going down the straightaway,” Schuchart explained.
Once Schuchart had reestablished command, his biggest issue was a mental one.
“There was a point in the race where I thought I wanted to look at the scoreboard to see how many laps were left but didn’t. I can tell you the last 30 laps of that race seemed more like 75 to me. When I thought there might be between ten and 15 to go, I thought about looking up there but convinced myself not to. Didn’t want to see anything that might make me think about changing the pace I was running,” the race winner reckoned.
The earlier events leading up to the Eldora Million had Schuchart confident about his chances.
“I thought the heat race tonight was going to the most difficult part of the night. When that was over, I felt confident about the rest of the night. Rico and Ricky Warner were probably as fast as we were. We were two fastest in that heat race, had to get out front and make something happen, just like what happened in the A Main,” Schuchart related.
“Lapped cars never really slowed me down, got by them pretty easy,” Schuchart asserted.
With Shark Racing earning a million dollars for this win and him getting a fifty percent share. Schuchart admitted that while he hadn’t anticipated what the money would mean if he won, he did have some thoughts post race.
“I hadn’t thought that much seriously about it, but now that I won, I have been thinking about building my own race shop. Will have to talk to a real estate agent about that,” he laughed.
It had been suggested by special Eldora guest, Jonathan Davenport, winner of the Eldora Million one year ago when it was a Super Late Model race, that the unique payout ought to preclude having the race as an annual happening, to make it more elite.
Schuchart, not unexpectedly, didn’t second Davenport’s thoughts. “Knowing since the PRI Show in December that this race was going to happen was in our heads. Every fan I’ve talked to in the last month has asked me, “are you ready for Eldora”? It’s a big deal, I’d like to have a chance to win Eldora Millions back to back.”
Looking back, Schuchart recalled that his Eldora Million march from eighth to first in the second Wednesday heat race proved to be a prelude to his drive to the Eldora Million the next night.
“When you start out strong it’s like weight is lifted off your shoulders. In these big races the most important thing is to qualify well, it can make or break your race right off the bat. We did that but the job had just started. In a way, that increased my nervousness.”