BEAVER DAM, Wis. — Brad Sweet continued his early season dominance by winning Saturday night at Beaver Dam Raceway and extending his point lead over Donny Schatz.
In the words of Sweet himself, “the more you lead, the better you get at it.”
Almost halfway through the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season, Sweet has made leading a habit and gotten better at it each race.
With more than 100 laps led already this season, the Grass Valley, Calif.-native added another 38 laps to that total after claiming his fifth victory of the season.
“I’m just happy we’re clicking them off and have a little bit of momentum on our side,” said Sweet, after claiming his 39th series victory.
His second victory at the Wisconsin track wasn’t earned without a few faults and lessons learned along the way.
The third-mile track was slick and technical for the 40-lap feature, he said. That meant finding the right line at the right time; a feat the Kasey Kahne Racing driver faults himself for not executing perfectly.
But before the track began to take rubber late in the race, forcing Sweet to contemplate the best line, he had to contest with DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash winner Shane Stewart for the lead.
On the initial start, Stewart jumped to the lead riding the high side of the track. Sweet chose the bottom. In two laps, the advantage proved to be Sweet’s. The NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 sped past Stewart, putting close to a second gap between them.
His newfound lead was cut short a few seconds later when Logan Schuchart brought out the first caution of the night by coming to a stop in turn three.
On the restart, Sweet returned to form. He shot to the lead, leaving the remaining 23 cars to content for second amongst themselves.
Stewart held on to the position for the next few laps before trying the low line and bicycling his car off turn four, giving Daryn Pittman an easy pass for second-place.
For the remaining 33 laps, third-place was traded among Stewart, David Gravel, Sheldon Haudenschild, Donny Schatz and Ian Madsen.
By the halfway point, Sweet caught lapped traffic and Pittman started to close in. However, navigating lap traffic — a situation Sweet has found himself in several times already this year while leading — only made him faster.
Pittman eventually transitioned to the high side and again began to close in on Sweet. But with 15 laps to go, Sweet also moved to the top and pulled away to the $20,000 victory.
“It was finesse. It was tricky,” Sweet said about the race. “I had to move around on the race track. I think the bottom caught a few guys off guard. I don’t know if they thought they should be on the bottom in (turns) three and four. I kind of had an idea. I did my warm up down there to see how much grip was down there.
“Luckily it was good down there early and I was able to get the lead. I made a couple of mistakes there. I probably stayed down there too long. But I didn’t want to follow lap guys. It’s just tricky sometimes leading and moving around.”
While Pittman’s second-place finish – his third podium finish in-a-row – was a momentum building performance with his Roth Motorsports team, he’s hungry for more.
“It just feels like it’s been a while since I won,” said Pittman, who last won in Florida in February. “I’ve gone from, how do we turn things around, to being consistent, to now dammit I want to win. We’ve still got to get a little bit better, but we’re close.”
The duel for third was won by the Jason Johnson Racing No. 41 car of Gravel. In JJR’s return to Beaver Dam Raceway after Jason Johnson’s death there last year, Gravel kept the No. 41 car up front all night. He was the fast qualifier, won his Drydene Heat race and fought hard for a podium.
“We wanted to win tonight, but we’re happy with a podium,” Gravel said. “Third is good. We’ve been rolling pretty good here. Just have to keep it going.”
To see full results, turn to the next page.