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A SWEET SHOWDOWN: Brad Sweet Arises Victorious from Three-Man Sharon Speedway Battle
The four-time champion holds off challenges from Giovanni Scelzi and David Gravel for Sharon victory
HARTFORD, OH (September 23, 2023) - The box score from Saturday’s Federated Auto Parts Showdown at Sharon Speedway will simply show Brad Sweet led flag to flag. But the 30 laps were far from an easy cruise for “The Big Cat.”
The four-time and defending World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car champion took everything Giovanni Scelzi and David Gravel could throw at him. “The Big Cat” may have led every lap, but he had company challenging him for many of those trips around the Hartford, OH oval.
Early in the main event, Scelzi searched every bit of racetrack real estate for speed. He found momentum multiple times, but Sweet fended off each challenge. Then in the second half of the race it was Sweet’s championship rival – Gravel – surging into second and looking to steal the win. Gravel showed Sweet a nose multiple times, but the Grass Valley, CA native kept the door closed. Ultimately, Sweet dodged every punch the two had as he went on to grab his ninth win of the year with The Greatest Show on Dirt.
“I just didn’t know where to be sometimes. Lapped traffic was tough,” Sweet explained. “I was probably a little too free. I started off a little too good and got free pretty quick and was trying to use the wall on the (corner) exits to get me down the straightaways. I just was struggling a little bit, but we got into Victory Lane. That’s half the battle.”
Sweet’s ninth victory of the year moved him up to 88 for his career. The 37-year-old also joined Steve Kinser and Danny Lasoski as the only competitors with multiple World of Outlaws wins at Sharon through 13 Series visits to the 3/8-mile.
When the green flag dropped on the 30-lap Feature, Sweet led the way after topping the Toyota Racing Dash. The Napa Auto Parts #49 pulled ahead on the opening lap while Scelzi rocketed from fourth to second out of Turn 2 and down the back straightaway.
Early on in clean air, Sweet put a solid gap between himself and Scelzi, but the Fresno, CA driver wouldn’t allow Sweet to escape. Scelzi kept him well within his sights as they began to near traffic. While Sweet preferred the cushion all the way around Sharon as the race worked through its first third, Scelzi found speed rolling the bottom in Turns 3 and 4. The gap between the two began to vanish, and Scelzi began to show Sweet a nose repeatedly as they neared the halfway point.
After the cross flags were displayed, Scelzi ramped up the intensity in his pursuit of the lead. On Lap 19, Scelzi tried a slide job on Sweet in Turns 1 and 2 but came up slightly short as Sweet slipped back by on the outside. Two laps later, Scelzi hit the bottom perfectly in the same set of corners to nose ahead of Sweet as they hit the back straightaway. Sweet refused to go down, though, as he used the high side momentum to inch back in front heading into Turn 3 and protect the lead causing Scelzi to slip back.
With Scelzi losing ground to Sweet, he fell right into the clutches of a fast-closing Gravel who snuck by on the bottom on Lap 23 to take over runner-up. Up ahead, Sweet began to question where he needed to be as he struggled to move by a lapped car.
“I probably stayed up top a little too long, but I didn’t want to leave that lane open,” Sweet said. “With the lapped car there, I was just always kind of right off his right rear (tire)… Based off experiences kind of knowing how hard I was having to work to pass him on the top and what pace he was running. Once I got down to his pace, I knew someone would’ve had to really run the wall exceptionally well.”
Before Sweet wound up deciding to move to the bottom, Gravel gathered enough steam for one bid at the lead. On the 25th lap, Gravel used a strong run on the inside of Turns 1 and 2 to pull alongside Sweet and looked as if he may snatch the top spot. But heading into the next turn, Sweet slammed the door shut to maintain the lead as Gravel slipped back.
The move sealed the deal for Sweet who went on to cross the finish line with a half second advantage.
“I’m excited to get the win,” Sweet said. “It was a tough battle for sure. I saw Gio multiple times, I think, off of (Turn 2), or it could’ve been David. I just saw orange. It was a great race. The bottom got cleaned off. Once I found it, I knew if I was just patient and didn’t overdrive the car it would be really hard for someone to get by me.”
Gravel settled for second to net his 29th World of Outlaws podium of the season. While it was a strong run, he knows he needs to be finishing ahead of the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 if he wants a chance at running Sweet down in the title chase. Sweet’s victory grew the margin to 80 markers between the two.
“It was a good weekend,” Gravel said. “I just wish I could take that start back. I thought Brad was going to go to the top and he went to the middle and kind of confused me and Gio got by me. I thought Gio was really good early, and it looked like Brad was searching and didn’t know where to go as well. I thought the bottom was kind of the best place to be, but we were just a little too free down there. Then it started cleaning up, and our car really came to life when that bottom came in and the grip picked up and made our car sit right. We were alongside Brad there, and I guess I just wish I ran in harder than him and banged wheels and pushed him out of the way if I could do it over again. Obviously, we’ve got to beat him every night here moving forward. Obviously, if he wins, the best we can do is run second.”
