Brad Sweet loves to go gator hunting at Volusia Speedway Park.

The five-time and reigning World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champion consistently contends for the win whenever visiting the Barberville, FL oval. And Wednesday night proved to be no different when The Greatest Show on Dirt unleashed its 47th season.

Sweet led all 25 laps as the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals kicked off the World of Outlaws campaign to bank a $12,000 payday. “The Big Cat” started on the pole in the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 and held off a strong challenge from Tyler Courtney to make his 91st trip to Victory Lane with the Series.

“It’s just a lot of fun to come here and start out so strong,” Sweet said. “We’ve had a lot of success here at Volusia over the years. It’s going to be a long week, so hopefully we can keep celebrating in Victory Lane.”

The win marked Sweet’s 10th overall at Volusia and seventh with the World of Outlaws. That equals the track with Cedar Lake Speedway as the winningest on his résumé. Only Donny Schatz’s total of 14 Volusia victories with the World of Outlaws outranks the Grass Valley, CA native’s mark.

Sweet brought the field to green in the NOS Energy Drink Feature with Tyler Courtney alongside after the two claimed the top two spots in the Toyota Racing Dash. The duo raced wheel-to-wheel through Turns 1 and 2, and Courtney managed to nose ahead down the back straightaway. Sweet quickly responded by powering right back by the Clauson Marshall Racing/NOS Energy Drink #7BC Turns 3 and 4.

In the early portion of the race Sweet set a solid pace, but Courtney wouldn’t let him escape. One lap Sweet would be faster. Then Courtney would clock a quicker lap. The gap stayed below a second throughout the opening 10 laps and as they begin to navigate traffic.

A yellow flag on Lap 12 for a slowing Sheldon Haudenschild appeared to give Sweet a break as it removed him from traffic and provided clean air. But on the restart Courtney flexed his muscle with a challenge for the top spot.

Courtney got his momentum built up around the cushion while Sweet remained committed to the bottom. The margin shrank as the two worked opposite lines of the racetrack. On the 15th lap Courtney pulled alongside Sweet and looked poised to snag the lead. But a yellow flag spoiled those hopes when Michael “Buddy” Kofoid slowed to a stop on Lap 16.

Having seen Courtney’s challenge, Sweet opted for the top when the green flag brought the field back to life. And Courtney wasn’t able to find the run he had before as Sweet moved around the racing surface.

“I could hear him (Courtney) on my outside at the end of the back straightaway,” Sweet explained. “It’s just a lot of experience. Obviously, I’ve raced here a lot. I was making good speed. My car was really good on the bottom, but sometimes momentum just starts to build. I could hear him, and when that yellow came out I looked over at the screen and saw he was right there. So, then I opened my entry in (Turn) 1 and started using the banking to create momentum, and I think it just kind of took the air that he had.”

Brad Sweet races just ahead of Tyler Courtney at Volusia Speedway Park
Brad Sweet held off Tyler Courtney’s challenge for his 91st World of Outlaws win (Trent Gower Photo)

Courtney began to fade as Sweet stretched the advantage north of a second on Lap 19. But hope was restored as traffic became a factor late. Sweet struggled to navigate a slower car and allowed Courtney to cut the margin to less than half a second with only two laps remaining. But it was too little, too late as Sweet held on to secure the first checkered flag of 2024.

“My car was just phenomenal,” Sweet said. “We made it better all night. Eric (Prutzman, crew chief). It’s Tye’s (Wolfgang, car chief) birthday, so happy birthday to Tye. And we’ve got a new tire guy, Zane. Happy to get in Victory Lane for them. Happy that my wife and daughter are here.”

Courtney held on for second to begin his 2024 Sprint Car season. The runner-up result gave the Indianapolis, IN driver seven career World of Outlaws podiums. The ill-timed caution when challenging Sweet left Courtney a little disappointed, but he wasn’t sure that he would’ve gotten by Sweet even if the race remained green.

“I think one more lap he was going to keep hearing me and probably move up and just take my air away like he did there after the caution,” Courtney said. “When you’re racing a guy like him that’s done this a lot and has a lot of success, it’s tough to pull one over on him. I’m just excited about our whole Clauson Marshall, NOS Energy Drink, Elliott’s Custom Trailers team. We came down here last year and were just barely making the shows.”

Rounding out the first podium of the season was David Gravel aboard the Big Game Motorsports/Huset’s Speedway #2. The Watertown, CT driver admitted they may have gone slightly the wrong direction with the car ahead of the Feature with how track conditions played out. But even with that, Gravel came away encouraged with the top three run.

“I just think that was the fastest and stickiest track we had nearly all night long,” Gravel said. “We didn’t think it was going to stay that wet, so we just got too tight when we got close to those guys. In open track our car was really, really good. But once we got close to Tyler or lapped traffic and restarts I just couldn’t get going that good. Still a really strong night.”

Brian Brown and Logan Schuchart completed the top five.

A 25th to 14th drive gave Carson Macedo the first KSE Racing Hard Charger of the year.

Making his World of Outlaws debut, Landon Crawley set Simpson Quick Time in Sea Foam Qualifying aboard the Sides Motorsports #7S.

NOS Energy Drink Heats One, Three and Four went to Giovanni Scelzi, Rico Abreu, and David Gravel. Tyler Courtney topped Milton Hershey School Heat Two.

Austin McCarl won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.

UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars return to Volusia Speedway Park on Thursday, Feb. 8 for night two of the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals. For tickets, CLICK HERE.

If you can’t make it to the track, catch every lap live on DIRTVision.


NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet[1]; 2. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[2]; 3. 2-David Gravel[3]; 4. 21-Brian Brown[8]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart[14]; 6. 15-Donny Schatz[10]; 7. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[6]; 8. 17B-Bill Balog[4]; 9. 9-Kasey Kahne[16]; 10. 39M-Anthony Macri[9]; 11. 19-Brent Marks[12]; 12. 24-Rico Abreu[7]; 13. 13-Justin Peck[13]; 14. 41-Carson Macedo[25]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[22]; 16. 55-Chris Windom[15]; 17. 1A-Jacob Allen[11]; 18. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss[24]; 19. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[17]; 20. 14-Corey Day[20]; 21. 7S-Landon Crawley[5]; 22. 26-Zeb Wise[23]; 23. 6-Bill Rose[26]; 24. 83-Michael Kofoid[19]; 25. 88-Austin McCarl[21]; 26. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild[18]