From Brian Walker / worldofoutlaws.com
There was simply no denying Brad Sweet on Saturday night at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at I-55.
As a three-time champion and winner of 77 career Features with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series, the Grass Valley, CA native is still finding ways to knock out those first-career achievements with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
In July, he finally earned his first-career win at Williams Grove Speedway, and on Saturday, he finally tamed the iconic Ironman 55 presented by Festus Tourism Commission. “The Big Cat” has long been successful at the Pevely, MO 1/3-mile – proven by his now five-career wins at the track – but the track’s flagship event had always eluded him until tonight.
Earning the pole position with his Series-best fifth win in the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash, Sweet quickly assumed the point and never relinquished it throughout 55 laps. The Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 was in impeccable form, building an advantage as large as 4+ seconds at one point, and surviving a trio of restarts with ease.
It was a bit of redemption for the current championship leader, who lost Friday’s Night Before the Ironman in heartbreaking fashion when lap traffic allowed Carson Macedo to instantly close and complete a Hail Mary slider. The 36-year-old kept that in mind as he destroyed the field in Saturday’s $20,000-to-win Feature.
“After last night, I felt like we had something to prove and I was pretty pissed off to be honest,” Sweet admitted. “I let my guys down and I didn’t do my job to deliver the win we needed and deserved. Team morale and confidence are a big thing in this sport and now we’re heading to the Knoxville Nationals after dominating 55 laps on the hardest track of the year. It’s nice to finally add this one to the resume.”
Although the 2018 Knoxville Nationals champion controlled Saturday’s show from green to checkered, he never felt at ease in the cockpit.
“You just don’t have any time to relax at this race track,” Sweet continued. “You’re constantly searching for a faster line and I felt like I drove 48 good laps, but there were some mistakes in there when I went looking for things. Luckily this car was so good that I could maneuver a little better than others. I was definitely a little extra tense about getting this one.”
Trailing Sweet’s NAPA #49 for all 55 laps was Carson Macedo in the Jason Johnson Racing, Albaugh #41. Unlike Friday night, there was no late-race magic to spoil Sweet’s party this time. The Lemoore, CA native did receive his golden opportunity when the caution flew on Lap 50 and lined him up on Sweet’s rear bumper, but nothing could deter the #49 from cruising to a 1.396-second margin of victory.
“I think we were competitive again and felt like we executed really well, but Brad was just so damn good in that Feature,” Macedo mentioned on chasing Sweet. “He could move around and make it work wherever he needed. I feel like last year we weren’t nearly this good at Pevely, so to come here with two wins and a second is pretty awesome. I’m pumped up for Knoxville.”
Completing the exact same trio of podium finishers for the second night in a row was James McFadden in his Roth Motorsports #83. He’ll head to the Knoxville Nationals carrying loads of speed and confidence hoping to add that first win of the season to his belt.
“He spanked us,” McFadden said on Sweet. “When there’s a middle like that, Brad is the guy to beat. We were competitive with Carson and I had a really good battle with Donny, too. I love racing with Donny, a guy as good as him, and how he races you. Those guys out front were in another world, but it was fun battling our little bubble tonight. I hope I can win this race one day, we’ve been close several times now. Onto Knoxville.”
Donny Schatz finished in fourth for the second straight night aboard his Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing, Ford Performance, Carquest Auto Parts #15. Rounding out the top five was Sheldon Haudenschild, who charged from 19th to fifth to earn KSE Hard Charger honors in the Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing, NOS Energy Drink #17.
Closing out the top-10 in Saturday’s 55-lapper was Rico Abreu in sixth, Brock Zearfoss in seventh, Justin Peck in eighth, Noah Gass in ninth, and Spencer Bayston in tenth.
The Greatest Show on Dirt now prepares for The Granddaddy of ‘Em All. The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series is heading for The Sprint Car Capital of the World, Knoxville, Iowa. A field of 100+ entries will compete for a million-dollar purse in the 61st NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s from Wednesday-Saturday, August 10-13.
NOS Energy Drink Feature Results (55 Laps):
1. 49-Brad Sweet [$20,000]; 2. 41-Carson Macedo [$6,000]; 3. 83-James McFadden [$3,500]; 4. 15-Donny Schatz [$2,800]; 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [$2,500]; 6. 24-Rico Abreu [$2,300]; 7. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [$2,200]; 8. 13-Justin Peck [$2,100]; 9. 20G-Noah Gass [$2,050]; 10. 5-Spencer Bayston [$2,000]; 11. 83JR-Kerry Madsen [$1,600]; 12. 2-David Gravel [$1,400]; 13. 1AU-Marcus Dumesny [$1,200]; 14. 51B-Joe B-Miller [$1,100]; 15. 11K-Kraig Kinser [$1,050]; 16. 84-Brandon Hanks [$1,000]; 17. 1S-Logan Schuchart [$1,000]; 18. 9JR-Derek Hagar [$1,000]; 19. 3N-Jake Neuman [$1,000]; 20. 7S-Robbie Price [$1,000]; 21. 101-Lachlan McHugh [$1,000]; 22. 25-JJ Hickle [$1,000]; 23. 1A-Jacob Allen [$1,000]; 24. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg [$1,000].
Championship Standings (After 47/77 Races):
1. Brad Sweet (6,380); 2. David Gravel (-68); 3. Carson Macedo (-114); 4. Sheldon Haudenschild (-150); 5. Donny Schatz (-184); 6. Logan Schuchart (-224); 7. James McFadden (-356); 8. Spencer Bayston (-372); 9. Jacob Allen (-616); 10. Brock Zearfoss (-688).
See the full story and results:
Photo: worldofoutlaws.com / Trent Gower
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