BARBERVILLE, Fla. – One night after Donny Schatz opened the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season with a victory, the tour’s defending champion reminded everyone why he won the title last year.
Brad Sweet, a fixture on the DIRTcar Nationals presented by Bozard Ford podium all week long, posted his second victory of the week and fourth-straight top-three finish with a dominant run to the checkers.
Sweet assumed the lead with seven laps complete, then put on a clinic through slower traffic in the second half of the 30-lapper for his 51st career Outlaw triumph, tying Jeff Swindell and David Gravel for 15th on the all-time list.
The Grass Valley, Calif., native danced effortlessly in and out of a minefield of lap cars – splitting several of them with daring three-wide maneuvers at times – and pulled away to a 1.573-second victory over Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb teammate James McFadden.
“Man, that was tough tonight,” noted Sweet in victory lane. “The track’s wide and it’s really easy to spin your tires and make bad decisions. I just really tried to stay patient, keep my tires under me and tried to pick and choose my battles. I made a couple mistakes (in traffic), but was just happy I was able to kind of get through those with the lead still and did a pretty good job of getting through a few of them.
“Like I said, it was awful tricky and I had a lot of close calls, but hats off to my NAPA boys,” Sweet added. “They’ve been giving me great race cars and we’ve been on the podium every single night, now with our second win of the week. Hopefully we finish strong tomorrow and can bring home that Big Gator.”
While Sweet won Saturday night’s race, the event will be remembered far more for the lap-eight incident involving him that delayed the majority of the feature for more than an hour.
Sweet had just made an inside pass for the lead on polesitter and early pace-setter Ian Madsen when Madsen took a big run off the second corner and tried to put his No. 18 to Sweet’s outside.
Hoping to slam the door closed, Sweet moved up the track off the exit of the turn, blocking the way forward as Madsen was coming with a full head of steam.
With no way to slow his pace, Madsen ramped over Sweet’s right rear tire and his KCP Racing sprinter flipped viciously into the fence, pirouetting along the cabling before coming to rest in a mangled heap at the entrance to turn three.
Thankfully, Madsen was able to climb out of his car and was released after being checked over in a waiting ambulance by medical personnel, but his quest for an Outlaw victory was over at that point.
From there, and after a lengthy open red flag for fence repairs, Sweet assumed position at the head of the pack and was never threatened again after that. He opened up a three-second lead in just four laps after the ensuing restart and managed the gap until a late yellow brought the field back to him.
A shredded right-rear tire on Kyle Larson’s No. 57 gave McFadden and the rest of the field one final shot to dethrone the Big Cat, but Sweet was golden on the restart and simply drove away into the night.
McFadden settled for second, happy to help deliver car owner Kasey Kahne a one-two finish.
“Brad did a really good job there, getting into (turn) three and splitting those cars,” McFadden lauded. “(Before that) I was actually thinking we were pretty good and we might have a shot at him, but then he got by those cars pretty quick and just kind of left me hanging in there.
“With the caution there at the end, he was just in clean air and I wasn’t ever going to catch him.”
Ironically enough, a former KKR driver – Roth Motorsports’ Daryn Pittman – completed the podium.
Brian Brown finished fourth and Friday runner-up Logan Schuchart, after taking a provisional just to start the main event, knifed through the field from 25th starting spot to complete the top five at the finish.
Donny Schatz crossed sixth, followed by Carson Macedo, Sheldon Haudenschild, Aaron Reutzel and Sam Hafertepe Jr.
Sweet remains in command of the Big Gator point standings on the strength of his two wins and four podiums in four nights, with only Sunday’s sprint car finale left to run on the week.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.