CHICO, Calif. – Brad Sweet long pictured himself as an operator of Silver Dollar Speedway.
Over these past few years, Sweet stayed in contact with Dennis Gage, Silver Dollar’s promoter from 2010 onward, and regularly shared his hopes for the California racing scene.
In return Gage informed Sweet his years were winding down at the helm of Silver Dollar.
Naturally, Sweet morphed into the right successor.
On Nov. 20, Gage officially transitioned promotional power to Sweet and his recruited team that consists of Kyle Larson and Colby Copeland. The news jolted the sprint car world but those in the know understand Sweet has patiently waited, and prepared, to inherit Silver Dollar for some time.
“I’ve always shown interest, I just didn’t know how it’d look,” Sweet said.
“I just don’t want to die,” the three-time World of Outlaws NOS Energy Sprint Car Series champion added. “I don’t want 410 racing to die. I feel like I have some things to help with that and bring to the table. Timing is kind of everything. Dennis Gage showed interest in retiring, then it was kind of up to me to put the team together I thought would be successful with me still being out on the road racing.”
The move isn’t a reach out of Sweet’s comfort zone.
Sweet has promoted seven World of Outlaws events and another eight events in and around his home state of California that’s helped build his support system.
“Luckily for me I know a lot of the promoters out here, having promoted some events along the way,” Sweet said. “It’s been a pretty seamless transition.”
“I think I know the business, having promoted races,” Sweet added. “It’s something I didn’t just jump in cold turkey. I think I kind of understand how it works. That’s what kind of has led me to it.
Sweet half jokingly called himself “the broker” of the deal, the guy who laid out the vision and told Larson and Copeland to follow along because of their multiplying power. Copeland is apt in management, having his California family business.
Larson, needless to say, brings the spotlight as the NASCAR Cup Series champion and a champion of California dirt-track racing.
“As a team, I feel like we can bring a lot to the table,” Sweet said. “We’re doing a lot behind the scenes right now, trying to get some rules changed, more in line with the rest of the country.
“We’ve kind of got our schedule put together and are working on sponsors and trying to build Gold Cup back into a great event,” Sweet added, “trying to provide a really race track for the local racers, and trying to focus in on our primary six or eight, 10 events, and try to grow it from there.”
Last week Sweet attended a promoters workshop in Reno, Nev., the first event he saw through the race-track management lens. He wants to be the bridge in communication between racers and promoters.
“I think one thing is racers should promote events,” Sweet said. “It would open their eyes to both sides of the fence. I think that would be a healthier thing for racing in general. I think some of the things happen, racers only look at it from a racer’s standpoint.
“Sometimes it goes both ways,” Sweet added. “Promotors, they only look at it from their standpoint. I do think we bring a different perspective to the table. I hope I can help other promoters see things from a racer’s standpoint.
“I hope I’ll be able to see things from a promotor’s standpoint so they can see,” Sweet continued. “Together, as a team, we can progress racing along. I think that goes across the whole United States, everyone working together to create that fan experience.”
Since Sweet won the facility lease on Nov. 9, he’s pressed putting his hopes into a blueprint, all before the hectic sprint car season begins early February at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway Park.
Atop that list is extinguishing the “show up and sit around” vibe of dirt-track events.
“People need to be entertained at all times,” he said.
“I think some of that old-school way of thinking has to be changed if we all want to be successful,” Sweet added. “I certainly know at Chico that’s going to be our mindset. It’s going to look different. There’s going to be a different mindset there. That doesn’t mean the facility is going to look different.”
That said, two words are effectively driving the new-look Silver Dollar: longevity and efficiency.
“It’s ever-changing, the fans are getting younger,” Sweet said of dirt-track racing. “We can’t rely on our old way of thinking to be successful. We’re going to have to create new ideas and new things. Everybody has to be open-minded as we move forward for these next five, 10, 15, 20 years.
“You’re going to see a lot of change in what’s popular,” Sweet added. “You’re seeing dirt racing grow and be successful right now. We have a great product. It’s about making that product more viable and more sustainable and not something that’s a trend, trendy for a second. We have to make it something people can engage with and grow to love.”