After his early challenges for the lead, Giovanni Scelzi completed the podium aboard the KCP Racing #18. The World of Outlaws rookie knew he had a car capable of winning but simply came up short to two of the sport’s best at the top of their game.
“It was really good all night. I’m really proud of my guys. I can’t say enough about them,” a grateful Scelzi said. “I’m going to replay that one a lot in my head tonight and the next couple days. Brad and David are really good. They’re the two top guys out here, and they’re the most consistent guys to race against. You learn every time you race against them what moves to make. I just kind of panicked there. I didn’t realize it was cleaning off that much around the bottom. I saw Gravel try the top in (Turns) 3 and 4, and that was my chance to get him. Brad was playing the right game just staying the bottom.”
Tanner Holmes and Carson Macedo rounded out the top five.
Brock Zearfoss snagged KSE Racing Hard Charger honors with a 20th to 13th effort.
In Low-E Insulation Qualifying, Carson Macedo earned his 14th Simpson Performance Products QuickTime of the year and 33rd of his career.
CASE No. 1 Engine Oil Heat One went to David Gravel (235th Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Sheldon Haudenschild (96th of career), James McFadden (50th of career), and Giovanni Scelzi (35th of career).
Donny Schatz won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars are Pennsylvania bound for one of the sport’s crown jewels. Mechanicsburg, PA’s Williams Grove Speedway is the destination next week (September 29-30) for the 61st Champion Racing Oil National Open. The winner of the finale will take home $75,000. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
RESULTS:NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 4. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 5. 41-Carson Macedo; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 7. 10-Dave Blaney; 8. 32B-Dale Blaney; 9. 5-Spencer Bayston; 10. 22-Cole Duncan; 11. 83-James McFadden; 12. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 13. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 14. 39M-Justin Sanders; 15. 2F-AJ Flick; 16. 15-Donny Schatz; 17. 1M-Landon Myers; 18. 13-Brandon Matus; 19. 4-Danny Smith; 20. 2X-Ricky Peterson; 21. 5M-Jeremy Weaver; 22. 11J-David Kalb; 23. (DNF) 08-Danny Kuriger; 24. (DNF) 6F-Bob Felmlee
ELDORA EXCELLENCE: Rico Abreu Fends Off Gravel for Third Eldora World of Outlaws Victory
Abreu survives Gravel’s final corner slider notch yet another win at the historic half mile
ROSSBURG, OH (September 22, 2023) - Rico Abreu is on a roll at Eldora Speedway. The high banks and high speeds of “The Big E” seem to suit the Californian perfectly. And on Friday night, Abreu delivered the latest testament to his prowess at the historic facility.
The 31-year-old took the lead on the opening circuit of the 30-lapper and never looked back. Abreu held off early challenges from Giovanni Scelzi and survived a Hail Mary slide job from David Gravel in the final corner to seal a win in the BeFour the Crowns Showdown as the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars kicked off Four Crown weekend.
The victory moved Abreu up to six with The Greatest Show on Dirt in 2023. He’s now at four triumphs in his last 10 Sprint Car starts at the half mile. The other three are last year’s BeFour the Crowns Showdown, another World of Outlaws win this past May, and an Eldora Million prelim in July. As the World of Outlaws closed out their 2023 slate at Eldora, Abreu became the first and only to notch multiple Series victories at “The House that Earl Built.”
“Just more seat time around this track,” Abreu said of his recent Eldora success. “Ricky Warner and these guys work so hard. They’re so passionate about racing. What I’ve understood in my career is just surround yourself with people that are passionate about this sport and want to see me do good, and that’s how we stand up here in Victory Lane. We all just believe in each other.”
The pole position at the drop of the green flag belonged to Logan Schuchart courtesy of topping the Toyota Racing Dash. But it was Abreu blasting around the top side to lead down the back straightaway on Lap 1 and pace the first circuit.
On the second lap, Gio Scelzi quickly began to flex his muscle as he cleared a perfect slide job on Schuchart to take over the runner-up spot in Turns 1 and 2. Right after snagging second, Scelzi went to work tracking down Abreu.
While the pilot of the Rico Abreu Racing #24 ripped the thin cushion all around Eldora, Scelzi made up ground tip-toeing the low line in Turns 3 and 4. The Fresno, CA native rolled tightly along the inside fence to close in. On the seventh lap, Scelzi used a strong run out of Turn 4 to attack. He threw a massive slider at Abreu heading into Turn 1 in a bid for the lead. But Abreu kept the gas pedal mashed to the floor and motored around Scelzi as the two nearly touched exiting the second turn.
Scelzi’s unsuccessful slider scrubbed momentum from the KCP Racing #18 as Abreu pulled ahead down the backstretch. The close call appeared to lift Abreu’s elbows up as he began to distance himself from Scelzi and the rest of the field.
