Sweet Fends Off Courtney To Win WoO Season Opener

Sweet

Brad Sweet celebrates in victory lane Wednesday night at Volusia Speedway Park. (KR Poole Photos)

BARBERVILLE, Fla. – Brad Sweet is moving on to new pastures this season, but at least for one more night, the five-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series champion reminded everyone that he’s still called the “Big Cat“ for a reason.

Sweet, who will chase the High Limit Racing national championship this year after five straight Outlaws titles, led all 25 laps and fended off two determined challenges from Tyler Courtney en route to victory Wednesday during the 53rd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals at Volusia Speedway Park.

The Grass Valley, Calif., native used a launch off the high side of turn four to wrest the lead away from Courtney on the opening lap, then stayed ahead of Courtney by a nose when the final caution waved with 10 laps left at the half-mile dirt oval.

Prior to the yellow – created by a slowing Buddy Kofoid – Courtney had his car wound up on the top lane and appeared to have a pathway to challenge, or even bypass, Sweet for the top spot.

After the final restart, however, Sweet was able to pull away on the bottom to a .667-second victory. His triumph in the Outlaws’ season opener was worth $12,000.

“I could hear [Courtney] coming on my outside before that last yellow,” said Sweet, whose 91st career World of Outlaws sprint car win came in the 57th series race at Volusia. “It just comes down to [having] a lot of experience and having raced here a lot. I was making good speed, and my car was really good on the bottom, but sometimes momentum can build, and guys can use that to get back to you.

“When the yellow came out, I looked over at the screen and saw he was right there with me, so then I opened up my [corner] entry into [turn] one and started using the banking to create momentum, and it took the little bit of [clean] air that Tyler had away that he was using to gain on me,” Sweet added. “My car was phenomenal; we made it better all night … and I’m happy to get to victory lane.”

Sweet then slyly lifted a challenge into the Volusia night as he celebrated with his daughter, Savannah.

“I think it’s going to be a fun rivalry all year between the High Limit guys and the Outlaw guys,” tipped the co-owner of the High Limit Sprint Car Series. “Just a lot of fun to come here and start out so strong.”

Just two cautions slowed the pace during the first DIRTcar Nationals sprint car feature of the week.

The first was with 11 laps complete, when Sheldon Haudenschild slowed down the frontstretch with potential motor problems, a trail of fluid leaking from his Stenhouse Jr. Marshall Racing No. 17.

Following that restart, when Sweet chose the inside lane of the double-file lineup, Courtney stayed true to the outside of the Volusia half-mile and chipped away at Sweet until he was right next to Sweet’s NAPA Auto Parts No. 49 with his NOS Energy Drink-backed No. 7BC four laps later.

Mechanical issues for Kofoid, however, put an end to the thrilling battle and left Courtney to settle for a disappointing runner-up finish after the closing 10-lap run to the checkered flag.

“I think when you’re racing with Brad, you’d like to say we could have beaten him if the caution hadn’t come out, but you never know,” admitted Courtney. “If we’d gone one more lap green there, I think he’d have heard me enough that he’d have started taking my air away like he did after the yellow. When you’re racing a guy like him who’s done this a lot … it’s pretty tough to pull one over on him. Really excited about our team and this package; the new engine and car we’ve brought is off to a good start.”

Sweet

Brad Sweet en route to victory Wednesday night at Volusia Speedway Park. (Trent Gower photo)

“The track changes a lot here,” added Sweet. “He found a line and built some speed, and even though I felt good on the bottom, I knew I needed to move around a bit and make sure I was putting it where I needed to. … I felt confident in the car, though. He got me on the start, but we got him at the end.”

David Gravel closed the podium finishers, followed by longtime Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway regular Brian Brown and Shark Racing’s Logan Schuchart.

Ten-time Outlaws champion Donny Schatz, Gio Scelzi, rookie Bill Balog, Kasey Kahne and Anthony Macri crossed sixth through 10th, respectively.

Forty-five drivers signed in for the opening night of sprint car competition at the DIRTcar Nationals.

