GRASS VALLEY, Calif. – Brad Sweet’s life resembles something of a blur these days.
He is two weeks removed from his third straight World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship and one week into taking over promotional duties at the place that raised him, Silver Dollar Raceway in Chico, Calif.
So much for undivided reflection on the accomplishment of joining Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz at the mountaintop as the only drivers to win three-straight series titles.
By now, though, Sweet is accustomed to things developing, then evolving, swiftly.
“It’s all happened really fast,” Sweet said in a recent phone interview. “It doesn’t feel like there’s ever a second [championship] in there. I remember the first one, obviously. That one was super stressful.
“You sit back and reflect, ‘Dang, three [titles],” Sweet added. “You have to pinch yourself a little bit that all that time’s gone by this quick and we’ve been able to accomplish that. It’s one of those things, you want to keep winning. We know what it’s like to win. Now we just want to keep doing it.”
In 2019, Sweet finally emerged from Schatz’s shadow for his breakthrough title, edging the 10-time champion by four points in a race down to the last lap of the season.
In 2020, the stability of Sweet and his No. 49 Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb team guided them to another championship in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic conditions.
This year Sweet and company started fast and finished smoothly to remain winged sprint car racing’s gold standard. Sweet won 16 of the 77 series races and finished 80 points ahead of David Gravel.
Sweet’s eight years of touring experience accentuated with a core personnel could be the biggest difference.
Crew chief Eric Prutzman and tire specialist Andrew Bowman have been on the team since 2018. Joe Mooney joined the team as car chief in 2019.
Meanwhile, series contenders Gravel, Carson Macedo, Donny Schatz and Sheldon Haudenschild have all made some kind of significant adjustment since 2019.
“We’ve got great partners and we’ve been able to stick together through all this,” Sweet said. Build a notebook, my experiences as a driver of getting better at tracks I’ve struggled at, get more refined at the ones we’ve run good at. I feel like some of that is why we’ve gotten better and a little more consistent.”
Sweet still sees a gap that needs closed, particularly when he compares and contrasts what Schatz made attainable in his run of five-straight titles (2014 to ‘18) and in Central Pennsylvania.
In his championship seasons Sweet averaged 138.9, 136 and 137.6 points per race, in that order.
From 2014 to ‘18, Schatz never averaged less than 140 points a race and even went for 144.4 points a night during his dominant 2017 season in which he beat Sweet by 210 points.
“We’re still not on Donny’s level when Donny was winning his championships in his prime, winning 25 to 30 races a year,” Sweet said. “I think we need to improve our race team a little bit.
“I feel like another team could step up,” Sweet added. “We’re leaving a little bit out on the table there. For the most part we have a really good package for a lot of the race tracks we go to. We have to make some improvements on the ones we don’t.”
Sweet’s weightiest part of the schedule is unquestionably Pennsylvania’s Williams Grove Speedway. Of the nine series races he finished outside the top 10 this year, four belonged to the tricky half-mile clay oval.
Between the series’ top six contenders — Sweet, Gravel, Macedo, Schatz, Logan Schuchart and Haudenschild — Sweet posted the worst average finish between nine Central PA races (10.8).
Schatz, meanwhile, drove to a series-best 4.8 average finish in Pennsylvania Posse land this year despite his perceived drastic falloff. It’s an important number because Sweet studies Schatz’s craft intently.
“There’s so many factors when Donny was doing what he was doing,” Sweet said. “I felt like we were a distant second. Then we closed the gap a little, then he had a lot of changes with his race team.
“I think we improved, but he’s gone through a lot of changes, so we don’t really know where they’re at as a race team or other people,” Sweet said. “Not that we’re worried about other teams, it’s I feel like our team needs to take another step to get better. We still feel like we struggle at a few places.”
Sweet is now in rare, perhaps exclusive, territory, being a three-time World of Outlaws champion and active promoter of a race facility at once.
If Sweet is going to join Kinser and Schatz in consecutive title status, he may as well join them in their measures.
Schatz and Kinser never stopped at three-straight titles. It always led to four and five, even six, crowns in a row.
“I feel like I’m in my prime, in my mid-30s,” Sweet said. “I’m just in a good position. You have a lot of good guys capable of winning races, but winning championships is just a different element. Once a guy gets to that point, it’s hard to ever beat them.
“An Outlaw tour is just a tough tour,” Sweet added. “You have to be perfect, well not perfect, but you have to have minimal mistakes. That’s the thing, you can’t get behind. The teams that win typically understand that.”