AUTO RACING: Sprint car driver Brad Sweet honored for championship season (PHOTO GALLERY)
The past year has been a dream come true for Brad Sweet.
The veteran driver rose to the top of the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series in 2019, winning 16 races, notching 47 top-five finishes and racing past 10-time series champ Donny Schatz to win his first World of Outlaws Points Championship. Sweet also took the checkered flag at the King’s Royal race, which featured a Series record $175,000 payout to the winner. The Bear River grad even took on the role of promoter for the 49er Gold Rush Classic at Placerville Speedway this past season.
For his incredible efforts in 2019, Sweet was honored at a banquet dinner Thursday night held at the Foothills Event Center in Grass Valley.
“So much emotion, so much passion, so much hard work goes into a season like that.” Sweet said at the event during an interview with fellow Bear River grad and voice of Silver Dollar Raceway Troy Hennig. “Such a relief to actually win the championship with it being so close in the last month. To beat Donny Schatz, the 10-time defending champion was amazing.”
Unseating Schatz was no easy task, as Sweet and the defending champ traded the points lead back and forth throughout the season. It wasn’t until the Can-Am World Finals in Charlotte that Sweet clinched the points title by placing second in the Series finale, finishing a spot ahead of Schatz. Sweet won the Series championship by four points, the smallest margin of victory in World of Outlaws history.
“I’m very proud of my team and myself that we were able to get through that pressure and hold (Schatz) off,” said Sweet, who drives the No. 49 NAPA car for Kasey Kahne Racing. “It’s special to be a champion in anything, but it’s a dream come true, and to do it like we did made it extra special.”
Throughout the evening, Sweet was honored by several local organizations and shared stories of his journey as a race car driver.
The dinner was hosted by Bart Riebe of Riebes Auto Parts, who also presented Sweet with a plaque commemorating his championship season.
“In appreciation for all you do for NAPA and Riebes Auto Parts, we are very fortunate to have such an outstanding driver to represent all of us,” said Riebe.
Event organizer Jay Cooper said there was around 200 people at the sold out dinner.
“We want (Brad) to know how proud we are to have young men like him, that do such an outstanding job, representing us world wide,” Cooper said.
Bear River Principal Chris Roberts also presented Sweet with a plaque, and praised him for being an inspiration for all young people in Nevada County.
“To have someone actually do what he’s done and represent like he has is huge,” said Roberts. “It’s a guiding light or beacon to the students that they can accomplish something like that even attending a small school and coming from a small community. It gives them some hope and some direction.”
The plaque from Roberts featured Sweet’s senior portrait and yearbook quote, “Life isn’t always about school, and getting a job. It’s about eating, sleeping and racing.”
Sweet also received a plaque commemorating his achievements from the Nevada County Board of Supervisors.
The evening also featured appearances by K&N Series Champion Derek Kraus and stunt driver Tony Hunt, who has worked on films such as “The Fate of the Furious,” “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” and most recently “Ford vs. Ferrari.”
“It’s a pleasure to be here tonight, and congrats to Brad,” said Hunt. “We were all following you. Lap by lap there at the end, and we were all counting the points with you. The energy in this neighborhood was at its highest and we’re super proud of you.”
In addition to honoring Sweet for his championship season, the event served as a fundraiser for the Bear River High School FFA, which provided a tri-tip dinner for those in attendance. All proceeds from the dinner and memorabilia auction went directly to the Bear River FFA.
“Your home is where your heart is,” said Sweet. “My heart has always been in Grass Valley. My grandparents grew up here. We’ve been around Grass Valley our whole lives. I love Northern California, I grew up racing here. We’re very proud to be here and thanks to Jay (Cooper) and Bart (Riebe) for putting this on.”
To contact Sports Editor Walter Ford, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4232.
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