Rookie Landon Crawley, the 16-year-old son of three-time ASCS national champion Tim Crawley, wowed the fans in attendance by setting the overall fast time in qualifying in his first race as a full-time Outlaw.

Crawley’s lap of 13.346 seconds (134.872 mph) around the half-mile dirt oval was best in flight A of time trials, while Rico Abreu led the way in time trial flight B at 13.378 seconds (134.549 mph).

Scelzi, Courtney, Abreu, and Gravel won their respective eight-lap heat races, while the 10-lap C-Feature went to Chris Martin and Sweet topped the Toyota Dash to earn the pole prior to the main event.

Austin McCarl, the son of longtime sprint car legend Terry McCarl, was victorious in the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown and led the transfer cars into Wednesday night’s feature.

The 53rd Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals continues Thursday night with another full program of DIRTcar UMP modified and World of Outlaws sprint car racing. Every lap can be streamed via DIRTvision.

RESULTS: World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series; Volusia Speedway Park; Barberville, Fla.; Feb. 7, 2024

Sea Foam Qualifying Flight-A (best of two laps): 1. 7S-Landon Crawley, 13.346; 2. 7BC-Tyler Courtney, 13.448; 3. 39M-Anthony Macri, 13.507; 4. 49-Brad Sweet, 13.513; 5. 18-Gio Scelzi, 13.521; 6. 55-Chris Windom, 13.542; 7. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr., 13.549; 8. 1A-Jacob Allen, 13.551; 9. 88-Austin McCarl, 13.621; 10. 83-Buddy Kofoid, 13.640; 11. 13-Justin Peck, 13.659; 12. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss, 13.677; 13. 5-Spencer Bayston, 13.688; 14. 41-Carson Macedo, 13.752; 15. 70-Kraig Kinser, 13.756; 16. 11M-Brendan Mullen, 13.815; 17. 44-Chris Martin, 13.866; 18. 5T-Ryan Timms, 13.983; 19. 15K-Creed Kemenah, 14.227; 20. 16TH-Kevin Newton, 14.308; 21. 6G-Bryan Gossel, 14.607; 22. 2C-Wayne Johnson, NT; DQ: 0-Justin Whittall, 13.377.

Sea Foam Qualifying Flight-B (best of two laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu, 13.378; 2. 21-Brian Brown, 13.399; 3. 17B-Bill Balog, 13.423; 4. 2-David Gravel, 13.480; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart, 13.514; 6. 19-Brent Marks, 13.514; 7. 15-Donny Schatz, 13.548; 8. 9-Kasey Kahne, 13.600; 9. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild, 13.616; 10. 14-Corey Day, 13.657; 11. 48-Danny Dietrich, 13.704; 12. 22-Riley Goodno, 13.744; 13. 8-Cory Eliason, 13.757; 14. 26-Zeb Wise, 13.776; 15. 1-Brenham Crouch, 13.778; 16. 24D-Danny Sams III, 13.939; 17. 97UK-Ryan Harrison, 13.980; 18. 6-Bill Rose, 14.100; 19. 64-Andy Pake, 14.107; 20. 16T-Jake Swanson, 14.153; 21. 16G-Austyn Gossel, 14.328; 22. 7B-Ben Brown, 14.434.

Heat Race #1 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 18-Gio Scelzi [3], 2. 7S-Landon Crawley [1], 3. 39M-Anthony Macri [2], 4. 13-Justin Peck [6], 5. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr. [4] / 6. 88-Austin McCarl [5], 7. 5-Spencer Bayston [7], 8. 70-Kraig Kinser [8], 9. 44-Chris Martin [9], 10. 15K-Creed Kemenah [10], 11. 6G-Bryan Gossel [11], 12. 2C-Wayne Johnson (DNS).

Milton Hershey School Heat Race #2 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [1], 2. 49-Brad Sweet [2], 3. 1A-Jacob Allen [4], 4. 55-Chris Windom [3], 5. 83-Buddy Kofoid [5] / 6. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [6], 7. 41-Carson Macedo [7], 8. 5T-Ryan Timms [9], 9. 0-Justin Whittall [11], 10. 11M-Brendan Mullen [8], 11. 16TH-Kevin Newton [10].

