By T.J. Buffenbarger
(November 6, 2019) — The 2019 championship for the World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series coming down to the wire this weekend during the World Finals in Charlotte with Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz separated by just eight points. It’s easy to look back on the entire World of Outlaws season and find events or moments that were impactful on this championship fight for both competitors. Michigan race fans witnessed a handful of things that impacted the 2019 title race.
One of the moments took place in July at Hartford Motor Speedway. During the opening lap of the main event at Hartford there were several cars that tangled in turn two. As the dust settled then point leader Brad Sweet rolled into the work area with heavy damage from the accident scene. In that moment a routine event of the Outlaws tour became a key moment in Sweet’s quest for his first World of Outlaws point title.
The Kasey Kahne Racing team along with a host of his fellow competitors went to work changing out the front end, top wing, and several other components. KKR is one of the most prepared teams in all of sprint car racing for such a situation. That preparation combined with plentiful help from other teams was a major factor in getting Sweet’s car ready for the restart. Sweet also benefitted from the quantity of cars involved in the accident. Not only did that give Sweet more time to make repairs, but fewer cars to pass on the racetrack for position.
Hartford’s main event had some twists and turns for Schatz as well. While running up front Schatz ended up getting shuffled back several positions during a restart. Schatz in turn used a late race restart to drive back up to the third position.
If Sweet had not been able to restart the main, he could have lost a number of points off his lead. If Schatz had not managed to move up to the podium spot it could have expanded Sweet’s lead by six or eight points. Sweet had a 50-point lead going into Hartford. After his charge through the field Sweet managed to minimize the damage leaving Hartford 44 points head of Schatz.
The other moment Michigan fans witnessed that had an outside influence on this race for the championship took place at I-96 Speedway one week after the Knoxville Nationals. It was at that All Star event that Tony Stewart took to the track with a Ford sprint car engine. Under the watchful eye of Ford, various Ford executives dressed in plan clothes to keep a low profile the Ford engine program went from a “soft opening” at I-96 to victory lane with Schatz with the World of Outlaws. Recently Schatz has utilized the engine as he’s closed in on Sweet for the point lead.
Outside of a few special events with different formats Hartford paid the same amount of points as all the other tracks. Multiple moments could be cited during the 80+ race season with the World of Outlaws that could make the difference between winning and losing a point race as close as the one Sweet and Schatz are in. There are times where people will cite higher profile races looking for moments that could win or cost a driver a chance at a championship. Michigan race fans have a strong claim though to one of the most impactful moments that could have won a championship for either driver.