In the past three weeks, sprint car and NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brad Sweet has turned in his best performances on dirt.
First came his first-pitch appearance for the Dayton Dragons at Fifth Third Field on June 27. If Sweet considered his strike a perfect pitch, then what he did late Saturday night at Eldora Speedway’s historic high-banked, half-mile oval was a grand slam.
The driver from California held off charges from Tim Kaeding, Donny Schatz and Brandon Wimmer to win the $50,000-to-win Kings Royal winged sprint car race in front of about 20,000 spectators. Sweet, who drives the Ollie’s Bargain Outlets ride for Kasey Kahne Racing, survived a pair of double-file restarts then a final single-file start with 15 laps left in the 40-lapper.
“Those were the longest 15 laps. That’s a long heat race, basically, so I was just counting them down,” said Sweet, who after putting Schatz behind him had to deal with lapped traffic racing him hard. “Any time you … don’t get past a lapped car, you’re setting yourself up for the guy behind you to get a run on you. I knew I was setting myself up for trouble there. I didn’t like it, but I tried to close up all the holes and fight off all the challengers.”
Except for a three-wide battle for the lead on lap 12 and Schatz nearly getting low under Sweet on a double-file restart on lap 17, Sweet dominated.
Kaeding finished second, two-time winner Schatz was third, Wimmer fourth and Jac Haudenschild fifth.
Sweet’s night was in peril early after blowing an engine in qualifying to finish 35th. He then started sixth in his heat race but surged ahead to win it.
“To win the Kings Royal after being 35th quick and with a blown engine is a testament to my crew. To be able to come from sixth in my heat to win it, it’s not unheard of, but it’s definitely doing something here,” Sweet said.
Steve Kinser, the only driver to qualify for all 30 Kings Royal features, finished eighth. His night took an interesting twist with 16 laps complete when he got tangled up with track owner Tony Stewart, who also happens to field Kinser’s ride. The contact sent Stewart’s car flipping coming out of Turn 4 and ending his night.
“I’m fine. I just had to deal with my (bleep) teammate Steve Kinser,” Stewart told the pit reporter over the public address system that got the crowd — and social media — buzzing.