Brad Sweet seemed unstoppable on his four-race winning streak, that is until his own teammate James McFadden stepped up to deny him.
Making his 100th career World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series start on Saturday night at Kokomo Speedway, McFadden led the final 30 laps aboard his Karavan Trailers #9 and paved the path for a Kasey Kahne Racing 1-2 finish with Sweet behind him in the NAPA Auto Parts #49.
A drama-filled 40-lapper at the Kokomo, IN 1/4-mile saw David Gravel command the opening 10 laps before spinning from second with two to go, saw Donny Schatz and Logan Schuchart suffer mechanical issues, saw Tyler Courtney’s career-best run of third shattered with a flat right rear, and saw Sheldon Haudenschild roar from 21st-to-5th in the closing stages.
For McFadden, the Alice Springs, NT, AUS native banked $10,000 with his first victory of the season in only his sixth start since coming overseas to relieve Kasey Kahne of full-time duties back in March. It’s the third career victory for the 31-year-old they call J-Mac.
“I’m just pumped to be here right now, man,” an elated McFadden said in victory lane. “I gotta thank Kasey [Kahne] and this whole KKR team; it’s a pleasure to drive this car. I’m glad I can do it justice and put in victory lane. It’s good to get one on that NAPA car. He’s been laying it on us, so hopefully we can get on our little roll now.”
Nearly perfect on the night, McFadden’s Kokomo quest began with the Slick Woody’s QuickTime Award (11.243 seconds) and continued with a win in the opening Team Drydene Heat Race. He was stopped by Gravel in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash, but earned the outside pole position with 40 laps on tap.
Aboard the Big Game Motorsports, THE SHOWDOWN #2, Gravel paced the opening 10 circuits of Feature action before lap traffic allowed McFadden to capitalize. Moving up a lane as Gravel became mired on the bottom behind back markers, McFadden quickly swooped right by Gravel on Lap 11 and never looked back.
Hampered by six cautions, Saturday’s feature saw a Lap 2 mechanical issue for Donny Schatz (5th), Lap 21 problem for Logan Schuchart (16th), Lap 26 trouble for Tim Kaeding (17th), Lap 30 red flag for Carson Short (14th), Lap 37 spin for Jason Sides (13th), and a shocking Lap 38 infield tire incident for David Gravel (2nd).
In the end, McFadden survived a green-white-checkered restart and ran off to a 1.059-second advantage at the checkered flag.
“The track was surprisingly tough tonight, it just changed around a bunch,” McFadden noted. “I was running the top to get around David, but it go so dirty that I felt like I needed to get to the bottom. We got through lap traffic really well, and I think that was big. Being in victory lane six races in is pretty awesome.”
Chasing McFadden to the stripe was his Kasey Kahne Racing w/ Mike Curb teammate, Brad Sweet. The Big Cat rallied from 12th on lap one to finish in second, extending his career-best streak of consecutive podium finishes to a whopping nine races.
“I just shot myself in the foot during qualifying tonight,” Sweet said on getting behind the eight-ball. “Once we got to third in the Feature I think the track just moved down and we ran out of options. I tried the top on the green-white-checkered, but felt like I was gonna give up second and had to come back down. That’s what you have to do sometimes: get the best finish you possibly can. Tonight is a great testament to our team. It’s fun to be disappointed with second.”
Finishing third and landing on the podium for the first time in his World of Outlaws career was Justin Peck. The Monrovia, IN native drove from 11th-to-third aboard the Tom Buch owned #13 and kept his early-season hot streak alive; ahead of his return to Haubstadt tomorrow where he’s excelled in the past.
“Our team morale is pretty high right now, so it makes working with these guys super easy,” Peck noted on their success. “We’ve got everything hooked up right now. It’s great to be on the podium, but obviously we want to be a little better. That KKR team is just outstanding right now. We’ve got a little bit to clean up on our end.”
Coming home a season-high fourth at Kokomo was Australia’s Ian Madsen in the McGhee #11. Rounding out the top five was Sheldon Haudenschild with KSE Hard Charger honors thanks to his magnificent 21st-to-fifth bid in the NOS Energy Drink, Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing #17; which gives him eight-straight top five finishes.
Closing out the top ten was Jason Johnson Racing’s Carson Macedo, Bloomington, IN native Kraig Kinser, Kokomo’s own hometown hero Parker Price-Miller, Indianapolis superstar Tyler Courtney with a solid recovery, and Aaron Reutzel in the Roth Motorsports ride.
UP NEXT – The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series wrap up the Hoosier State doubleheader on Saturday, April 10 with a trip down to Haubstadt, IN’s Tri-State Speedway.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (40 Laps) – 1. 9-James McFadden [$10,000]; 2. 49-Brad Sweet [$6,000]; 3. 13-Justin Peck [$3,500]; 4. 11-Ian Madsen [$2,800]; 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,500]; 6. 41-Carson Macedo [$2,300]; 7. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$2,200]; 8. 19-Parker Price-Miller [$2,100]; 9. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [$2,050]; 10. 83-Aaron Reutzel [$2,000]; 11. 26-Cory Eliason [$1,600]; 12. 2-David Gravel [$1,400]; 13. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$1,200]; 14. 7S-Jason Sides [$1,100]; 15. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg [$1,050]; 16. 15H-Sam Hafertepe [$1,000]; 17. 2C-Wayne Johnson [$]; 18. 3-Ayrton Gennetten [$1,000]; 19. 10-Zeb Wise [$1,000]; 20. 1A-Jacob Allen [$1,000]; 21. 24-Rico Abreu [$1,000]; 22. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$1,000]; 23. 21-Carson Short [$1,000]; 24. 14-Tim Kaeding [$1,000]; 25. 15-Donny Schatz [$1,000]. Lap Leaders: David Gravel 1-10, James McFadden 11-40. KSE Hard Charger Award: 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[+16]
NEW Championship Standings (12/83 Races) – 1. Brad Sweet (1,744); 2. Sheldon Haudenschild (-78); 3. Logan Schuchart (-86); 4. David Gravel (-100); 5. Carson Macedo (-124); 6. Aaron Reutzel (-138); 7. Donny Schatz (-166); 8. Kraig Kinser (-208); 9. Giovanni Scelzi (-272); 10. Brock Zearfoss (-284).