KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Multi-faceted racer and noted industry giant Randy Sweet, the founder of Sweet Manufacturing, died Friday morning at the age of 72.
Sweet was a legendary innovator in the sport, but just as well-known for a time as a driver in his own right, with four late model track championships at Michigan’s Berlin Raceway (1975, ‘94, ‘95, ’99) and 63 late model feature victories at the seven-sixteenths-mile oval.
He began racing in 1963 and moved into supermodifieds late in the decade, all while developing and building his own race cars. The dawn of the 1970s saw Sweet step into the seat for car owners Glenn Miniat and Harry Obie, setting a track record at Indiana’s Winchester Speedway in 1978.
It was that same year that Sweet began manufacturing and selling products that he had tested and proven on his own machines already, debuting the Sweet Manufacturing brand which still exists today and supplies parts to stock cars and sprint cars across the nation.
The mid-1980s saw Sweet begin touring in his legendary “rocket car,” a purpose-built late model created for the purpose of shattering track records across the nation.
Sweet turned his final laps in a sprint car at Kalamazoo (Mich.) Speedway on July 21, 2013, while his last racing laps of any kind came at Berlin three years ago.
A 1997 inductee into the Michigan Motorsports Hall of Fame, Sweet was inducted into the Berlin Raceway Hall of Fame on Nov. 1, a well-deserved honor for one of the kings of the Marne facility.
“Randy was a great racer in his own right, but his innovations over the years with things in motorsports and especially short-racing and a lot of that stuff is still used today,” said Berlin Raceway track announcer Matt McKenzie on Friday. “A lot of that stuff was innovated in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. That’s why so many people have so much respect for him.
“It’s not just because of his ability as a race car driver, which he was one of the best. He set track records in the ‘80s with his modified late model car. His innovations and his unique personality made for a combination of epic proportions.
“He was one of the giants of short-track racing.”
In recent years, outside of his product work with Sweet Manufacturing, Sweet was also well-known as a major backer of Scott Bloomquist’s Team Zero Racing operation.
Bloomquist, who won his Drydene heat race with the World of Outlaws Late Model Series on Friday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte, was emotional in discussing his longtime supporter and friend’s passing.
“We certainly wish he was still here with us, particularly on this weekend. He was like a father to me,” noted Bloomquist. “We’re going to miss him a lot, but this No. 0 feels really good and I think we’ll be in there tonight to try and win one for him, that’s for sure.”