LAKE ODESSA, Mich. — No driver has a better average finish at I-96 Speedway in Michigan over the last three World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series events at the track than Brad Sweet.
The California native won at I-96 in 2015, was second in 2014 and ran third in his most recent start at the track in 2016. That trio of podium performances equates to an average finish of second.
Sweet and his fellow World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series competitors return to I-96 Speedway this week for the Rumble in Michigan on Friday, June 1.
The event will mark a return to the three-eights-mile, after a one-year hiatus, and will serve as the series’ only race of the season in the state of Michigan.
“Anytime you go back to a place you’ve won at, you have a little extra confidence,” said Sweet, who drives the No. 49 NAPA Auto Parts entry for Kasey Kahne Racing. “I’ve always enjoyed going to I-96. The track puts on good races. We had a really good race with Donny Schatz the time we won and anytime you can beat him is a good night. If I remember right, the track had a really big cushion and it was a really tricky surface that night, but we were able to overcome it and get the win. I’m looking forward to getting back there.”
Sweet made his debut at I-96 Speedway in 2013, by which time the track had been re-configured from a half-mile to its current three-eighths-mile layout. The veteran driver has made four appearances at the track in his career.
“I actually never got to run on the half-mile there,” Sweet shared. “The smaller track is the one I am familiar with. A lot of the other drivers have told me that once they went to the smaller track, it became a little racier and that’s always good. I always enjoy going there and hopefully we’ll put on another good show.”
Sweet has competed in 21 races with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series this season, while another 16 have been affected by rain.
A handful of those were re-scheduled, including the event that Sweet himself promotes at his home track of Placerville Speedway in California.
“The rainouts are tough,” noted Sweet. “We all do this to make a living, so we are not making much money when we are raining out. I try to work out as much as I can and stay in shape, but there is nothing like driving race cars. Hopefully, we’ll get through some of this weather and start getting a lot of races in and get into a rhythm and everyone can start to work together a little more. Mother Nature is not always predictable, but we’ll get some races in, I’m sure.”
Sweet has a new crew chief this year, after Kale Kahne – his crew chief last year – retired following a 2017 season that saw the pair win five races and finish second in points.
Eric Prutzman, who has been around the sprint car industry for a number of years, is now turning the wrenches for Sweet.
“There is a lot of different lingo and different ways that we explain things,” Sweet said. “That is always challenging to get on the exact same page. We switched car as well, so that has been a little different. It’s a fresh page and we are just trying to get going.
“Hopefully, I’ll be with Eric for years to come. I enjoy working with him and he enjoys being out here. This is a good building year for us,” Sweet added. “We have NAPA Auto Parts with us this year and next, so far. We’re just building up and hopefully one of these years, we’ll be able to give Donny (Schatz) a run for his money.”
Through May 28, Sweet is second in points, 108 markers behind Schatz. He was victorious for the first time this season at Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma earlier this month and won earlier this week at Lawrenceburg Speedway in Indiana on Memorial Day.
Sweet has 17 top-10 finishes, with 12 of those being top-five performances, in 21 races.
“There has been a few mistakes on my part and a few nights we wish we could re-do, but I think everyone in the entire field has those kinds of nights,” said Sweet. “That’s part of the grueling Outlaws tour, the 90 nights.
“The season has gone pretty good so far,” Sweet continued. “We wish had a few more wins, but we just really haven’t gotten into a rhythm yet and got a lot of races in. June, July and August are always our big months, so hopefully we’ll get a lot of rhythm going and pick up a lot of wins.”