Entering last July, Sweet had accomplished nearly everything The Greatest Show on Dirt has to offer – three championships, a Knoxville Nationals, a pair of Kings Royals and plenty more. However, through more than 50 tries, he hadn’t been able to find his way to Victory Lane at the Mechanicsburg, PA half-mile.
Then, at the 2022 Summer Nationals, “The Big Cat” pounced on a prime opportunity by taking the top spot late and leading the final three laps for his first Williams Grove triumph.
“We put a whole night together and had a great race,” Sweet recalled. “We raced against Donny Schatz, Danny Dietrich, and Sheldon Haudenschild and got the car right where I wanted it and had the track position and found some lanes. It was just a great night, all the hard work paying off. It’s what you do it for.
“It was a very special night. It’s one of those things where it’s checked off the bucket list. Nobody can say I never won at Williams Grove. That’s nice as a Sprint Car champion, and I’ve won at a lot of other tracks, so it’s nice to check that track off.”
The night served as a powerful testament to Sweet’s progress in the region. The year before the Kasey Kahne Racing driver visited Victory Lane at Williams Grove, he also earned his first win at Abbottstown, PA’s Lincoln Speedway. Even prior to winning at “The Grove,” Sweet felt that they’d taken strides to the point where he was banging on the door of a victory at the paperclip shaped track.
“We started to make a lot of gains before (the win), so we started to gain confidence within our team and racecar, the package we were building,” Sweet explained. “We had some stronger finishes. I actually told my guys, probably two or three races before we won, I think we’re getting close to competing for a win here just because we were starting to put the whole night together and get a good feel for what I was looking for.”
One of the main catalysts behind the team’s progress has been crew chief native Eric Prutzman. Ever since linking with Sweet in 2018 the duo has proven to be a dominant combination as they’ve collected four titles in their five seasons together. Even with their immediate success, Williams Grove proved to be a puzzle early on.
“It’s so unique in itself,” Prutzman said of the challenges Williams Grove presents. “It’s got long straightaways like it’s a big racetrack, but then the corners are so tight. Everything is so narrow. It just takes a lot of laps, I feel like, to be able to understand it. I mean, there are obviously some people who go there, and it suits them perfectly when they get there, but for most people the first time there is a whole new animal, I would say, than what everyone is mostly used to.”
On top of breaking through their initial struggles at Williams Grove, Prutzman’s background as a Pennsylvania native made the victory even more significant.
“It was definitely cool,” Prutzman said. “We both struggled there together for quite a few races, and then to finally get something going that he was comfortable with made it all that much more special that I could be a part of helping him get that (win). My family was there. He had some family there. It was just really neat. It was really good for everyone to be there to see it, too. It was pretty awesome.”
Fast forward to present day, and the World of Outlaws are ready for a rare springtime invasion of “The Keystone State.” This weekend brings the final two rounds of the Low-E Insulation Spring Showdown at Williams Grove (March 17) and Lincoln Speedway (March 18). Sweet’s recent Pennsylvania success has helped elevate his confidence when having to battle the experienced local competition.
“From my standpoint, it does feel good knowing we’ve been able to win there,” Sweet noted. “It gives the team confidence. It gives us confidence. We know every race in Pennsylvania is going to be a challenge, but at least we know we can do it. We have those notes in our notebook on those nights, and me, as a driver, I have the feel I was looking for. All of those things help build confidence and hopefully create more wins.”
And on the fun side of things, Sweet’s victories have allowed him to playfully banter more often with the PA Posse fans. The Grass Valley, CA native has now won at the entire trio of iconic central PA racetracks – Williams Grove, Lincoln, and Port Royal Speedway, and he’s happy to remind the passionate fanbase of that fact.
“They’re always going to cheer for their own, and I’m the farthest thing from their own being a four-time World of Outlaws champion from California. You can’t get much further from PA Posse than that,” Sweet said with a laugh. “They’re usually good sports about it. There’s always a few that have loud mouths, but that’s what drives the sport.
“It’s all competitive and a lot of it’s fun. They’re going to cheer for their guys – Lance Dewease, Brent Marks, Danny Dietrich, Anthony Macri, Freddie Rahmer, all of their guys. Even if they don’t cheer for them on a weekly show, they’re going to cheer for them to beat the Outlaws. I think it’s a cool rivalry, and I don’t mind playing into it and riling them up even more.”
If you can’t make it to the tracks, you can watch both races live on DIRTVision.