AUTO RACING: Brad Sweet balancing jobs of promoter and driver during West Coast swing
PLACERVILLE – Returning home to California is one of the more relaxing stretches of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series tour for Brad Sweet.
However, in the final week of the West Coast swing, which includes Placerville Speedway on Wednesday, the Stockton Dirt Track on Friday and Calistoga Speedway on Saturday, there’s a lot to juggle for the Grass Valley driver.
Along with focusing on winning and cutting into 10-time Series champion Donny Schatz’s points lead — which he’s cut from 36 to six points in the last three races — Sweet has the added task of being the promoter for the 49er Gold Rush Classic at Placerville Speedway presented by Riebes NAPA Auto Parts.
It’s not a side of the sport he ever thought of getting involved with, he said. But Placerville is his home and was one of his home tracks growing up.
“I just always wondered why it doesn’t have an Outlaw race,” Sweet said. “Never thought of it from the business standpoint. I asked the local promoter and he said I would be more than welcome to rent the track and take the risk.”
After talking with World of Outlaws COO Tom Deery about being a promoter, Sweet said he got his feet wet in the position and began learning more about that side of the business. One thing he took away from it is, in racing, everyone is in it together.
“The promoter has to do well. The drivers have to do well. The fans have to be happy. Otherwise the whole business doesn’t work,” Sweet said. “It’s been neat to learn the other side of the business.
“You know, I love driving the race cars, but that experience has made me realize there’s a lot more to the whole business than just getting in and driving. You need the promoter to have a good crowd, otherwise he can’t pay the purse. It’s been fun to learn that. I’ve done a few more, but I really enjoy doing Placerville.”
Being a promoter can lack enjoyment at times, Sweet said, because every race is gamble. You never know if you’re going to make money or not. The goal is to have a full crowd to be able to pay all of the bills and hopefully end the night making a little bit of money. It’s a big nut to crack, though, he said.
On race day he has a support network that helps him run the event, while he’s working with his Kasey Kahne Racing team.
“I’ve learned to have a plan and have all of the people in the right place and still just do my job on race day,” Sweet said. “There’s great promoters there that do the weekly show. Obviously, the Outlaws are a tremendous help. They run 90 races a year, so they know what they’re doing. I have a good support system with my family. They run all of the gates and stuff, so I can just kind of focus on driving.”
The West Coast swing has already been beneficial to Sweet, who has two wins in the last three races — at Willamette Speedway and Silver Dollar Speedway. Those two wins have brought Sweet to 14 wins this year — the most wins he’s ever earned in a season, so far — and brought him and his team out of a slump they’ve had since the Knoxville Nationals.
“We were a little disappointed in our results and we had a few finishes that weren’t that good after that, probably a little bit of a hangover from kind of, maybe, not going as good,” Sweet said. “Racing is always a rollercoaster. You just really want to minimize the downs. And sometimes when things are down, a lot of it is just mental. And you’ve got to get everyone back going again. A win will do that. We feel like we’re back in our rhythm. Hopefully everything is kind of back on track and we can keep plugging away.”
Returning home is relaxing for him, he said. He’s around family and friends, and going to tracks he admitted he knows a little better than some.
Sweet won his first World of Outlaws race at Placerville Speedway last year. He won at the Stockton Dirt Track in 2017, and finished second there in March, and has three wins at Calistoga Speedway.
The championship battle between he and Schatz has remained close all year long with the two drivers trading the points lead multiple times throughout the year. Sweet lost the points lead to Schatz last month and has remained second in points since then.
For most of the season Sweet has said he doesn’t pay attention to the points, choosing to just focus on his performance with his NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 car each week and let the points play out from that. However, now, with less than 20 races to go in the season, he’s giving it a little more attention.
“We just try to focus on each and every night, but I mean you can’t help but think you need to be ahead as it gets closer to the end to have a chance to win,” Sweet said. “We just want to at least give ourselves a shot. It’s never going to be easy to beat a ten-time champion. You know, Donny, he’s got a lot of tricks up his sleeve. We know we just need to keep focusing on what we do.
“We feel like we’ve been the best car this year when we’re on. We made a few mistakes and let him get ahead of us. We just need to keep plugging away and not beat ourselves up or let ourselves dwell on the points. We’re just going to come in here each and every night and try to win the race. Like I said all year, if we focus on us and we win the race, obviously the points take care of themselves. We can’t control what Donny does. We can only control what happens with our team and our race car. If he beats us fair and square and we gave it our best show, then so be it. If we beat him because we did our job, we’re going to be proud of that, too.”
This article was submitted to The Union by Nick Graziano, PR coordinator for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series. To learn more about the series visit worldofoutlaws.com/sprintcars.
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