Brad Sweet cupped his hand to his ear and stuck out his tongue as he rose atop his wing Friday night at Williams Grove Speedway.
The fans stayed quiet. But “The Big Cat” knew there’d be minimal cheers. Truthfully, he was expecting more boos than he received.
After all, the Pennsylvania Posse were forced to watch as a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car driver parked in Victory Lane at one of their most prided tracks. Sweet dominated on his way to winning at the historic half mile – leading all 25 laps of the Morgan Cup opening night Feature.
Why not play into the rivalry after such a perfect performance?
“I was looking forward to getting booed,” Sweet said with a smirk. “But they’re (the crowd) kind of quiet. I don’t know if they’re speechless or what.”
The Grass Valley, CA native is now a two-time winner at “The Grove” – adding Friday’s triumph to last year’s Summer Nationals crown. It took Sweet more than 50 tries to add a Williams Grove win to his list of accomplishments. It took him only three more attempts to tally a second at the Mechanicsburg, PA oval.
Sweet now sits tied for the most Feature wins this season with four, and his 83rd career victory with Kasey Kahne Racing with the Series brings him within one of equaling Stevie Smith for 10th all time.
“The guys gave me a great race car,” Sweet said. “We were on the second row of the Heat (Race) tonight and were able to get to the Dash and draw the number one. I think that was the key to winning. I don’t know if we had the best car. I’ll go back and watch, but the last few laps I was actually kind of struggling. I don’t know if I was trying too hard or what the guys were doing behind me. Just excited to get to Victory Lane.”
Winning the Toyota Dash was exactly what set Sweet up for success. Once the green flag flew, Sweet never looked back from the pole position. On the race’s initial green flag, Sweet jumped ahead in the Napa Auto Parts #49.
Even as a handful of caution periods slowed the early part of the race, Sweet had no issue on every single restart. The 37 year old pulled ahead with ease every time the green flag flew. Then around the midway part of the race when it appeared traffic would become a factor, another yellow flag flew, giving him clean air once again. The caution was a welcome sight for Sweet.
“I’ll be honest. I didn’t feel like I was going to have very much luck getting by them in traffic,” Sweet admitted. That hole in (Turn) 3 just had me spooked all night. We tried something a little different for the A (Main), and I’m not sure it was really good to run the bottom like we were in the Dash. It seemed like my car was better up high, but I was happy to get out of it (traffic) and focus on trying to get really good restarts. I didn’t want to leave myself open.”
That late caution effectively sealed the deal as Sweet excelled on yet another restart. Ultimately, the four-time Series champion would go on to take the checkered flag with more than a two second advantage.
Behind him offered plenty of drama for the runner-up spot. Rico Abreu held onto it for much of the early going after starting outside pole. But late in the going challengers arose.
Brent Marks slid ahead of Abreu on the late restart to take command of second. The Myerstown, PA native did everything in his power behind the wheel to run down Sweet but didn’t have enough. The runner-up result was Marks’ second consecutive after finishing second Wednesday at Lincoln. The defending Morgan Cup champion came away encouraged knowing they aren’t far from a win.
“We’re pretty happy with our program right now,” Marks said. “We were still just a tick off there. We’re just missing something really small, and I think we’re dialing in on it. I wish we had a shot to try to give Brad a run for his money but never got to lapped traffic tonight.”
Shortly after Marks charged by Abreu, Donny Schatz did the same in his Tony Stewart/Curb Agajanian Racing #15. The 10-time champion rolled the bottom smoothly all race on his charge from starting sixth onto the podium. Schatz now owns a whopping 56 podiums in World of Outlaws competition at Williams Grove alone. The Fargo, ND native has finished within the top three in three of the last four races. Despite the encouraging stretch, Schatz is searching for a little more comfort behind the wheel.
“We made up some spots,” Schatz said. “That’s what you’ve got to do. The guys just keep taking big swings at it. I just can’t seem to get slowed down when I need to slow down, and I can’t get sped up when I need to go. But we’re digging and working on it. We’re doing a great job. Scuba (Steve Swenson), he’s pulling everything out of the hat he can. They’re doing what they can. It’s a decent run here to get us a decent spot.”
Rounding out the top five was Rico Abreu and Anthony Macri. Sweet’s victory extended his advantage to 36 markers over David Gravel (finished sixth) in the championship standings. Carson Macedo (finished ninth) isn’t too far behind in third – 46 points behind Sweet.
The Feature’s KSE Racing Hard Charger went to Freddie Rahmer with a drive from 21st to 12th aboard the Eichelberger #8.
The night began with David Gravel claiming his fourth Simpson QuickTime of the year and the 101st of his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Justin Peck (sixth Heat win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Carson Macedo (87th of career), Rico Abreu (36th of career), and Anthony Macri (eighth of career).
Freddie Rahmer won the MicroLite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are back at Williams Grove for the Morgan Cup finale on Saturday, May 13. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
A Feature (25 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet; 2. 19-Brent Marks; 3. 15-Donny Schatz; 4. 24-Rico Abreu; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri; 6. 2-David Gravel; 7. 69K-Lance Dewease; 8. 13-Justin Peck; 9. 41-Carson Macedo; 10. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 11. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 12. 8-Freddie Rahmer; 13. 44-Dylan Norris; 14. 11-Cory Eliason; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich; 16. 12-Billy Dietrich; 17. 99M-Kyle Moody; 18. 5-Spencer Bayston; 19. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 20. 11T-TJ Stutts; 21. 5C-Dylan Cisney; 22. 23-Devon Borden; 23. 91-Kyle Reinhardt; 24. 7S-Robbie Price; 25. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 26. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr