BARBERVILLE, Fla. — Brad Sweet was the man to beat on Thursday evening at Volusia Speedway Park, concluding the five-race Ollie’s Bargain Outlet All Star Circuit of Champions presented by Mobil 1 sweep through the Sunshine State with a $5,000 DIRTcar Nationals triumph.
The victory, Sweet’s fourth in All Star Circuit of Champions competition and his first at the Barberville half-mile, was accomplished from the outside of row two, slowly picking his way through a stout contingent of frontrunners before earning the lead for the first time on lap 16.
“You’re never going to win the race if you drive the same line as everyone else,” said the driver of the Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 sprint car. “I’m always searching and looking for ways to get faster. I’ve learned that over the years from Donny Schatz. I can’t thank everyone enough for this. We have a few people from Wicked Cushion and Wicked Energy here tonight, so it was cool to get a win for those guys. It’s nice to get a win but the real season begins tomorrow.”
Although shuffled back as far as fifth after the initial start, Brad Sweet wasted little time working his way back into winning contention, eventually maneuvering his focus from the topside of the speedway to the bottom to help boost his efforts.
With slower traffic entering the picture as early as lap eight, Sweet capitalized and advanced two positions in less than five laps; passing Tony Stewart for third on lap 11 and Christopher Bell for second on lap 14, each while hugged to the bottom of Volusia Speedway Park.
Continuing his efforts on the bottom of the speedway, it was not long before Sweet was on the tail tank of race-long leader, Daryn Pittman, actually pulling even with the Roth Motorsports, No. 83 entry by lap 15. The following circuit is when Sweet made his move, using his signature dive to drive underneath Pittman to take command by the exit of turn two.
Although Sweet was strong enough to pull away initially, heavy doses of slower traffic soon layered the speedway forcing Sweet to utilize the top and bottom grooves of the ultra-fast half-mile.
Logan Schuchart, who started alongside Sweet in row two, made things interesting in the closing circuits and actually closed-in within one second of Sweet while the pair frantically navigated traffic. The Hanover, Pa., native moved into second on lap 25. At that time, Sweet held a two-second advantage.
“I knew the bottom would be there. The top was just really fast there at the beginning,” Sweet said. “I honestly thought I heard the officials call a yellow at the beginning and I actually checked up and got on the brakes. Then I realized we were still racing. Regardless, I thought we did a really good job getting the car to battle through lapped traffic. I ended up getting pretty tight there at the end and I thought somebody was probably breathing down my neck. I was just trying to drive as hard as I could the last few laps. I was really happy to see the checkers.”
Capitalizing on his late-race surge, Shark Racing’s Logan Schuchart held on to finish second during the non-stop, 30-lap program, followed by Daryn Pittman, Christopher Bell and Tim Shaffer.
1. 49-Brad Sweet ; 2. 1S-Logan Schuchart ; 3. 83-Daryn Pittman ; 4. 39-Christopher Bell ; 5. 49X-Tim Shaffer ; 6. 41-David Gravel ; 7. 14-Tony Stewart ; 8. 13-Paul McMahan ; 9. 15-Donny Schatz ; 10. 5-Shane Stewart ; 11. 71-Parker Price-Miller ; 12. 87-Aaron Reutzel ; 13. 11K-Kraig Kinser ; 14. 70-Brock Zearfoss ; 15. 2-Carson Macedo ; 16. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild ; 17. 1A-Jacob Allen ; 18. 1K-Kyle Larson ; 19. 18-Ian Madsen ; 20. 5W-Lucas Wolfe ; 21. 9-Kasey Kahne ; 22. 17W-Shane Golobic ; 23. 84-Tom Harris ; 24. 21-Brian Brown  Lap Leaders: Daryn Pittman (1-15), Brad Sweet (16-30)