A weekend of racing at ‘The Big E,’ Eldora Speedway, was the agenda for Brad Sweet and the NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 team as the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series rolled into Rossville, Ohio, for ‘Let’s Race 2.’ Sweet has enjoyed considerable success at Eldora, having claimed two King’s Royal victories along with five top-fives in his last eight starts there. When the action at the famous half-mile was all over Saturday night, Sweet had added to that success and reclaimed the championship points lead.
With 46 cars in attendance on Friday, Sweet was scheduled to qualify second in Flight A. He clocked a lap of 12.930 seconds, quickest in his flight, and was slated to start first in Heat Race 1. The heat race competitors lined up in pairs, and the heat race went green. With the early advantage, the NAPA No. 49 took the lead. Sweet continued to build a gap on his second-place competitor and crossed the line first, scoring the heat race win and punching his ticket to the Fast Pass Dash.
“I think you need to really focus on every aspect of your race car,” Sweet said during the dash draw. “It is super technical, and there is not a lot of forgiveness here. You can try to run the wall, but if your car is not that good… then with a good car, you can run anywhere on the race track.”
After drawing the second starting spot for the dash, the NAPA No. 49 lined up on the front row of the six-lap dash. Sweet again had the advantage on the start and ripped around the top line, claiming the opening lap. The four-time World of Outlaws champion then slowly extended his lead to two seconds before securing the dash win, putting the Big Cat on the pole for the 30-lap main event.
With the feature race competitors lined up side by side, the flagman gave the signal to start. Sweet spun his tires on the initial start and fell back to third place. Fourth-place runner Donny Schatz gained on Sweet and made the pass for third on lap 9. Sweet held his line, and the NAPA No. 49 crossed the checkers in fourth.
Sweet looked to improve his finish heading into the final night of ‘Let’s Race Two.’ With five fewer cars in attendance, Sweet was seventh in Flight B of qualifying, where he posted a lap time of 12.823 seconds. The time was third-quickest in Flight B, placing Sweet second to start Heat Race 3.
Competitors lined up side by side for the heat race and took the green flag. David Gravel assumed the lead on the first lap, and Sweet attempted to close on him. The NAPA driver was unable to get there, but finishing second in his heat race still locked him in to the Fast Pass Dash.
“Eight is not what you hope for, but we got the front row last night, so the averages are going to average out, I guess,” Sweet said after drawing the final starting spot for the dash. “We’ll see what our car has here in dirty air. It’s pretty fast right now, so we’ll see what we can do here.”
The NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 machine looked fast from the drop of the green flag, with Sweet claiming sixth by lap 2 of the dash. With two laps to go, the Big Cat took over fifth and kept pushing ahead. Coming to the checkered flag, Sweet was about three car lengths short of claiming another spot. The fifth-place finish in the dash placed him fifth to start Saturday night’s feature.
Following the Outlaws signature four-wide salute to the fans, cars realigned in pairs and the field went green. Sweet engaged the full potential of the No. 49 and explored different lines on the track, looking for one that suited his setup. After a mid-race caution, the field returned to green. Continuously running the high side, Sweet brought the NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 home in eighth place. While his finish wasn’t ideal, Sweet regained the championship points lead leaving Eldora Speedway.
Start / Finish:
Friday, May 5: 1 / 4
Saturday, May 6: 5 / 8
Points Standing / Total: 1st / 2,374 pts. (+2)
Next Race: Wednesday, May 10, Lincoln Speedway, Abbottstown, Penn.
How to Watch or Listen: www.dirtvision.com
Kasey Kahne Racing (KKR), located in Mooresville, NC, was formed in 2005 and employs more than ten people dedicated to sprint car racing. The organization fields two entries in the World of Outlaw Sprint Car Series; Brad Sweet (NAPA No.49) and former NASCAR Cup Series driver Kasey Kahne (No.9). Collectively, KKR has 5 World of Outlaws Championships (Daryn Pittman in '13 and Brad Sweet in '19,'20,'21 &'22). Since the team's inception, KKR has amassed over 211 World of Outlaws wins.