As the race neared the halfway point, Abreu opened up his advantage as the St. Helena, CA native expertly sliced through traffic. The gap between he and Scelzi eclipsed two seconds on Lap 16, and as the race dwindled to 10 laps to go, Abreu appeared headed to an easy win. But then the yellow lights flashed for the first time as James McFadden got into the fence and spun to a stop.
The race was interrupted one last time as Spencer Bayston had an issue in Turns 1 and 2 to set up a six-lap dash to the checkered flag.
On the late restart, Abreu inched ahead as a surging David Gravel began to challenge Scelzi for second. Gravel could comfortably move his Big Game Motorsports #2 around the surface, and he used a run to slide by Scelzi for the runner-up spot on Lap 27 before setting his sights on Abreu.
Like Scelzi earlier in the race, Gravel found speed on the bottom of Turns 3 and 4, and he trimmed three tenths of a second off Abreu’s lead on the lap after he took over second. The next lap another three tenths were erased as they took the white flag. And as the lead duo rolled down the backstretch one last time, Gravel launched a Hail Mary slider into Turn 3 but barely missed clearing Abreu as the exited Turn 4.
“I knew,” Abreu said of Gravel’s closing presence. “My pace slowed down on the top. There weren’t too many cars running all the way up on the wall and it was getting crumby. I knew I won a race here a couple years ago just cheating it into (Turns) 3 and 4. The sun bakes that end, so it’s the fastest corner to slicken up. You’ve just really got to pay attention. Racing with the Outlaws things happen really quickly.”
Abreu surviving Gravel’s last gasp allowed him to reach the finish line first to lock up another Eldora victory to continue his recent tear at the Rossburg, OH facility.
“That’s the best Eldora right there,” Abreu said. “It was just really maneuverable with our race car.”
The slide job that came up a little short caused Gravel to settle for second as he narrowly missed making the trip to Victory Lane. The runner-up result marked Gravel’s Series-high 28th World of Outlaws podium of the season. Gravel left feeling satisfied with the strong run but also wished the Feature could’ve been slightly longer with how his machine came alive late.
“We definitely needed a 40-lap race there,” Gravel said. “I felt like everybody was getting worse and we were either staying the same or getting better there at the end. I just kind of figured out (Turns) 3 and 4. And in (Turns) 1 and 2 Rico was leaning on the cushion really hard and hitting it and getting tight and wasn’t making a lot of corner speed where I felt like I was. If I was in clean air in front of him through (Turns) 1 and 2, we would’ve been really hauling ass through there, but still a solid run for us.”
After challenging for the lead early on, Gio Scelzi brought his #18 machine home third to round out the top three. The finish marked his sixth podium of his rookie World of Outlaws campaign. Most importantly, the strong run suppled he and the team with a much needed confidence boost following a rough west coast swing.
“We were fast all night from the drop of the green flag,” Scelzi said. “I felt like every move we made and every change we made really made the car a lot better. It’s been probably the crappiest three weeks I’ve had in my entire racing career. I don’t think people realize whether we suck or whether we win, the same amount of work goes in with my crew guys. This is 100% dedicated to them and all the sponsors that stay behind us.”
Carson Macedo and Logan Schuchart completed the top five.
With Brad Sweet finishing ninth, Gravel’s runner-up helped him trim Sweet’s point lead down from 90 markers to 76.
Donny Schatz collected the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a 15th to 6th drive.
David Gravel earned the Simpson Racing QuickTime Award for the 11th time in 2023 and 108th time in his career.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to David Gravel (234th Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Giovanni Scelzi (34th of career), Logan Schuchart (119th of career), and Justin Peck (ninth of career).
Kerry Madsen won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
After an incident with less than 10 laps to go ended a potential top 10 run, James McFadden was given the Smith Titanium Brake Systems Break of the Race.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars make their last appearance in the state of Ohio on Saturday, September 23 at Sharon Speedway for the Federated Auto Parts Showdown. For tickets, CLICK HERE.
If you can’t make it to the track, catch all of the action live on DIRTVision.
RESULTS:NOS Energy Drink Feature (30 Laps): 1. 24-Rico Abreu; 2. 2-David Gravel; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 4. 41-Carson Macedo; 5. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 6. 15-Donny Schatz; 7. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 8. 13-Justin Peck; 9. 49-Brad Sweet; 10. 26-Zeb Wise; 11. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 12. 8-Aaron Reutzel; 13. 9R-Chase Randall; 14. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 15. 21H-Brady Bacon; 16. 11-Cory Eliason; 17. 88-Austin McCarl; 18. 42-Sye Lynch; 19. 4-Chris Windom; 20. 7S-Robbie Price; 21. 9-Kasey Kahne; 22. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 23. (DNF) 5-Spencer Bayston; 24. (DNF) 83-James McFadden; 25. (DNF) 55-Kerry Madsen; 26. (DNF) 9P-Parker Price Miller