Story By: ALEX NIETEN / WORLD OF OUTLAWS – BURLINGTON, WA – Thursday ended in bitter defeat for Brad Sweet at Skagit Speedway. But the Grass Valley, CA had no intentions of the same fate on Saturday as he found the taste of sweet victory.
Two days after Sheldon Haudenschild slipped by him on the final circuit, Sweet found himself in a similar spot leading late with Corey Day breathing down his neck. This time, though, Sweet would not be denied as he held off the teenage sensation on his way to Victory Lane at the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals.
After the tough loss Thursday and running 10th Friday, Sweet saved his best for the last and most important day as the win came with a hefty $26,000 paycheck for the driver of the Kasey Kahne Racing/Napa Auto Parts #49.
“I get tired of getting passed late in these races,” Sweet said. “I saw the 14 (Day) climbing the board, and I saw the top getting cleaner and cleaner. Typically, he’s kind of one of those guys that’ll find a line. I’ve watched a lot of video, and he always seems to make a lot of speed on the cushion. I was a little nervous. I felt really good on the bottom, but you don’t really know what’s up there until you go up there. So, I tried it one lap and realized my car wasn’t as good up there, so I had to pretty much commit to the bottom. You keep your tires cooler on the bottom, so I felt like even if he stayed with me for a few laps his tires would get hot. It was a lot more challenging to make speed on the cushion. I just tried to hit my lines and drive as hard as I possibly could those last 10 laps. Just happy to be in Victory Lane.”
Sweet’s 2023 win total with the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars grew to seven, giving him sole possession of the second most this season. His career win total rose to 86, putting him in a tie with former teammate – Daryn Pittman – and David Gravel for ninth on the all-time list. Two of those 86 checkered flags have come courtesy of Skagit.
And most importantly, the current point leader added some more cushion to his lead as he pursues a fifth straight title.
The 35-lap Feature was led to green by James McFadden and Sheldon Haudenschild after the duo finished first and second in the Toyota Racing Dash. When the green lights brought the field to life, McFadden rolled ahead to lead the opening lap.
Sweet started third and quickly got on the move as he threw a slide job at Haudenschild to take over second on Lap 2 but Haudenschild countered with a crossover. Three laps later Sweet rolled by the NOS Energy Drink #17 to regain control of runner-up and held onto the spot.
Shortly after claiming second, “The Big Cat” began the hunt for the lead. Up ahead, McFadden stayed committed to the top while Sweet stayed glued to the bottom. As they began to work through traffic, Sweet found the opening he needed on Lap 8 as he slipped under the Australian to grab the lead.
With the top spot secured, Sweet began to check out. The four-time and defending Series champion expertly worked through traffic as the margin between him and McFadden grew.
It wasn’t until late in the race that a challenger arose to face off with Sweet. Fresh off his third career World of Outlaws podium on Friday, Corey Day flexed his muscle early on in Saturday’s main event by starting 10th and cracking the top five on the eighth circuit. Then shortly after a restart with 12 laps to go, Day banged the cushion around Roth Motorsports teammates – Buddy Kofoid and James McFadden – to jump into second.
A restart with eight laps to go put the Clovis, CA phenom on the tail tank of Sweet for a quick dash to the finish.
When the green flag flew, Sweet, knowing Day must’ve been making speed on the top – abandoned the bottom for a set of corners to test the waters on the cushion. Day drew alongside in Turns 1 and 2, but Sweet was able to pull ahead down the back straightaway and shut the door entering Turn 3.
Day returned to the cushion and gathered enough momentum to close in multiple times. From laps 27 through 32, the gap between the two was less than half a second each time they crossed the line. But unfortunately for Day, a small mistake on Lap 33 in Turn 2 allowed Sweet to pull away to nearly a second lead. Sweet stayed comfortably ahead over the final two laps to claim the Sage Fruit Skagit Nationals.
“We’ve gotten passed on the last lap three or four times this year it seems like and should’ve won more races,” Sweet said. “But we all stick together and win together and lose together. Tonight, all the hard work paid off. We had a great car all weekend, and to come out on top on the final night is what it’s all about.”
Day held onto the second spot to notch back-to-back World of Outlaws podiums after a third on Friday. The 17-year-old is up to four podiums in only 17 Series starts driving the Jason Meyers Racing #14. Saturday provided more evidence that a win with The Greatest Show on Dirt isn’t a matter of if for Day, but when.
Completing the top three was early race leader – James McFadden. He couldn’t hold back Sweet and Day after pacing the opening seven laps but did hold on for his eighth podium of the season aboard the Roth Motorsports #83.
Buddy Kofoid and David Gravel rounded out the top five.
Corey Day’s drive from 10th to second earned him the KSE Racing Hard Charger.
For the third time in 2023 and 16th time in his career, Rico Abreu claimed Simpson Performance QuickTime Award.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Abreu (42nd Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by James McFadden (48th of career), Carson Macedo (110th of career), and Buddy Kofoid (13th of career).
James McFadden won the Toyota Racing Dash.
The Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown belonged to Robbie Price.
After running up front in the Feature but getting upside down, Sheldon Haudenschild was given the Smith Titanium Brake Systems Break of the Race.
The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars stay in the state of Washington but move to Elma’s Grays Harbor Raceway on Monday, September 4 for a Labor Day battle.
NOS Energy Drink Feature (35 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet; 2. 14-Corey Day; 3. 83-James McFadden; 4. 83JR-Michael Kofoid; 5. 2-David Gravel; 6. 24-Rico Abreu; 7. 5-Spencer Bayston; 8. 18S-Jason Solwold; 9. 15-Donny Schatz; 10. 9-Kasey Kahne; 11. 41-Carson Macedo; 12. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 13. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 14. 2X-Justin Sanders; 15. 55-Trey Starks; 16. 41S-Dominic Scelzi; 17. 7S-Robbie Price; 18. 95-Justin Youngquist; 19. 96-Greg Hamilton; 20. 21-Cole Macedo; 21. (DNF) 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 22. (DNF) 1T-Tanner Holmes; 23. (DNF) 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 24. (DNF) 99-Eric Fisher