MECHANICSBURG, Pa. – For someone who‘s bagged nearly every big accomplishment in sprint car racing, Brad Sweet hasn‘t been close to winning at arguably the most historic track of them all.
Three third-place runs in 44 career starts. That‘s all Sweet has attained at Williams Grove Speedway, the track that‘s hosted the most races in World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series history.
“It‘s been my achilles heel,” he said in a phone interview Monday night, pausing slightly before finishing an important thought.
“But if I can get a win, it‘ll help my confidence,” he said. “I‘ll say that.”
This weekend, the series makes its first of three trips to Williams Grove, and Sweet is met with a mixed bag of circumstances. While he finds himself in the middle of one of the most torrid starts in recent memory – eight wins in 20 races – he‘s also coming off his worst weekend of the year.
Two races outside the top-10 isn‘t something to fret about, but anything more could diminish his 62-point series lead over David Gravel. Anything inside the top 10, meanwhile, is probably welcome for Sweet, who owns an average finish of 11.2 at Williams Grove.
Still, he thinks this is his best shot to finally win at Williams Grove, a place Steve Kinser, Sammy Swindell and Donny Schatz have all dominated.
“Obviously, you want to win everywhere,” Sweet said. “That‘s the goal when you set out on this journey: to win races on quarter miles, half miles, Williams Grove to Volusia and California. You want to win everywhere. I don‘t necessarily get caught up in how I‘ll be judged. I just get caught up in the moment, right now, what‘s in front of me. That‘s two races at Williams Grove this weekend.
“I want to figure things out to where we can be a little more consistent there,” he added. “There‘s definitely some guys who are a little better at the Grove. Whether it‘s their cars, their driving style, I don‘t know. That‘s something we’re trying to figure out.”
There‘s not many weaknesses in Sweet right now and that‘s what makes this weekend intriguing. Traditionally, series drivers must get through Pennsylvania with at least a win — unscathed, at the very least — to hoist the championship trophy in November.
Sweet, on the other hand, has skirted Pennsylvania en route to his two championships. This year he’s taking the challenge head on, determined to make his California roots bear fruit around the tricky half-mile clay oval.
“My driving style doesn‘t necessarily get Williams Grove all that well,” Sweet said. “We‘re going to have to figure that out. That‘s how we approach every race track. Really work together as a team to try to figure the car out and where we want on the track. It‘s kind of developed into something that‘s working for us and hopefully keep working for us.”
What has elevated Sweet and his No. 49 Kasey Kahne Racing/Mike Curb team is their resourcefulness.
Lance Dewease, the legendary Pennsylvania Posse driver going for win No. 100 at Williams Grove this weekend, noticed another next-level trait.
“If you look at Sweet … what did he learn to do to beat Schatz?” Dewease said. “He learned how to run the bottom. Now, he knows how to pass race cars.”
Two of Sweet‘s eight wins this year have come from ninth. One came on a late-race charge at I-70 Motorsports Park, where Sweet ran the bottom better than anyone.
“Mindset, age, and experiences has helped me understand how to get my car right on different parts of the track,” Sweet said. “It‘s not something that happens overnight. It‘s something you have to develop. You have to have the right mindset moving forward.”
At Williams Grove, Sweet will once again try to exploit resourcefulness. It‘s led to a strong start through 20 races this year. Sixty-three races remain and for that reason, the objective is clear.
“When you’re off, you have to rebound as quickly as possible,” Sweet said. “We definitely know we need to improve on our weaknesses. Obviously, Williams Grove has been a weakness in the past. Hopefully we can be a little better this weekend.”