It’s been a rollercoaster of a season so far for Brad Sweet and the Kasey Kahne Racing (KKR) team as they aim to continue their 2019 success by coming out on top again in 2020 for back-to-back World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series Championship titles. They’ve ridden the wave of confidence for most of the season as they put together a string of wins and podium finishes, but not without facing some bad luck and adversity along the way.
Winning Start Followed by Three-Month Stop
Sweet kicked off the 2020 season in typical Sweet fashion by winning the Big Gator Championship in February at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park. After a strong start to the year, the last thing the No. 49 team wanted was a postponement of competition, but that’s precisely what happened when the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic hit. Sweet and the rest of the sprint car field were parked for three months before the series slowly began returning to action in May.
While racing was halted, series leaders worked diligently with health experts to bring back live sporting events while putting the health and safety of the competitors first. The World of Outlaws was not only the first national motorsports series to return to racing, it was also the first to bring fans back to the stands, a moved applauded by competitors and teams. Through the development of state-of-the-art scanning technology and on-site quick response testing, the series welcomed a sold-out crowd in July.
Fans passed through a 360o, TSA-like scanning machine, and were given a green or red light based on whether or not COVID-19 symptoms were detected. While most local and state government officials are restricting full attendance, the series leaders feel this could pave the way for hosting larger crowds at future events.
Life at Home During the Shutdown
A racecar driver’s life revolves around traveling and working tirelessly to prepare for each event. So what happens when that life is put on pause? Sweet shared a hilarious glimpse of his day in this tweet: “Currently YouTubing how to make hibachi for the family with beer bombs and sake, started a fire in the front yard just to watch it burn, played horse against my wife on the Little Tikes hoop and won.”
All jokes aside, Sweet turned to barbequing to make use of some of his spare time. He worked on mastering the art of cooking meats on the grill and even learned to use a smoker. Along with picking up a new hobby, Sweet and his wife, Rachel, kept themselves busy playing with their 2-year-old daughter, Savannah. While time off can be sweet, this driver was more than ready when the World of Outlaws returned to action at Iowa’s Knoxville Raceway in May.
Despite Ups and Downs, Focus is on Winning
When racing resumed, Sweet and his team earned a win, three top-three and five top-ten finishes in May, giving many a reason to believe they are in championship form again this season. The success continued into June when the KKR team celebrated three victories and finished outside the top five only one time. Sweet swept the Independence Day Spectacular at Cedar Lake Speedway in Wisconsin to kick-off a full month of racing in July, extending his points lead by over 100.
Things began to turn south the following weekend when the team saw clouds of smoke rolling out of the NAPA AUTO PARTS car, forcing them to take their first DNF of the season. A string of ups and downs followed as the team accumulated three more DNFs with a handful of podium finishes occurring between them.
Sweet was shocked by the unusually high number of DNFs that he and fellow competitor Donny Schatz have had this season. He said, “2020 has been a strange year, and we’ve seen a lot of things that I’ve never seen before.” However, the points battle is the last thing on Sweet’s mind right now. With fast cars and one of the best teams on the circuit, his focus is on winning.
“The NAPA AUTO PARTS car is fast every weekend, and if we keep working hard every day, the wins will come,” said Sweet. With a smile he added, Outlaws“The points will work themselves out at the end of the year.” And with the confidence, talent and laser focus that this KKR team has, fans would be crazy to think anything different. Sweet and his KKR team are sure to drive their way into victory lane several more times in the final 22 races.
With more than half of the season complete, Sweet has accumulated the most wins among his World of Outlaws competitors with seven victories in 32 starts. Among those starts, he has 21 top-five finishes and has finished outside the top-10 only five times. With a tight points battle on the line, the second half of the World of Outlaws schedule will undoubtedly be a spectacle to keep an eye on.
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