Heat Race #3 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 24-Rico Abreu [1], 2. 17B-Bill Balog [2], 3. 15-Donny Schatz [4], 4. 1S-Logan Schuchart [3], 5. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [5] / 6. 48-Danny Dietrich [6], 7. 8-Cory Eliason [7], 8. 97UK-Ryan Harrison [9], 9. 1-Brenham Crouch [8], 10. 64-Andy Pake [10], 11. 16G-Austyn Gossel [11].

Heat Race #4 (8 laps, top five transfer): 1. 2-David Gravel [2], 2. 21-Brian Brown [1], 3. 19-Brent Marks [3], 4. 9-Kasey Kahne [4], 5. 14-Corey Day [5] / 6. 26-Zeb Wise [7], 7. 22-Riley Goodno [6], 8. 24D-Danny Sams III [8], 9. 6-Bill Rose [9], 10. Jake Swanson [10], 11. 7B-Ben Brown [11].

Toyota Dash (6 laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet [1], 2. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [3], 3. 2-David Gravel [5], 4. 17B-Bill Balog [2], 5. 7S-Landon Crawley [4], 6. 18-Gio Scelzi [6], 7. 24-Rico Abreu [7], 8. 21-Brian Brown [8].

C-Feature (10 laps, top two transfer): 1. 44-Chris Martin [1]; 2. 1-Brenham Crouch [2] / 3. 0-Justin Whittall [3]; 4. 11M-Brendan Mullen [7]; 5. 16T-Jake Swanson [8]; 6. 6G-Bryan Gossel [9]; 7. 7B-Ben Brown [12]; 8. 15K-Creed Kemenah [5]; 9. 64-Andy Pake [6]; 10. 16G-Austyn Gossel [10]; 11. 16TH-Kevin Newton [11]; 12. 6-Bill Rose (DNS); 13. 2C-Wayne Johnson (DNS).

Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown (12 laps, top four transfer): 1. 88-Austin McCarl [1]; 2. 48-Danny Dietrich [2]; 3. 26-Zeb Wise [4]; 4. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [3] / 5. 8-Cory Eliason[6]; 6. 41-Carson Macedo[7]; 7. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 8. 5-Spencer Bayston[5]; 9. 24D-Danny Sams III[12]; 10. 44-Chris Martin[13]; 11. 22-Riley Goodno[8]; 12. 70-Kraig Kinser[9]; 13. 1-Brenham Crouch[14]; 14. 97UK-Ryan Harrison[10]

NOS Energy Drink A-Feature (25 laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet [1]; 2. 7BC-Tyler Courtney [2]; 3. 2-David Gravel [3]; 4. 21-Brian Brown [8]; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart [14]; 6. 15-Donny Schatz [10]; 7. 18-Giovanni Scelzi [6]; 8. 17B-Bill Balog [4]; 9. 9-Kasey Kahne [16]; 10. 39M-Anthony Macri [9]; 11. 19-Brent Marks [12]; 12. 24-Rico Abreu [7]; 13. 13-Justin Peck [13]; 14. 41-Carson Macedo [25]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich [22]; 16. 55-Chris Windom [15]; 17. 1A-Jacob Allen [11]; 18. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss [24]; 19. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr. [17]; 20. 14-Corey Day [20]; 21. 7S-Landon Crawley [5]; 22. 26-Zeb Wise [23]; 23. 6-Bill Rose [26]; 24. 83-Michael Kofoid [19]; 25. 88-Austin McCarl [21]; 26. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild [18].

Lap Leader(s): Brad Sweet 1-25.

KSE Hard Charger: #1S-Logan Schuchart (+9)

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About Jacob Seelman

Jacob Seelman is Motorsports Hotspot’s News Editor and Race Face Digital’s Director of Content, as well as a veteran of more than a decade in the racing industry as a professional, though he’s spent his entire life in the garage and pit area.