MOORESVILLE, N.C. — There’s bad luck, there’s rotten luck and then there’s the almost-ridiculous skid that defending World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion Brad Sweet has been on over the past week.
In three races’ time, Sweet saw a lead of more than 100 points over 10-time Outlaw champion — and his longtime rival — Donny Schatz dwindle to a scant two markers heading into a week-long Pennsylvania swing for The Greatest Show on Dirt that begins Tuesday night at Lernerville Speedway.
It started during the Badger 40 Saturday at Wilmot (Wis.) Raceway, when a broken oil filter on lap 16 led to an early retirement and a 19th-place finish, while Schatz finished fourth and Logan Schuchart — third in the standings — was third to reduce the point margin into double digits.
Sunday at the Terre Haute (Ind.) Action Track was no better for the No. 49 Kasey Kahne Racing squad, as Sweet suffered a flat tire on lap 13, then had a mechanical issue six laps later which sent him hard into the outside wall and led to back-to-back DNFs for the first time since 2013.
Meanwhile, Schuchart won the Terre Haute round and Schatz came from 23rd to finish second.
That left Sweet’s lead over Schatz at 44 points heading into Tuesday’s Brad Doty Classic at Attica Raceway Park, where the Grass Valley, Calif., native’s run of misfortune hit its fiercest peak yet.
A spin in turn four on the third lap was followed by a chain-reaction incident on lap 17 that led to contact between Ian Madsen and Sweet. It sent Sweet’s car upside down and to the work area.
Remarkably, Sweet’s crew — with the aid of several others — got his car repaired and back out on track without losing a lap, but Sweet finally pulled off on lap 20 with more problems and took a third consecutive DNF — the first time in seven years Sweet has had such a stretch on the Outlaw trail.
With Schatz finishing second and Schuchart fourth at Attica, the top three in points are now separated by 14 points.
Fourth-ranked Carson Macedo (56 points back) and fifth-ranked Sheldon Haudenschild (74 points adrift) are also now within striking distance, making for perhaps the most intriguing World of Outlaws title fight in decades.
As for Sweet? Despite all the bad luck and recent cards that have been dealt his way, he’s not on the hunt for a golden horseshoe or a stack of four-leaf clovers.
He recognizes there are more things out there to worry about besides just a point battle or a second consecutive championship.
“This sport is a very humbling one sometimes,” Sweet noted following the Brad Doty Classic. “Three bad nights in a row, three DNFs … that’s never what we want. 2020 has been a trying year on everybody in many ways, but I always try to keep perspective on what’s really important — family, friends, health and happiness.
“Life’s still good; it’s just racing and I can’t wait to try again.”
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series season continues July 21 with the Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup at Lernerville Speedway in Sarver, Pa.
David Gravel is the defending Silver Cup champion and has won two of the past four editions of the event. Surprisingly, Sweet has never topped the Silver Cup at Lernerville during his Outlaw career.