Back in the driver’s seat: Brad Sweet’s quest for 3-peat off to strong start
Auto Racing: Brad Sweet’s quest for 3-peat off to strong start
With 59 total victories and back-to-back points championships, Brad Sweet has proved he is the foremost driver on the World of Outlaws Sprint Car series.
“The Big Cat” is hungry for more.
“You have to pinch yourself a little bit,” said Sweet of his consecutive title runs. “It’s a cool spot to be in, and a dream come true. But, it also makes me want to win more.”
The World of Outlaws Sprint Car series dropped the green flag on the 2021 season earlier this month and Sweet picked up where he left off — in victory lane. The 35-year-old Bear River High School graduate started his quest for a series three-peat by winning the first feature race of the season at Volusia Speedway Park in Florida, beating out runner-up Logan Schuchart for the checkered flag at the 30-lap feature.
“We’re going to have a heck of a battle between three, four, maybe even five of us this year,” Sweet said after the race. “Logan is putting pressure on us, Donny (Schatz) is putting pressure on us, and those other guys are just as good, too. It’s only night one, but I feel like I had to drive my ass off to get this win. I think as long as we stay focused, we should have a lot of confidence moving forward. Obviously excited to start the season with a win, but we know this one doesn’t mean a whole lot. We’ve still got 90 some other races to go.”
The victory was Sweet’s 59th in World of Outlaws events, making him the winningest California-born driver in the series’ history. Jason Myers of Clovis was the previous record holder.
Sweet, who drives the No. 49 NAPA Know How car for Kasey Kahne Racing, has been a rising star since he joined the series full time in 2014, finishing sixth overall in the points race that year and third in 2015. After runner-up finishes in 2017 and 2018, Sweet edged out Schatz for the points title in 2019, and then beat out Schuchart for the championship in 2020.
“The first time, you obviously just don’t know if you can do it until you do it,” Sweet said. “Then you win the second one and it makes you feel like the first one wasn’t a fluke. It makes you feel really good. Makes you feel accomplished. You always set those kind of goals, and when you win the first championship it feels like it was a long climb to get to the top of the mountain. Then you win a second, and it makes you feel like you’re right where you want to be. It also makes you want to win more.”
‘STRONGEST I’VE EVER SEEN IT’
Sweet said the series is in a good place with its popularity, and the field of drivers is as good as he’s seen since joining the Series full time in 2014.
“This year is the strongest I’ve ever seen it,” said Sweet. “I’m going on my eighth season and I’ve never seen it as deep as it is now. A lot of things got shaken up in the off season, and people ended up on different teams, but they all ended up in really strong positions.”
With just two races in the books so far, Sweet has already notched a win and a fifth place finish. It’s a good start, but it’s a long season with around 90 races left on the schedule.
Sweet added he is looking forward to the crown jewels of the sport, the Knoxville Nationals, in August, and a pair of Kings Royal races, in July. Both offer the winner a payout of at least $150,000.
“My goal this year is to focus on the big races and try to win as many as possible,” Sweet said. “Not trying to get too caught up in a points battle. Sometimes the points can make you be a little more conservative than you want to be… If you’re winning races, the points will take care of themselves.”
Sweet gets back at it with another race at Volusia Speedway Park March 5. The series then heads to Florida’s East Bay Raceway, March 6.
The series will not be making a West Coast swing this spring, but has California events on the calendar in September, including the 49er Gold Rush Classic held at Placerville Raceway and a pair of races at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico.
“I just want to thank everybody for the support,” Sweet said. “I can’t wait to get back to racing in California and see all the faces. We sure do miss them.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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