JACKSON, Minn. – Brad Sweet has stepped on the gas going into the summer stretch of the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season, and he shows no signs of slowing down.
Sweet stormed to his seventh win of the year and fourth in the last five races with a dominant performance during Saturday night’s finale to the 41st annual AGCO Jackson Nationals.
The driver of the No. 49 NAPA Auto Parts machine started from the pole, but didn’t take command of the 35-lap feature until a lap-12 restart, passing second-starting Daryn Pittman and never looking back en route to a $41,000 victory.
After Pittman elected the outside lane following a red-flag period for Austin McCarl’s flipped car in turn two, Sweet made him regret the choice by virtue of a deep dive into turn one as racing resumed.
The Big Cat’s big move paid big dividends at that point, as Sweet grabbed control at the four-tenths-mile oval by the throat and crushed the opposition from there, holding off Donny Schatz in the closing laps.
“This is awesome. These big-money races are hard to win, and it didn’t surprise me at all when the 15 (Schatz) was there on me,” Sweet said. “He had me chasing my tail a little bit, so we either need to work on the car a little bit or I need to do a little better job of driving, but either way … we were able to hold him off.
“I’m just really excited to get this NAPA Auto Parts car back in victory lane, because we’re on a bit of a run here and it’s a lot of fun to drive right now.”
Though Sweet made his dance through traffic look effortless in the second half of the race, it didn’t come without some pressure from the 10-time and defending World of Outlaws champion.
Schatz followed Sweet past Pittman on the same lap-12 restart where Sweet took the lead and chased his championship rival for the remaining distance, cutting the gap down to as little as two tenths of a second at times and sliding alongside Sweet at one point during the closing stages.
A caution with five to go however, after Kerry Madsen tagged the wall in turn two, gave Sweet clean track that he capitalized on – running the two fastest laps of the race on laps 31 and 32 to gap Schatz.
Sweet ultimately took the checkered flag in front by a full second over Schatz, with Pittman hanging on to complete the podium in third.
Schatz said there simply wasn’t much more he could do once Sweet got back in clean air.
“We were there, doing everything we could, but I think that last yellow with five to go really killed us,” lamented Schatz. “When you get a clean race track, everyone’s going to run in the same groove at that point. Hats off to my guys, though. They’re digging. We’ve got an awesome race car right now; the driver just has to step up to the plate a little bit more and start swinging a bit bigger bat.”
Pittman, who led the first 11 laps from the outside pole, was quick to note that his car was unaffected despite contact with the slower car of McCarl just before the latter driver turned over to stop the field with 11 laps in the books.
His frustration is mounting, however, as a four-month winless drought dating back to the DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park in February got one race longer on Saturday night.
“The red flag stopped the pace of the race, and ultimately gave us a restart where we found another way to lose a race,” said Pittman. “It is what it is, though. It’s frustrating, but Roth Motorsports is working hard and giving me cars capable of winning. I just have to sit up in the seat and get it done.”
David Gravel crossed the line fourth and David Gravel completed the top five.
To view full race results, advance to the next page.