CONCORD, N.C. – California natives conquered the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series’ tour through the Golden State last year and are hoping to repeat that success going into this weekend’s races at Silver Dollar Speedway and the Stockton Dirt Track.
Brad Sweet, from Grass Valley, Calif., and Rico Abreu, from St. Helena, Calif., found victory at Silver Dollar Speedway in Chico, Calif., while Cory Eliason, from Visala, Calif., claimed his first series win at the Stockton (Calif.) Dirt Track last year.
For Sweet, it was his first win at the quarter-mile Chico track, but no matter if the win was in Chico or Stockton, he said it is always satisfying to win in front of family and friends.
“The biggest thing for me is I grew up here (in California) racing, so they’re home tracks,” Sweet said. “There’s always something about where you learned and where you grew up racing that is special. You know, I hadn’t had a lot of luck at Chico in the last few years, but last year I was able to get a win there, so I feel a little bit more confident going back there and excited.”
Sweet started off series’ month-long swing through California strong with a top-five finish at Thunderbowl Raceway in Tulare, Calif, leaving him third in the Series’ points standing – 42 points behind leader Daryn Pittman.
Abreu hasn’t been as fortunate, unable to qualify for the feature in Tulare. But like Sweet, he said he is looking forward to going back to Silver Dollar Speedway – a track he has won at twice now with the World of Outlaws. He also has one Series win at the three-eighths-mile Stockton Dirt Track.
He cites the Chico and Stockton tracks as two of his most successful tracks, having grown up racing at them.
“I’ve ran probably the majority of my California races at those two tracks,” Abreu said. “I’ve just made sure my cars are close every time we get there and where it puts the ball in my court where I can maneuver my car around. I like going to those tracks.”
Eliason has had a solid start to the season, claiming three top-10s and two KSE Hard Charger awards in the first five races of the season, placing him fifth in points. He is coming off a seventh-place finish at Thunderbowl Raceway and hitting his stride just in time for his favorite part of the year.
“The whole California swing is (a confidence booster), just because that’s where I grew up racing,” Eliason said. “I think we finished inside the top-five every time we were in California last year, in the March and the September swings. There’s a lot of confidence just being able to roll out here and know, even if it’s not perfect, we can still make something of it just because of knowing the race tracks and being from around here.”
Having raced, and won, at the tracks before, Eliason said that knowledge not only helps him, but his crew. He can confidently relay to his team what he needs in his car, making their job easier.
“Every race is hard with these (World of Outlaws) guys, but it should at least level the playing field back to normal with them, instead of going somewhere where we haven’t been and they dominate instead of us,” Eliason said.
Sweet said, for some drivers the California swing is hard traveling from the East Coast to the West Coast and missing their families. For the California drivers, they have the advantage of staying home with their family about every night throughout the swing.
“There’s just something to be said about that,” Sweet said. “I, obviously, love the beginning of the year West Coast swing.”