With five consecutive wins at Cedar Lake Speedway, Brad Sweet and his Kasey Kahne Racing team have had a big circle around the Independence Day Spectacular weekend, July 1-2. But for more reasons than the obvious one.
While their overall stats say it’s a track they should be ready to win at again, their 2022 stats have them hoping the doubleheader event in Wisconsin will show them what’s been missing this season.
“This is a good test for us to see, like, if we’re bad at Cedar Lake we’re a lot further off than we probably realized,” Sweet said. “I think it is a big weekend for our team to get back on track. I’m very hopeful that it will go good and we can build some momentum off that.”
This time last year the Grass Valley, CA driver had 10 wins. Currently, he has one – the first time in his full-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series career he’s gone the first half of the season without multiple victories.
“I think [we’re] just trying to find the right balance with the race car,” Sweet said. “Whether things change with tires or whatever. We just haven’t been able to get me 100% comfortable. We’ve struggled a little bit with qualifying, track position and things. But we’ve been showing some signs. Hopefully we can kind of get rolling at the right time this year.”
At the beginning of June, he earned his first podium finish in more than a month with a second-place run at River Cities Speedway and then backed it up the following week with another second-place run at Knoxville Raceway.
He’s scored six top-10 finishes in the last six starts with his worst finish being 14th during the Huset’s High Bank Nationals. However, he and his team, consisting of crew chief Eric Prutzman and crew members Joe Mooney and Andrew Bowman, were able to avoid a DNF one night after a wild flip during the event – a feat that even surprised the three-time and defending champion.
“I do think that one good thing about our team with the experience that we have is we do really well at getting the most out of it,” Sweet said. “Even if it’s not a win on a certain night, we figure out how to get a fifth or a seventh or a sixth and not make too many mistakes.
“Even this weekend at Huset’s, the preparation of our race team and how they were able to get me back on the track was just amazing, even to me. My guys are really well oiled. Really great race team. All that stuff pays off, especially when you’re struggling to have those kinds of rebounds and salvages are really good.”
With their resilient nature, Sweet has kept his NAPA Auto Parts #49 car atop the points standings, but the competition is closing. Four drivers are currently within 60 points of Sweet – Carson Macedo (-12), Sheldon Haudenschild (-24), David Gravel (-46) and Logan Schuchart (-54).
Sweet acknowledged the competition has increased this year as more teams continue to learn and grow. However, he said a benefit, so far, is no one has hit on a perfect setup every race.
“Everybody is good one night, think they have a handle on it, then show up the next night and it’s not as good,” he added.
Other than a new livery, Sweet and his KKR team didn’t change anything with their program from 2021 into 2022. There’s just been a missing piece to the puzzle. The size of that piece is the bigger mystery. Having been successful with about every setup he’s ran at Cedar Lake, Sweet hopes they can finally close the case this weekend before the “Summer of Money” with events like The Historical Big 1 (July 14), Kings Royal (July 16), Summer Nationals (July 22-23), Ironman 55 (Aug. 5-6), Knoxville Nationals (Aug. 10-13) and more.
“If we’re not in contention this weekend I think we’ll have to really look at our program and make a lot bigger changes quicker as far as taking swings at it,” Sweet said. “If we’re just missing it a little bit, I think this is the weekend we’ll find that.”