All dirt roads led to the brightest lights, the largest fireworks, the biggest stage and the most prestigious trophies at The Dirt Track at Charlotte Saturday night.
For the first two drivers, it was a familiar sight as Sweet scored his fifth straight World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series title and Sheppard earned a historic 10th Super DIRTcar Series championship. But for Pierce, it was a moment like no other: his first national championship in his first full season with the World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Models.
It’s a moment many wrote off before the season even started.
“It was really nice proving everybody wrong, all the naysayers and all that,” Pierce said. “And not just proving them wrong but winning the whole thing and dominating toward the end.
“I don’t doubt them for having disbeliefs. I only ran a full series one time. It was a long time ago. It was 2018. You see it all the time, guys drop off and they go run Summer Nationals or whatever they might do, and it just doesn’t work out. We knew we had a set mind that we were going to do it.”
Pierce ended the World of Outlaws season with 14 wins 25 top-five finishes and 32 top 10s – he had four Series wins in 77 starts before the 2023 season. He’ll also get $150,000 for winning the championship and another $25,000, part of the Winners Circle bonus program.
With his title, he becomes the fifth driver in Series history to win the championship in their first full season, joining Billy Moyer, Scott Bloomquist, Mike Marlar and Brandon Sheppard in that category. The Oakwood, IL native also becomes the fifth straight Series champion from Illinois. Brandon Sheppard, of New Berlin, IL, won 2019-2021 and Dennis Erb Jr., of Carpentersville, IL, won his first Series championship last year.
“Man, it’s just, it’s really a goal that came true,” Pierce said. “We set out with our goal at Volusia (Speedway Park in January) to run the whole Series, and then when we noticed we were pretty fast the goal quickly changed to win the series. We had a lot of points to make up at one time and we did that. Yeah, just a crazy effort by everybody.
“The car was really fast all year. Won a lot of races. Just been one of them monumental years for us. It’s pretty crazy. The Outlaw title is something that, for me… I never knew when I was going to run a national Series again. So, like, when we ran it this year, at first, I wasn’t sure we would even be in the hunt to win this thing. To come out on top was very very special for us. The history with the World of Outlaws, I think it is one of the best Series of racing in the world. It’s pretty cool.”
While Pierce soaked in the championship glory for the first time, Sheppard hoisted the Super DIRTcar Series championship trophy for the 10th time in his career, solidifying himself as the winningest champion in Series history.
“Ten is a big number, it’s a lot of championships,” Sheppard said before pausing, trying to comprehend the significance of his achievement. “It’s just a huge accomplishment for myself and my team.”
It’s not only a milestone moment with the Series, but a historic moment in motorsports as Sheppard joins a small elite list of drivers who have reached 10 or more titles, joining the likes of 20-time World of Outlaws champion Steve Kinser and 10-time World of Outlaws champion Donny Schatz in the dirt racing landscape.
“It really is (cool),” Sheppard said about being in the same company as the two legends. “Every year it seems like we enter our name in the record book a little further. It’s probably something I’ll look back on more when I’m done racing. I would like to think I still have some good years in me.”
Sheppard, of Waterloo, NY, capped off the 2023 season by winning the final night of the World of Outlaws World Finals – his second win in three days at the Charlotte track – bringing him to five wins for the season and 94 Series wins overall. He’ll also walk away with a $60,000 check for winning the championship.
Milestone moments continued with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series as Brad Sweet, of Grass Valley, CA, clinched his fifth straight Series title by also winning the final night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte – his first win at the track. He, again, wrote his name next to Kinser and Schatz in the history book, joining them under the category of drivers who have won five straight championships.
“Really excited we’ve been able to make these accomplishments,” Sweet said. “It is certainly not easy. Every year presents new challenges. Man, I can’t really believe it.”
Sweet’s triumph also marked a significant milestone for Kasey Kahne Racing. By bringing the team its sixth World of Outlaws title (Daryn Pittman in 2013 and Brad Sweet 2019-2023), KKR is now tied with Steve Kinser Racing for third most championships with the Series.
“It’s a team effort,” Sweet said. “You can’t do it without good people, a good car owner, good sponsors. When one thing is out of whack it doesn’t work. To win a championship means you’re the best overall team.”
Coming down to the final Feature in the 72-race season, Sweet beat David Gravel by 60 points to win the championship, finishing the season with 11 wins, 44 top-five finishes and 64 top 10s. He also gets to take home a $350,000 check for winning the championship – the biggest championship payout in Series history. Sweet’s battle with Gravel also marks the fifth straight year that the gap between first and second in points is less than 100 points.
For the full World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series and World of Outlaws CASE Construction Equipment Late Model Series points, CLICK HERE. And for the full Super DIRTcar Series points, CLICK HERE.
Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals (Feb. 5-17) at Volusia Speedway Park will open the 2024 season for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series (Feb. 8-10) and Super DIRTcar Series (Feb. 14-17). It will also welcome the World of Outlaws CASE Late Models, Feb. 15-17. For tickets, CLICK HERE.