Brad Sweet continues to make powerful statement after powerful statement on the racetrack.
Last weekend the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car championship point leader opened the door slightly for the competition to close in with a pair of sub-par runs. To start this weekend, he kicked it shut.
Sweet dominated Friday night at Chillicothe, OH’s Atomic Speedway – leading every lap of the NOS Energy Drink Feature on his way to a Series-best fifth win of the 2023 campaign. The Grass Valley, CA native held off charges from Kyle Larson and Carson Macedo to secure the checkered flag. Sweet is well aware that winning with The Greatest Show on Dirt is tough enough as is. But throw in having to beat a NASCAR Cup Series champion who has accomplished so much on dirt and it makes it even more gratifying.
“It’s good to win any race, but you always want to beat the best,” Sweet said. “And this World of Outlaws group is a great group of drivers. Then you bring in Kyle Larson and some of these other guys, too. Kyle is a talent that is so versatile and wins in every car. So, when he’s here and you can beat him, it definitely gives us a little more street credit.”
Sweet’s fifth win of the season marked the 84th of his World of Outlaws career – bringing him into a tie with Stevie Smith for the 10th most all-time. “The Big Cat” has already matched his win total from last season. Atomic is now the 46th different track he’s visited Victory Lane at in World of Outlaws competition.
“It was a fun race tonight,” Sweet said. “It was tricky. I’m just excited to get the first night out of the way and hopefully come back tomorrow stronger.”
After winning the Toyota Racing Dash, Sweet started the main event from the pole position with Larson to his outside. When the green flag flew, Sweet wasted no time jumping ahead of his brother-in-law.
As the lead duo neared the tail of the field, the race’s first yellow flag flew on lap 10 – setting up what would become a theme of the race. Whenever thick traffic was ahead of the leaders, the yellow lights would turn on for another caution nearly without fail.
While these yellows gave Sweet the benefit of clean air, it also lined up Larson alongside him for each restart. Sweet had to stay on top of his game aboard the Kasey Kahne Racing/Napa Auto Parts #49 to hold back Larson each time the green flag flew. And that’s exactly what he did.
Sweet exceled on every restart – gapping Larson by enough to make a move in Turns 1 and 2 impossible. Larson stayed close enough on one attempt to throw a slider but came up short.
“I was trying to trick him,” Sweet said of his strategy on the restarts. “I was trying to pick different spots to take off. The bottom was getting slicker, but I didn’t want to take off up top because I didn’t think it was good enough. You couldn’t put your right-rear in good dirt. It was just kind of a curb against the wall.”
On a late restart, Larson slipped off the track exiting Turn 2, allowing Carson Macedo to take the runner-up spot. As the laps dwindled, Macedo ran down Sweet as he entered traffic. Macedo attempted a slider when the white flag flew but couldn’t clear Sweet. As the two entered the final set of corners, the yellow flew once again – setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
On the restart, Sweet pulled ahead without issue and went on to win by slightly less than nine tenths of a second.
“I’m just really happy,” Sweet said. “You’ve got to control these races sometimes. I’m not sure if I had the best car or not. It’s hard to say. It was really tricky to see when you got to lapped traffic. You really got a feel off Turn 2, and the cushion kind of went over the turn, so I got a little free trying to keep my tires under me and not get spinning. But I think the key was definitely staying out front.”
After his late mishap that dropped him to fifth, Larson rebounded to reclaim the runner-up spot in only his second Series start of the year. The result marked Larson’s 57th career World of Outlaws podium and it came aboard the Paul Silva #57. Larson found himself wishing that lapped traffic could’ve been more of a factor as he battled for the win.
“I really just needed some long runs,” Larson said. “Everytime we caught traffic a yellow would come out. I just never got the opportunity to race in traffic, but I felt really good. I made a mistake there on whatever restart that was and got over the edge and fell back to fifth. Then I got rolling really good there in (Turns) 3 and 4 got back to their back bumper there at the white (flag). Then I was kind of happy there for that final caution and honestly was hoping they would get racing. I got a good launch off the top and was able to pass Carson there.”
Macedo held onto third to round out the podium – his seventh top-three finish of the season with Jason Johnson Racing. The birthday boy thought he might’ve had a shot to win on the final circuit until the last caution came out, dimming his hopes of a win on his birthday.
“I was bummed to see the caution come out,” Macedo admitted. “I didn’t clear him off of (Turn) 2, but I thought maybe I could throw something at him into Turn 3 and off of Turn 4. But it just didn’t work out that way. The yellow came out, and I thought, ‘Well, maybe I’ll have another shot.’ Brad was kind of chugging up there at the top, and I thought maybe he was going to fire off on the cushion. When he didn’t, I did and I don’t think it really gave me a very good run to that green-white-checkered. Then Kyle starts throwing bombs at me, and I was trying to race him. I knew that was going to be tough to win that battle.”
Completing the top-five was David Gravel and Skyler Gee. Gee made his way into the top-five from 19th – earning him the KSE Hard Charger for the night.
Sweet extended his advantage in the points to 28 markers over Gravel and 36 over Macedo.
David Gravel claimed the Simpson QuickTime Award – his Series-leading sixth of the year and the 103rd of his career.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are back at Atomic Speedway Saturday, May 26 before Monday’s (May 29) Federated Auto Parts Memorial Day Spectacular at Lawrenceburg Speedway. For tickets to Atomic, CLICK HERE. For tickets to Lawrenceburg, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action on DIRTVision.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (35 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet; 2. 57-Kyle Larson; 3. 41-Carson Macedo; 4. 2-David Gravel; 5. 99-Skylar Gee; 6. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 7. 5-Spencer Bayston; 8. 83-James McFadden; 9. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 10. 71-Michael Kofoid; 11. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 12. 9P-Parker Price Miller; 13. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 14. 22-Cole Duncan; 15. 91-Cale Thomas; 16. 15-Donny Schatz; 17. 1-Nate Dussel; 18. 7S-Robbie Price; 19. A79-Brandon Wimmer; 20. 78-Justin Clark; 21. 101-Cody Maroske; 22. 1A-Jacob Allen; 23. 29-Cole Macedo; 24. 5J-Jake Hesson; 25. 4-Danny Smith