It seems like only yesterday that a baby-faced, sprint car sensation from Grass Valley, Calif., arrived in the Midwest in hopes of securing a first-class ticket on the express train from the bullrings of USAC to the superspeedways of NASCAR.
In short time, Brad Sweet found himself in one of USAC’s top rides — wheeling a midget and a sprint car for Kasey Kahne Racing — and under the watchful eye of those who evaluated talent for the numerous driver-development programs that dotted the NASCAR landscape during that period.
But that was more than a decade ago, and Sweet has moved on from a NASCAR effort that ran out of gas after only 54 NASCAR Xfinity Series and Gander Outdoors Truck Series starts between 2009 and 2013.
Today, at age 33, Sweet is a husband, a father, an occasional racing promoter and one of the top winged sprint car racers in the world. He is the defending winner of the Knoxville Nationals and sat atop the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series point standings as the calendar turned from spring to summer.
He also claims to be extremely proficient in using his smoker to turn out a delicious beef tenderloin.
Sweet recently took time from his busy schedule to talk with SPEED SPORT and answer questions on a variety of topics. Here’s what he had to say:
Q: How did you originally get involved in racing?
Sweet: My dad was a mechanic and we went to the races. We were fans. We went to quite a few races back in the day and my dad would help mechanic on a few of the cars. I started racing outlaw karts when I was 8 years old.
Q: When did you decide you wanted make a living driving a race car?
Sweet: It’s what I always wanted to do and it was never up for debate in my mind. I was going to graduate from high school and go racing. I just had to kind of figure it out on my own. Once we got out there, I think it worked out.
Q: At what point did you realize you needed to relocate to the Midwest?
Sweet: I was 18 years old and realized no one really goes anywhere from racing in California. I’m not saying that you can’t, but it’s awful hard. The USAC deal was really taking off during those few years. Kasey Kahne had just made it to NASCAR. J.J. Yeley, Jason Leffler, Josh Wise — they were all getting shots down in NASCAR land. I knew if I wanted to do that I needed to get to Indy and then run some non-winged sprint cars and try to run USAC.
Q: How did you meet and become friends with Kasey Kahne?
Sweet: He hired me to drive their USAC cars in 2008 and I knew him, but not in the same way that I know him now. Once he hired me then we started hanging out and we had all of the same interests — we love racing, we love working out and we love talking racing. It’s one of those friendships that has evolved and turned into a great friendship.
Q: Do you have any regrets about your time in NASCAR?
Sweet: I don’t think so. I was only in the top 15 at best as I was an average stock car racer. I think I could have eventually improved on that, but I was never in a happy place doing it. I think it all happened for a reason and I definitely found my home in sprint cars. I love chasing championships and running really big races. If I keep on a good path, I think I can go down in the history books because I’m better than average as a sprint car driver. It would be cool to leave a legacy behind and I don’t think I would have ever been able to do that racing stock cars.
Q: With your nomadic schedule, how do you find time to also promote races?
Sweet: It’s awful hard, but I want to invest in what I know the most about. I want to help create bigger events, bigger races. Honestly, I question at times if I really need to be on both sides of the fence, so we’ll see. I wanted to try it and see what we thought about it. I think a lot about what I’m going to do when I’m no longer racing full time with the Outlaws.
Q: Who assists you with your promotional efforts?
Sweet: My wife (Rachel) and I pretty much do all of it, and her family and my family help on the day of the event. Most of the time we partner either with the World of Outlaws or different race tracks, so there are always multiple people involved. It’s never just a one-man band.
Q: What is the hardest part of promoting a World of Outlaws race?
Sweet: Just getting the people there. It’s a big nut to crack; it’s a lot bigger than people realize. There is a lot to promoting, but I would say the hardest part is getting the word out that we are having a race and getting the fans excited about coming.
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