By T.J. Buffenbarger
With the 36th Kings Royal in the books and Brad Sweet likely still celebrating his $175,000 victory as this is being written here are few takeaways from the event:
- Brad Sweet could be referred to as a man of the people or even the “king slayer” (Game of Thrones reference) as we watch his career elevate to a new level. Since winning the Knoxville Nationals in 2018 Sweet has gained some extra swagger that’s evident even inside and outside the race car. Even though the open red presented Sweet the opportunity to take the lead he didn’t necessarily want to see it happen because it gave other teams time to adjust their cars and Sweet felt he had found some speed on the top of the track to catch Logan Schuchart. Sweet and his team are really clicking as we start to watch something very special developing with Kasey Kahne Racing.
- The change in the format using the “joust” was highly entertaining. The top six qualifiers participated in a revenge redraw, then got to choose where their respective heat race would run in the program. This is important in the Kings Royal format due to the winner of the sixth heat getting the pole position, fifth heat the outside, and so on. There is also some risk involved because second place finisher in the sixth heat starts 12th in the feature. Daryn Pittman made the same choice I would have made after winning the joust to start in the first heat due to first and second place only being separated by one starting spot in the feature. That plan backfired though as Pittman finished third in his heat race, missing those two valued positions.
- The one thing I’d like to see come into play in the Kings Royal format is Eldora’s famous “wheel of doom” that is used to set the heat race inversions for the Dream and the World 100. The gamesmanship of qualifying at the Kings Royal has started to become too extreme. I think adding the wheel of doom to set the heat race inversion would cut back on some of the sandbagging that some driver’s claim is not happening, but the performance over four days often shows otherwise.
- Who would have guessed Donny Schatz not finishing on the podium after starting on the front row of the Kings Royal? Schatz, the winner of the past three crowns, was in contention early before dropping back in the field. Even an open red with the opportunity to make adjustments didn’t help as Schatz dropped back to sixth in the final running order.
- Hats off to Eldora Speedway officials for giving the sprint car teams an awesome surface to perform on for four straight nights in extremely hot and humid conditions. I don’t think anyone could ask for better racing this time of year over that length of time.