The box score from Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts Showdown at Sharon Speedway will simply show Brad Sweet led flag to flag. But the 30 laps were far from an easy cruise for “The Big Cat.”

The four-time and defending World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champion took everything Giovanni Scelzi and David Gravel could throw at him. “The Big Cat” may have led every lap, but he had company challenging him for many of those trips around the Hartford, OH oval.

Early in the main event, Scelzi searched every bit of racetrack real estate for speed. He found momentum multiple times, but Sweet fended off each challenge. Then in the second half of the race it was Sweet’s championship rival – Gravel – surging into second and looking to steal the win. Gravel showed Sweet a nose multiple times, but the Grass Valley, CA native kept the door closed. Ultimately, Sweet dodged every punch the two had as he went on to grab his ninth win of the year with The Greatest Show on Dirt.

“I just didn’t know where to be sometimes. Lapped traffic was tough,” Sweet explained. “I was probably a little too free. I started off a little too good and got free pretty quick and was trying to use the wall on the (corner) exits to get me down the straightaways. I just was struggling a little bit, but we got into Victory Lane. That’s half the battle.”

Sweet’s ninth victory of the year moved him up to 88 for his career. The 37-year-old also joined Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski as the only competitors with multiple World of Outlaws wins at Sharon through 13 Series visits to the 3/8-mile.

When the green flag dropped on the 30-lap Feature, Sweet led the way after topping the Toyota Racing Dash. The Napa Auto Parts #49 pulled ahead on the opening lap while Scelzi rocketed from fourth to second out of Turn 2 and down the back straightaway.

Early on in clean air, Sweet put a solid gap between himself and Scelzi, but the Fresno, CA driver wouldn’t allow Sweet to escape. Scelzi kept him well within his sights as they began to near traffic. While Sweet preferred the cushion all the way around Sharon as the race worked through its first third, Scelzi found speed rolling the bottom in Turns 3 and 4. The gap between the two began to vanish, and Scelzi began to show Sweet a nose repeatedly as they neared the halfway point.

After the cross flags were displayed, Scelzi ramped up the intensity in his pursuit of the lead. On Lap 19, Scelzi tried a slide job on Sweet in Turns 1 and 2 but came up slightly short as Sweet slipped back by on the outside. Two laps later, Scelzi hit the bottom perfectly in the same set of corners to nose ahead of Sweet as they hit the back straightaway. Sweet refused to go down, though, as he used the high side momentum to inch back in front heading into Turn 3 and protect the lead causing Scelzi to slip back.

With Scelzi losing ground to Sweet, he fell right into the clutches of a fast-closing Gravel who snuck by on the bottom on Lap 23 to take over runner-up. Up ahead, Sweet began to question where he needed to be as he struggled to move by a lapped car.

“I probably stayed up top a little too long, but I didn’t want to leave that lane open,” Sweet said. “With the lapped car there, I was just always kind of right off his right rear (tire)… Based off experiences kind of knowing how hard I was having to work to pass him on the top and what pace he was running. Once I got down to his pace, I knew someone would’ve had to really run the wall exceptionally well.”

Brad Sweet and David Gravel race side by side at Sharon Speedway.
David Gravel came oh so close to slipping by Brad Sweet late at Sharon Speedway (Trent Gower Photo)

Before Sweet wound up deciding to move to the bottom, Gravel gathered enough steam for one bid at the lead. On the 25th lap, Gravel used a strong run on the inside of Turns 1 and 2 to pull alongside Sweet and looked as if he may snatch the top spot. But heading into the next turn, Sweet slammed the door shut to maintain the lead as Gravel slipped back.

The move sealed the deal for Sweet who went on to cross the finish line with a half second advantage.

“I’m excited to get the win,” Sweet said. “It was a tough battle for sure. I saw Gio multiple times, I think, off of (Turn 2), or it could’ve been David. I just saw orange. It was a great race. The bottom got cleaned off. Once I found it, I knew if I was just patient and didn’t overdrive the car it would be really hard for someone to get by me.”

Gravel settled for second to net his 29th World of Outlaws podium of the season. While it was a strong run, he knows he needs to be finishing ahead of the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 if he wants a chance at running Sweet down in the title chase. Sweet’s victory grew the margin to 80 markers between the two.

“It was a good weekend,” Gravel said. “I just wish I could take that start back. I thought Brad was going to go to the top and he went to the middle and kind of confused me and Gio got by me. I thought Gio was really good early, and it looked like Brad was searching and didn’t know where to go as well. I thought the bottom was kind of the best place to be, but we were just a little too free down there. Then it started cleaning up, and our car really came to life when that bottom came in and the grip picked up and made our car sit right. We were alongside Brad there, and I guess I just wish I ran in harder than him and banged wheels and pushed him out of the way if I could do it over again. Obviously, we’ve got to beat him every night here moving forward. Obviously, if he wins, the best we can do is run second.”

After his early challenges for the lead, Giovanni Scelzi completed the podium aboard the KCP Racing #18. The World of Outlaws rookie knew he had a car capable of winning but simply came up short to two of the sport’s best at the top of their game.

“It was really good all night. I’m really proud of my guys. I can’t say enough about them,” a grateful Scelzi said. “I’m going to replay that one a lot in my head tonight and the next couple days. Brad and David are really good. They’re the two top guys out here, and they’re the most consistent guys to race against. You learn every time you race against them what moves to make. I just kind of panicked there. I didn’t realize it was cleaning off that much around the bottom. I saw Gravel try the top in (Turns) 3 and 4, and that was my chance to get him. Brad was playing the right game just staying the bottom.”

Tanner Holmes and Carson Macedo rounded out the top five.

Brock Zearfoss snagged KSE Racing Hard Charger honors with a 20th to 13th effort.

In Low-E Insulation Qualifying, Carson Macedo earned his 14th Simpson Performance Products QuickTime of the year and 33rd of his career.

CASE No. 1 Engine Oil Heat One went to David Gravel (235th Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Sheldon Haudenschild (96th of career), James McFadden (50th of career), and Giovanni Scelzi (35th of career).

Donny Schatz won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are Pennsylvania bound for one of the sport’s crown jewels. Mechanicsburg, PA’s Williams Grove Speedway is the destination next week (September 29-30) for the 61st Champion Racing Oil National Open. The winner of the finale will take home $75,000. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.


NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet[1]; 2. 2-David Gravel[2]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[4]; 4. 1T-Tanner Holmes[3]; 5. 41-Carson Macedo[8]; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[6]; 7. 10-Dave Blaney[10]; 8. 32B-Dale Blaney[11]; 9. 5-Spencer Bayston[12]; 10. 22-Cole Duncan[9]; 11. 83-James McFadden[5]; 12. 1S-Logan Schuchart[17]; 13. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[20]; 14. 39M-Justin Sanders[7]; 15. 2F-AJ Flick[13]; 16. 15-Donny Schatz[21]; 17. 1M-Landon Myers[14]; 18. 13-Brandon Matus[16]; 19. 4-Danny Smith[23]; 20. 2X-Ricky Peterson[24]; 21. 5M-Jeremy Weaver[15]; 22. 11J-David Kalb[18]; 23. (DNF) 08-Danny Kuriger[22]; 24. (DNF) 6F-Bob Felmlee[19]