Brad Sweet spent years watching 10-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion Donny Schatz drive away from him and dominate races.
The roles reversed Saturday night at Beaver Dam Raceway.
“The Big Cat” turned the 1/3-mile track his personal playground for the weekend. He thrilled fans with a last lap pass on Sheldon Haudenschild to win Friday night and then dominated the 40-lap Feature on Saturday to sweep the weekend and take home $16,000 in winnings between the two nights. He led the final 30 laps, lapped up to 10th place and beat Schatz to the line by close to two seconds.
“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 after getting a congratulatory handshake from Schatz. “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.”
Sweet’s teammate and car owner Kasey Kahne had one of his best performances of the year, stealing the lead from polesitter Shane Stewart on the opening lap and holding it for the next 10. After Sweet passed him for the lead on Lap 11, he maintained a top-five for the majority of race before fading to ninth.
With the lead in hand, Sweet was untouchable in his Kasey Kahne Racing NAPA Auto Parts #49. His closest competitor was second-place Logan Schuchart, who he gapped by 3.5 seconds before a caution with eight laps to go. On the restart, Schuchart stayed in tow with Sweet before jumping the cushion in Turn 4 and hitting the wall. Schatz then moved into the runner-up spot to take his turn at Sweet.
On the final restart with three laps to go, Sweet spun his tires exiting Turn 4. Knowing Schatz would attack, Sweet stayed low down the front stretch to deny Schatz a lane underneath him. When they got to Turn 1, Sweet went high and Schatz dove low, edging his nose ahead of Sweet. However, Sweet had the better momentum off the corner and launched ahead of Schatz’s CARQUEST Auto Parts #15.
Sweet was then on cruise control with what he called his best car of the year and claimed his fourth win this season – third win in a row at Beaver Dam.
“We’re just here to win races,” said Sweet, of Grass Valley, CA. “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.”
Schatz’s second-place finish was his fourth top-five in a row with his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing team. And while he’d rather be one spot better, he acknowledged that some nights you’re just going to finish second – especially when you have to compete against Sweet.
“They’ve had a good target to chase for a while,” said Schatz, of Fargo, ND. “It’s time to move that bar again… It is what it is. This is a humbling sport. It’s a humbling game. We’re not hanging our heads. Some nights you’re going to run second. There’s a lot of nights you’re going to run second to that (#49 KKR) car. We just keep digging. That’s what it takes. There’s not been a lot of racing this year. At least we’re getting back going and glad to see people in the stands. That makes this all worth it.”
David Gravel rounded out the podium. Haudenschild had an impressive run from 16th to fourth – earning the KSE Racing Hard Charger award. And Shane Stewart finished fifth – his fifth top-five finish in a row, moving him to fourth in points.
With Schuchart finishing 21st, Sweet reclaimed the points lead – now 28 points ahead of Schatz, who also moved past Schuchart into second. Schuchart fell to third, 36 points behind Sweet.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returns to the “Sprint Car Capital of the World” Knoxville Raceway on June 12-13 for the Brownells Big Guns Bash. Tickets for the doubleheader event can be purchased by clicking here.
If you can’t make it to the track, you can watch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (40 Laps) – 1. 49-Brad Sweet [$10,000]; 2. 15-Donny Schatz [$5,000]; 3. 41-David Gravel [$3,000]; 4. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,700]; 5. 71-Shane Stewart [$2,500]; 6. 5-Brent Marks [$2,200]; 7. 2-Carson Macedo [$2,000]; 8. 2M-Kerry Madsen [$1,800]; 9. 9-Kasey Kahne [$1,600]; 10. 1A-Jacob Allen [$1,450]; 11. 7S-Jason Sides [$1,300]; 12. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,200]; 13. 17B-Bill Balog [$1,100]; 14. 14-Parker Price-Miller [$1,000]; 15. 83-Daryn Pittman [$950]; 16. 3-Tim Kaeding [$900]; 17. 13-Mark Dobmeier [$850]; 18. 23-Russel Borland [$750]; 19. 9K-Kyle Schuett [$725]; 20. 6-Bill Rose [$700]; 21. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$700]; 22. 73-Jake Blackhurst [$700]; 23. 10W-Scotty Thiel [$700]; 24. 33M-Mason Daniel [$700]; Lap Leaders: Kasey Kahne 1-10, Brad Sweet 11-40; KSE Hard Charger Award: 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[+12]
Qualifying – 1. 2M-Kerry Madsen, 11.429; 2. 71-Shane Stewart, 11.461; 3. 1A-Jacob Allen, 11.537; 4. 9-Kasey Kahne, 11.615; 5. 11K-Kraig Kinser, 11.631; 6. 41-David Gravel, 11.641; 7. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 11.647; 8. 15-Donny Schatz, 11.657; 9. 49-Brad Sweet, 11.675; 10. 5-Brent Marks, 11.697; 11. 2-Carson Macedo, 11.717; 12. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 11.735; 13. 83-Daryn Pittman, 11.769; 14. 33M-Mason Daniel, 11.833; 15. 14-Parker Price-Miller, 11.835; 16. 13-Mark Dobmeier, 11.835; 17. 10W-Scotty Thiel, 11.843; 18. 23-Russel Borland, 11.856; 19. 7S-Jason Sides, 11.879; 20. 73-Jake Blackhurst, 11.9; 21. 3-Tim Kaeding, 11.938; 22. 6-Bill Rose, 11.952; 23. 2W-Scotty Neitzel, 12.001; 24. 9K-Kyle Schuett, 12.033; 25. 5J-Jeremy Schultz, 12.062; 26. 17B-Bill Balog, 12.078; 27. 2C-Wayne Johnson, 12.125; 28. 68-Dave Uttech, 12.146; 29. 12W-Josh Walter, 12.185; 30. 25-Danny Schlafer, 12.268; 31. 10V-Matt Vandervere, 12.506; 32. 55-Austin DeBlauw, 12.812; 33. 20R-Robbie Pribnow, 13.227; 34. 10S-Jay Steinebach, 13.503; 35. 9X-Paul Nienhiser, NT