ODESSA, Mo. — I-70 Motorsports Park was rundown, overgrown, and left for dead. The once blossoming facility was a lost cause, only until it wasn’t.
After years of extensive hard work, the iconic Missouri track returned on Friday night with the grand re-opening welcoming the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars to town for the first time since 1986.
The first of two nights at the FVP Platinum Battery Showdown, fans came out in full force and were treated to a 30-lap feature that included three different leaders and a familiar face in victory lane.
At the end of it all, an extra-excited Brad Sweet climbed from his Kasey Kahne Racing with Mike Curb No. 49 as the winner of the spectacular return to racing at the four-tenths-mile oval.
The Big Cat’s path to victory lane came from the fifth row as he soared by early leaders Brock Zearfoss and David Gravel to pounce on the $10,000 prize.
Sweet picked up his 64th career victory and his seventh win through the first 17 races of the season by virtue of his triumph in Friday’s feature.
“This NAPA Auto Parts team never gives up,” Sweet said. “We know sometimes you’ll have to come from mid-pack, and others you’ll start on the front row. It’s always a little more sweeter doing it from farther back. We’ve struggled on the half-miles this year, so that’s a nice bonus too. This was a pretty cool place for my first trip here. Awesome crowd, great race track, incredible facility. Excited for tomorrow.”
Starting the 30-lapper from ninth, Sweet wasn’t as heavily favored in Vegas odds as front row starters David Gravel and Brock Zearfoss. Both were feeling good after Gravel set his fourth Slick Woody’s QuickTime (13.018 seconds) and Zearfoss scored his third Team Drydene Heat Win of the season.
Zearfoss put his No. 3z to the point and led his first laps of the 2021 season. His command lasted 10 laps in total, until a lap-11 restart following Mason Daniel’s flip allowed Gravel to line up alongside him and steal the lead away.
Gravel set the cruise control on his Big Game Motorsports No. 2, but behind him was a hard-charging Brad Sweet who rallied from ninth and was up to second by lap 20. Once he disposed of Zearfoss, Sweet’s markers were on Gravel and he was closing quickly. Using a lap car as a pick, Sweet went low down the backstretch and took them three-wide as he pinned the bottom of turn three to surprise Gravel and rip the led away on lap 24.
The duo continued to wage war over the final laps until a shocking caution flew on lap 27 for third-running Zearfoss hard into the turn four wall. That set the stage for the final restart with only three laps remaining.
Going back to green, Brian Brown made a surprise entrance and slid by Gravel as his hometown crowd cheered him. Brownie wasn’t done there as he threw a Hail Mary effort at Sweet for the victory on the final lap but fell short by only 0.440 seconds as Sweet collected the checkered flag.
It wasn’t the win he wanted, but this season-best second-place finish for Brown was extra special.
“I grew up 15 minutes that way in Higginsville and now I live 15 minutes this way in Grain Valley, so I see a lot of familiar faces tonight,” Brown said. “I’m so proud to represent mid-Missouri, I’m one of you guys. This FVP Parts #21 is great right now and we’ll be back going for the win tomorrow.”
After leading 13 laps through the midway point, Gravel slipped back to finish third.
“We had a car to win, but our tires kept going away under those cautions,” Gravel noted. “I thought we would’ve had something in lap traffic. I really didn’t want to see that caution, but hey that’s racing. Brad is on his game, but we’re gonna make it interesting all year.”
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