CONCORD, N.C. – There are 27 races down and 27 races to go for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.
The first half of the 2020 season presented a plethora of memorable moments and exhilarating races that have led to 10 different winners so far.
The back half of the season is shaping up to be equally thrilling, with the championship points battle far from predictable.
Only 100 points separate the top five in in driver points and the top six in team points, heading into the back half of the season at Wayne County Speedway on Aug. 1 and Plymouth Speedway on Aug. 2.
Reigning Outlaw champion Brad Sweet and his Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb team currently lead the standings with seven wins so far. He learned valuable lessons from his championship last year, he said, and is trying to use them to secure another.
“We just want to win,” Sweet said. “I do want to win the points. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t. I think last year when I got focused on the points too much, I didn’t win the races we could have. We lost a little focus. We’re trying to learn from that this year.
“We’ve already proven that we can win a championship. We don’t have to prove that this year. We want to win races and get the absolute best out of this NAPA Auto Parts car each and every night. I think we’re doing a good job. We had a dry spell there. Some bad luck. This team has gone through a little adversity. It’s trying on us. As long as we can keep overcoming it, be up here on the podium and get back to our winning ways, I think the points will take care of themselves.”
The last two weeks showed how quickly the points scenario can change through the field.
Sweet began July with a 114-point lead over Logan Schuchart, of Hanover, PA, after sweeping the doubleheader weekend at Cedar Lake Speedway.
One week and three DNFs in a row later, he found himself two points ahead of 10-time champion Donny Schatz.
Then, when the Outlaws entered their first Pennsylvania swing of the year, Schatz was on track to run away with the points lead himself – just a couple of weeks after being more than 100 points back from the lead.
Schatz and his Tony Stewart/ Curb-Agajanian Racing team picked up their third win of the season at Lernerville Speedway and reclaimed the points lead for the first time since the DIRTcar Nationals in February.
With a seventh-place finish at Lincoln Speedway and his sixth runner-up finish of the year during the Summer Nationals opener at Williams Grove Speedway, he continued to extend his lead.
However, a mechanical issue for Schatz during the final night of the Summer Nationals shook up the points standings yet again. Sweet reclaimed the lead and Schatz fell back to third behind Logan Schuchart.
While their rank in points remained unchanged in a month’s time, the gap between dwindled significantly. Sweet now holds an 18-point lead over Schuchart and a 26-point lead over Schatz.
This year is shaping up to be another career season for Schuchart and Shark Racing. The Drydene-backed driver currently has five wins this year – including the Jackson Nationals – and has remained in the top-three in points throughout the season.
His previous best finish in the standings was fifth last year.
Teammate Jacob Allen is also having a solid year with four top-five finishes in the first half of the season – including a recent fifth-place run at the Summer Nationals – after securing just two top-fives in 2019.
While he’s in the middle of a tight battle for the championship, Schuchart said he and the team are still learning and working on being consistent every week.
“We started off the season strong, but they were at race tracks we already felt confident at,” Schuchart said. “We’re still learning and getting better and building confidence. I hope can come back to some of these tracks and take what we’ve learned and use it.”
Schatz called 2020 a “developmental year” for he and his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing team as they continue to work on perfecting the new Ford FPS 410 engine.
In the early half of the season the team struggled to find consistency, but, minus a mechanical issue at Williams Grove, their performance has improved lately with multiple podium runs.
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