From Gary Thomas
Sweet out-dueled eight-time World of Outlaws champion and current series point leader Donny Schatz in a back and forth fight to claim his first ever Stockton triumph at the annual FVP Western Spring Shootout. After earning back-to-back podium finishes last weekend in Tulare the win on Saturday marked the 14th of Sweet’s career with the “Greatest Show on Dirt.”
“That was a tough race with Donny Schatz right there and I’m definitely glad we came out on top,” said the driver of the NAPA Auto Parts/ Kasey Kahne Racing No. 49 mount. “You don’t have many opportunities to beat Donny the way he’s running, so you always want to capitalize whenever you have the chance. Sometimes the cautions work in your favor and sometimes they don’t, luckily they fell at the right times for me tonight. It’s always the hardest to get that first win out of the way and I’m excited to do it with a lot of friends and family here tonight. Big thanks to all of my guys for working hard and continuing to give me great cars.”
The 30-lap feature started out with pole sitter Jason Sides jumping into the lead, but it didn’t last long as the caution lights came on after just one-lap was complete. On the restart Sweet blasted around the outside to take the lead away, with Schatz also coming along for second. Shortly after that Sides slowed with reported steering issues that unfortunately ended his night prematurely.
A number of yellows and a couple of reds slowed the pace over the first half of the feature, but through it all Sweet did a solid job out front.
Following a restart with 11-laps remaining things began to heat up as Schatz started to reel in the leader once lapped traffic hit. The duo then proceeded to exchange the lead a couple of times through heavy traffic as the crowd came to their feet. Sweet was able to fend him off until Schatz executed a picture perfect move entering turn one on lap 27 to grab the lead. At that same time however, the caution lights came on for a stalled car off the second corner, which saved the lead for Sweet.
With the champ on his back bumper Sweet knew he had to be perfect on the restart with just three-circuits remaining. When the green came back out he hammered the throttle and put together three perfect laps to take the Ed Entz checkered flag by 1.065 seconds back to runner up Schatz.
On the heels of his first victory this season Sweet now puts his promoters hat on, as he brings the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series back to the Placerville Speedway this coming Wednesday night.
“We’re really looking forward to Placerville on Wednesday and we hope all the fans can make it out. Kyle Larson is coming out to run and of course all the Outlaws will be there so it should be a great show. Our cars have been really good lately so hopefully we can take this momentum there and get another win.”
Despite not getting another victory Schatz remained positive on the front stretch after earning his seventh top-five in nine World of Outlaws races this season at the helm of the Arctic Cat- Tony Stewart/ Curb-Agajanian Racing No. 15 Sprinter. “We were good enough to win the race tonight and just had a caution that came out at the wrong time, but that’s how it goes. Hope you fans saw a great show because it sure was fun from my seat. It’s been a great start to the season for this whole team and we’ll now move on to Placerville and try to get one spot better.”
Third place finisher Shane Stewart of Bixby, Oklahoma was also upbeat after the race and had a front row view to the late-race battle between Sweet and Schatz. “That was a heck of a race to watch from my vantage point,” commented the wheel-man of the Eneos- Larson/Marks Racing No. 2 mount. “I was hoping I could get up there and race with Brad and Donny, but we never seemed to get a green flag run that kept us in traffic long enough. I want to send a big thanks to my guys, we have a lot of speed right now and the wins are going to come.”
Grain Valley, Missouri’s Brian Brown had a strong outing and came home in the fourth spot aboard the FVP Racing/ Casey’s General Store No. 21 machine. It was a great run for Brown with a number of associates and friends from FVP on hand at the Western Spring Shootout. After claiming his first win of the season last week Watertown, Connecticut’s David Gravel came back and rounded out the top-five on Saturday in the Go Muddy/ CJB Motorsports No. 5 Sprinter.
The remainder of the top-10 was filled out by Owasso, Oklahoma’s Daryn Pittman; Rutherford, California’s Rico Abreu; Australian Ian Madsen; Myerstown, Pennsylvania’s Brent Marks and San Jose, California’s Tim Kaeding, who earned the KSE Hard Charger Award coming from 24th to 10th.
As noted the World of Outlaws Craftsman Sprint Car Series will return to action this coming Wednesday March 29 for Brad Sweet’s Placerville Short Track Showdown at the Placerville Speedway