Column By: BRIAN WALKER / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – WEEDSPORT, NY – The busiest month of the 2022 season concludes this weekend for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series.
The Greatest Show on Dirt is set to wrap up a 13-race stretch through July and visit New York for the first and only time this year with Weedsport Speedway hosting an expanded edition of The Empire State Challenge, featuring two nights on Saturday and Sunday.
Currently atop the standings, Brad Sweet leads the charge with championship contenders David Gravel (-54), Sheldon Haudenschild (-84), Carson Macedo (-100), Logan Schuchart (-178), and Donny Schatz (-190) trailing him. All six drivers have shined in the past with podium finishes at Weedsport, and look for crucial momentum with the 61st NOS Energy Drink Knoxville Nationals presented by Casey’s only two weeks away.
Here’s what to watch for this weekend:
REJUVENATED: With a 31-race winless streak in the rear-view mirror, Brad Sweet and the Kasey Kahne Racing, NAPA Auto Parts #49 team are ready to hit the home stretch and chase their fourth consecutive World of Outlaws championship. Of all the places his second win of the season and first since March 30 at Vado (NM) could come at, it happened at Williams Grove (PA) last weekend – a track that had long eluded “The Big Cat” through his first 52 appearances.
With newfound momentum and revitalized confidence, Sweet heads to New York’s Weedsport Speedway this weekend holding a +54 point advantage with 34 race nights remaining in 2022. Through four trips to the unique 3/8-mile, Sweet has progressively improved with finishes of ninth, sixth, fourth, and second-place last year. Now the focus turns to his first career Weedsport win this weekend.
NEW YEAR, NEW ME: Last year, Weedsport marked the final of seven wins that Sheldon Haudenschild saw stripped from his grasp while leading within the last 10 laps when he made contact with a lap car on Lap 28 of 30. It was another heartbreaking loss for the Stenhouse Jr. / Marshall Racing #17 team but served as another vital piece of experience that has turned into a career year in 2022.
The 28-year-old is amid his sixth full-time season on the World of Outlaws trail, and it’s already his best yet. The NOS Energy Drink #17 has won a Series-best eight races this year, which ties his career-best (2021) through the first 43 nights. The Wooster, OH native chases a big slice of redemption this weekend at Weedsport as he hopes to cut back into Sweet’s point lead.
SHARK WEEK: For Shark Racing, there’s no better time to turn around a rough spell than Shark Week. Over the last 10 races, the duo of Logan Schuchart and Jacob Allen have struggled with a combined average finish of 12.6 for the Hanover, PA team. There have been highlights including Schuchart’s top-five finishes at Eldora’s Historical Big One and Kings Royal, but the lowlights include falling from -54 points behind the championship lead to a drastic -178 points in 30 days.
The good news is that both the DuraMAX Oil, Drydene Performance Products #1S and Pells Tire Service, Low-E Insulation #1A are familiar with strong runs at Weedsport Speedway. Schuchart was fifth last year and led 30 of 35 laps in 2016 before ultimately finishing a career-best second at the track. For Allen, he notched his Weedsport personal best at third place behind Marks and Haudenschild in 2018.
DJ PAULIE: Paulie Colagiovanni of Cicero, NY leads the charge among New York locals facing the World of Outlaws on home turf this weekend. If you remember right, the 21-year-old rising star burst onto the national scene last year when he nearly upset the Outlaws in his fourth career start at Ransomville (NY), ultimately finishing second to Aaron Reutzel. He was fast again the next night, too, finishing eighth at Weedsport as the second-highest local behind Danny Varin in sixth.
This weekend’s Weedsport doubleheader marks Colagiovanni’s first appearance with the Series since he ventured to Florida and made his DIRTcar Nationals debut in February. He’s already a two-time winner in 2022 with the Empire Super Sprint Series and recently recorded a pair of top-10s in his home state against the All Star Circuit of Champions.
TRADE-IN: A pair of Super DIRTcar Series racers will be swapping their Big Block Modifieds for 410 cubic-inch Sprint Cars this weekend, transitioning from The Beasts of the Northeast to The Greatest Show on Dirt. Driving for the Gypsum Express squad, both Larry Wight and Chris Hile will join Colagiovanni and the rest of the New York locals at Weedsport this weekend.
Wight, of Phoenix, NY, is no stranger to the World of Outlaws Sprint Cars, making a sporadic six starts since 2014 and peaking with two top-10 results in the Series. Hile, of Syracuse, NY, is a different story, however, as he makes his Sprint Car debut this weekend at Weedsport.
LUCK OF THE DRAW: The redraw for the DIRTVision Fast Pass Dash remains a crucial element at every World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series event. It not only determines the lineup for the six-to-eight lap dash, but it can also dictate how the rest of your night flows.
Of full-time teams, David Gravel sticks out the most with a 4.9 average draw through 28 Dash appearances. Nearly half of those (13) have put him on the last row, while he’s found the front row on a mere six occasions. It hasn’t hampered the Big Game Motorsports #2 too much, as he still sits second (-54) in pursuit of the $200,000 championship, but the struggles are certainly enough to make you question when his luck will turn around.
While Gravel’s -36 spots (from draw order to redraw result) hold down the negative end of the spectrum, Spencer Bayston and CJB Motorsports are gladly on the opposite end with +36 spots gained in 20 redraw appearances. There’s one theory that Bayston has luck on his side and might be the man you want to take to Vegas, but also keep in mind that at some point Gravel is due to hit it big.