BEAVER DAM, Wis. – In a back-and-forth thriller over the closing laps, Brad Sweet took Sheldon Haudenschild to school en route to winning the opening act of the Beaver Dam Bash Friday night.
After being as far as three seconds back of the No. 17 Stenhouse Jr.-Marshall Racing sprinter, Sweet got up on the wheel and brought his No. 49 NAPA/Kasey Kahne Racing mount to the front when it mattered.
The defending World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion came calling after Haudenschild got crossed up while navigating slower traffic in turn four on lap 20. Sweet took advantage of Haudenschild’s miscue to erase his deficit, sitting right on the back bumper of the No. 17 at 10 to go.
From there, it was a cat and mouse game, as Haudenschild stayed loyal to the bottom while Sweet navigated a tricky cushion around the very outside of the third-mile Beaver Dam Raceway.
Finally, Haudenschild lost momentum after getting held up by Jason Sides around the inside berm, allowing Sweet to soar around the top side of the race track to take command at lap 27.
Haudenschild was undeterred, though, and fought back with a slide job in turn two to retake the point position coming to two to go – seeming to have regained his stride in the fight for the victory.
But Sweet ultimately got the last laugh. Going into turn three, Sweet rekindled his high-side magic and ripped the lip to pass Haudenschild for good coming to the white flag, going on to his third World of Outlaws win of the season and the 53rd of his career by .845 seconds over Haudenschild in the end.
It was Sweet’s fifth overall 410 sprint car win this year. He leads the nation in that category.
After parking his car in victory lane, Sweet climbed out for a raucous celebration, but was out of breath for his winner’s interview after one of the wildest finishes of the Outlaw season thus far.
“I’ll tell you what, that was a workout,” Sweet noted to pit announcer Dave Rieff. “That was a lot of fun though. I let Sheldon get a little too far out there; it was taking a minute for my car to get going, so I really had to start searching around (for grip). I didn’t feel like I had much to lose, really.
“I started moving my line around, eventually found the middle and found the top, and from there I was just trying to drive it as hard as I could to get ahead of him (Haudenschild),” Sweet continued. “He did a great job, though. Sometimes it’s hard, getting into lap traffic and knowing where to go, but hats off to Sheldon and that race team, because they had a really great car tonight. We just kept digging.”
Haudenschild hung on to cross second but lamented yet another near-miss for his squad, which has come close to victory multiple times already in 2020 only to be denied when it comes down to the end.
“We definitely had a really good race car here,” said the second-generation driver. “My guys have been working their butts off, giving me great race cars, getting me starting positions up front and putting me in position to battle for these wins. I feel like I raced a good race and should have moved around a bit.
“Brad was in a good spot to be able to see what was going on (with the track), and I kind of got caught up there (in traffic),” he continued. “I felt like I was making good laps on the bottom, so I just kept running there, but I should have tried the top … on either end, really. It’s just so tough to know what to do, and Brad is so smart. He figures it out quick. I’m just kicking myself in the butt after this one.”
With his win in Friday night’s caution-free feature – which was completed in just six minutes and 58 seconds – Sweet shaved his deficit to championship leader Logan Schuchart down to a scant six points.
Schuchart finished third for his ninth top-six result in nine races to open the World of Outlaws campaign.
While he’s still trailing in the overall standings, Sweet recognized the importance of adding another tally into the wins column for his Kasey Kahne Racing team early in the season.
“It’s nice to be back on top. That’s where this team belongs,” Sweet said. “We know we’re the best team out here right now, and we’ve got to make hay while the sun’s shining.”
Ten-time series champion Donny Schatz and polesitter Shane Stewart completed the top five.
Sixth through 10th were Parker Price-Miller, Daryn Pittman, David Gravel, Kerry Madsen and Carson Macedo.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season continues with a second night at Beaver Dam Raceway on Saturday night, June 6.
It’s the first time in series history that back to back nights have been run at the Wisconsin dirt track.
To view complete race results, advance to the next page.