CONCORD, N.C. – Brad Sweet was officially crowned as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion during Sunday’s World of Outlaws Awards Night at Great Wolf Lodge of Concord.
Sweet was honored for his efforts over the Outlaws’ 72-race schedule, which saw him collect a career-high 16 victories and defeat perennial series titlist Donny Schatz by a scant four points for top honors.
The night was full of jubilation, emotion and reflection, as the 13 full-time Outlaws were all feted for their accomplishments during the season and multiple special awards were given out.
As fourth-place point finisher Daryn Pittman noted in his speech, “Jacob Allen won the banquet for the sixth year running,” and no truer statement was uttered all night long.
Allen delivered a pair of emotional speeches, one of which was impromptu after he was selected as the inaugural NOS Energy Drink Human Horsepower Award winner for perseverance and dedication in the face of adversity on the Outlaw trail.
“I’m thankful. I’m very thankful,” noted Allen, who was 12th in driver points this year. “It’s very humbling, both to receive this award and when I look back on what we did this season. When I sit down and think about my six years on the road, I could never give this up. I love what we do out here on the Outlaw tour and it’s made a good life for me and for my guys. It’s what we do as a family and a team.
“I’ve got a 75-year-old dad and I’m 25 years old, so I’m this young guy, but I’m passionate about what we do and he’s passionate about it too,” Allen added. “As long as my dad’s around and he’s dedicated, you’ll find me too.”
Other special awards included Engine Builder of the Year (Cappetta Engines), Chassis Builder of the Year (Maxim Racing), the year-long KSE Hard Charger Award (Brent Marks), the Jason Johnson Sportsmanship Award (Drew Brenner) and the Ted Johnson Award, given to Danny Schatz, Donny’s father.
Sixth-place points man Carson Macedo received the Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year Award as the highest-finishing first year driver on tour, and even had a playful jab for longtime World of Outlaws announcer Johnny Gibson in his speech.
“Johnny said every night that I was the leading contender for rookie of the year, but I was the only one, so I’d hope I was the leading one,” Macedo said with a laugh. “It’s still an honor, though. A great group of guys have won this award, including my crew chief Joe (Gaerte), and I’m proud to join that list.”
All past Kevin Gobrecht Rookies of the Year in attendance Sunday were presented with a replica of the new perpetual plaque that will reside in the World Racing Group headquarters in Concord, N.C.
The top five in points all received hefty points-fund checks for their season-long efforts.
Fifth-place Logan Schuchart took home $45,000; fourth-place Daryn Pittman earned $50,000 and third-place David Gravel netted $55,000 from a prize pool of roughly $1 million.
Runner-up for the first time since 2013, Donny Schatz earned $75,000 for Tony Stewart/Curb-Agajanian Racing and was very emotional in delivering his speech on-stage.
It didn’t come without a joke at the beginning, though.
“I know what it feels like to sit at that (head) table, and I was actually hoping Eric (Prutzman, Sweet’s crew chief) would bring me as his date because I wanted to sit there that bad,” Schatz quipped to a roar of laughter from the crowd.
Schatz then congratulated Sweet for their titanic title fight before tearing up a moment as he continued.
“Twenty-three years I’ve done this, and it’s a fast-paced life. … It gets the best of you sometimes,” Schatz noted. “I took my eyes off some things that I should have paid more attention to, but I’ve made changes, and I’m proud of myself for that.”
As the final group of speeches for the night, Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb ran the table in terms of the big honors.
Sweet received his champion’s check for $150,000, while Kasey Kahne was honored as the champion car owner and Prutzman collected Crew Chief of the Year honors for his efforts turning the wrenches all year long.
Kahne was quick to note the passion in the room as he gave his speech, the penultimate one on the night.
“The passion in this room … it’s amazing,” Kahne noted. “We have the same passion that everyone else does and I love being a part of this.
“Our whole KKR group is as strong in fun and friendship as it has ever been,” he added. “It’s been a great run with Brad so far and I couldn’t be more proud of everything he’s done for us.”
Sweet closed the night with a simple speech, offering thanks en masse to his crew and sponsors before turning to Schatz with a heartfelt appreciation for their season-long battle.
“Donny, damn it you make it hard,” Sweet smiled. “I couldn’t be more thankful for how you’ve pushed me over the last six years we’ve been racing together. You’ve changed my life, basically, trying to chase you down and it’s a friendly rivalry with a lot of respect there.”
But the overarching theme of Sweet’s season-ending remarks?
Sunday night was the realization of his wildest dreams, and Sweet knew it.
“This is a dream come true,” he said. “When I was a kid, I never even dreamed I’d be able to be a World of Outlaws driver, let alone to stand here tonight as a champion. This is a true honor and I’m so grateful.
“We’ll take time to celebrate tonight, and then Volusia is a new start for all of us in 2020.”