ELDON, Mo. — Chief among the weekend’s notable performances during the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series doubleheader at Lake Ozark Speedway was Brad Sweet’s Friday-night rally.
The reigning series champion had to go to a backup car after a vicious flip during his heat race saw Sweet tumble halfway down the backstretch and nearly encounter the wall in turn three before his No. 49 NAPA Auto Parts-backed mount came to rest in a twisted pile of metal and debris.
In a testament to the safety measures on the cars, Sweet emerged moments later and quickly hopped into his spare mount for the remainder of the night. He could have packed it in, called it a night and returned fresh on Saturday, but that’s far from Sweet’s tenacious style.
Though he took a provisional starting spot and rolled off 25th in the 30-lap main event, Sweet roared through the field to finish eighth.
That effort not only salvaged Sweet’s evening, it may have been an early rallying cry toward winning back-to-back World of Outlaws titles.
Instead of leaving Missouri in a 30- or 40-point hole to point leader Logan Schuchart, Sweet is only 12 markers behindheading into a June 5-6 twinbill at Wisconsin’s Beaver Dam Raceway.
That may not seem big now, but when the season winds to a close, it may prove to be a critical juncture if the championship is decided by just a handful of points — much like it was in 2019.
— Donny Schatz’s Saturday night victory over Kyle Larson and Sweet was the 296th of his illustrious World of Outlaws career, moving him one notch closer to a career milestone.
Schatz is hoping to become the third driver to earn 300 feature victories with the series. If he’s able to tally those four missing trophies, he’ll join Steve Kinser (690) and Sammy Swindell (394) in the 300-win club.
His Saturday victory may go down as one of his best, however, after his highlight-worthy pass of Larson going down the backstretch on the final lap at Lake Ozark’s third-mile dirt track.
Schatz soared around Larson’s outside and on to a thrilling victory — evoking memories of the Schatz of old that won 20 or more Outlaws main events in six of the last seven seasons.
— Of interesting note, Schatz’s win Saturday night was his first top-five finish since winning during the DIRTcar Nationals at Florida’s Volusia Speedway Park in February.
In stark contrast, Schuchart crossed sixth on Saturday, marking his first finish outside the top four in eight races this season. Schuchart has led the points since Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway on May 8.
— Kraig Kinser delivered a heartwarming seventh-place result on Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway. It was his first top-10 finish of the season and best run since a sixth-place effort at The Dirt Track at Charlotte in November.
Lake Ozark Speedway has been one of Kinser’s better tracks of late. He also finished seventh there in the Jason Johnson Classic in October.
Kinser moved into the top 15 in points over the weekend, sitting just 52 behind Ian Madsen in 10th.
— With all the recent conversation about his boss, Kyle Larson, Carson Macedo turned in a noteworthy Saturday performance at Lake Ozark Speedway by racing from 17th to ninth in 35 laps.
Macedo reminded those in attendance that Larson isn’t the only one who can wheel a World of Outlaws sprint car with the best.
Macedo sits sixth in the standings, leaving Lake Ozark, less than 100 points back of the top spot.
— Speaking of Macedo’s car owner, the rumblings for Larson to make a decision on whether he’ll chase the full World of Outlaws schedule — whatever that happens to look like this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic — are beginning to grow louder.
Larson’s pair of quick times over the last two weeks, plus two wins and a pair of runner-up finishes, have vaulted him to eighth in points and 140 behind leader Logan Schuchart after eight races.
The effort has been enough to have people asking whether Larson will do what he’s said repeatedly in the past he’s always wanted to do — chase a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship.
The answer to those questions may prove vital in how the rest of the season plays out.
— This coming weekend’s Beaver Dam Bash will mark the ninth and 10th World of Outlaws sprint car events of the season. Defending champion Sweet is the most recent winner at the third-mile dirt oval.
Sweet led 38 of 40 laps in 2019 to cash the $20,000 winner’s check in the Jim Boyd Memorial.