AUTO RACING ROUNDUP: Brad Sweet sweeps Beaver Dam races; Rossi finishes 15th in IndyCar opener
The professional wheelmen from Nevada County were in action over the weekend with Brad Sweet ripping around a dirt track in Wisconsin, Alexander Rossi getting behind the wheel for an IndyCar race for the first time this year, and Matt DiBenedetto putting the pedal to the floor in Atlanta.
Sweet, a Grass Valley native, shined over weekend. The defending World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champ swept a pair of races at Beaver Dam Raceway and took over the top spot in the overall points standings in the process.
Driving the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 NAPA Auto Parts sprint car, Sweet edged past Sheldon Haudenschild on the last lap to claim Friday night’s checkered flag. “The Big Cat” then dominated on Saturday night, earning his series-leading fourth win of the season.
“We’re just here to win races,” said Sweet. “When we’re standing here (in Victory Lane) we’re doing our job. I know everybody is working hard on our race team to get better. As the car gets better, we’re going to keep clicking these wins off. We were better tonight than we were last night. Eric (Prutzman, crew chief) keeps fine tuning on this thing. It really came to life about halfway through the race. I was just cruising really. When I get cars like that, it makes my job easy.”
Ten races into the season, Sweet has eight top-five finishes, including four wins. With 1,142 points he leads second place Donny Schatz by 28 in the overall points race.
Schatz is a 10-time Series champ and had won five straight (2014-2018) overall titles before Sweet unseated him a season ago.
“You don’t know how many times I’d lead a race until 25-30 laps in and he’d (Schatz) go driving by me,” Sweet said. “I wouldn’t call him a mentor because he didn’t tell me his secrets, but years and years of studying him is why we’re standing here. I feel like we got a little bit of an edge right now. He’s going to push his team and we’re going to push our team. It’s going to be a heck of a battle this year.”
Next up for World of Outlaws racing is Brownells Big Gun Bash at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa.
ROSSI TROUBLED BY TECHNICAL ISSUES
Over in IndyCar, the series fired up its engines for the first time this year on Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway for the Genesys 300. While there weren’t any fans in the stands, it was the most watched IndyCar race, excluding Indy 500s, since 2016.
Rossi’s season debut was a forgettable one. His car, as well as two others, suffered technical issues at the start which put them in a hole early on. Rossi, a Nevada City native, battled his way to a 15th place finish.
“Weird night for us,” Rossi posted on social media. “But the boys were (fire emoji) in pit lane. Proud of the effort put in this off-season.”
Five-time series champ Scott Dixon won the race for his 47th IndyCar victory of his career. Simon Pagenaud was second and Josef Newgarden was third.
The race in Texas was the first of the season for IndyCar, which has had to cancel and postpone several races due to COVID-19.
Rossi is in his fifth season on the IndyCar circuit and coming off a 2019 season in which he finished third in the overall points standings. Since joining IndyCar from Formula 1 in 2016, Rossi’s made 68 starts, won six poles, seven races — including the 2016 Indianapolis 500 — and has 28 top-five finishes.
Next up for Rossi and IndyCar is the GMR Grand Prix July 4 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
DIBENEDETTO FINISHES 25TH IN ATLANTA
DiBenedetto, a Grass Valley native, made his 11th start of the NASCAR season on Sunday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Driving the No. 21 car for Wood Brothers Racing, DiBenedetto placed 25th at the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500.
For the year, DiBenedetto has three top-10 finishes, including a second place finish Feb. 23 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Now in his sixth year on the NASCAR circuit, DiBenedetto has 186 starts and 13 top-10 finishes to his credit.
DiBenedetto is currently 15th in the overall NASCAR Cup Series points race with 246. Kevin Harvick leads all drivers with 421 points.
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4232.
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