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SEALING THE DEAL: Brad Sweet Punctuates Fifth Straight World of Outlaws Championship with Wild World Finals Win
Sweet slips by Rico Abreu late to top final night of the 2023 season and clinch fifth championship
CONCORD, NC (Nov. 4, 2023) - Brad Sweet could’ve been careful. He could’ve put the Kasey Kahne Racing #49 in cruise control. With a front row starting spot, all he needed was to finish 22nd or better to seal a fifth consecutive World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car championship.
But “The Big Cat” had no intentions of taking it easy to close out 2023. He gave the sold-out grandstands what they paid for.
Sweet slipped back slightly to start the 25-lapper on Saturday night. But the Grass Valley, CA native rallied back to snatch the lead late from Rico Abreu after a side-by-side duel. Sweet then held on to put the exclamation mark on his title campaign with his first win at The Dirt Track at Charlotte.
“Just happy to be here in front of this large crowd,” Sweet said. “Happy we were able to get our NAPA Auto Parts car in Victory Lane. We’ve been trying here for a long time. I think with the points you’re always so conservative, but tonight we had a car capable of doing it. I was able to be pretty conservative on the bottom and keep my tires under me and just kind of snuck by Rico there at the end and tried to just hold him off there coming to the checkered.”
Sweet’s 11th victory of 2023 with The Greatest Show on Dirt elevated his career total to 90, moving him within five of Dave Blaney’s total of 95, which is eighth all-time. It was also his first triumph at the Charlotte oval in his 38th attempt. With the fifth consecutive championship, Sweet equaled the second longest streak of all-time and is one away from Steve Kinser’s record mark of six straight.
Brian Brown and Sweet brought the field to green for the season finale, and it was Brown leading the way on the opening lap. On the second circuit, Abreu ripped the top around Sweet to take over the runner-up spot.
Abreu quickly began his pursuit of Brown and closed in little by little over the next few laps. The St. Helena, CA native attempted a slider on Brown early but couldn’t clear him. Only a couple laps later, traffic presented an issue for Brown and allowed Abreu to roar around him on the top for the lead.
Behind the two leaders, Friday’s winner – Brent Marks – was coming to life as he rolled by Sweet for third on Lap 9. Then only one lap later, he slid Brown to take control of second. Sweet followed suit by making a move on Brown to climb into the third spot.
Both Marks and Sweet began pursuit of Abreu as the race crossed the halfway point. The Pennsylvanian trimmed Abreu’s lead all the way down to barely more than two tenths on Lap 16. But he saw a surging Sweet drive by him for second on the next time around.
Sweet then began to cut into Abreu’s lead as the two used entirely different lines. Abreu pounded the top around the fence while Sweet patiently rolled the bottom. With only four laps remaining, Sweet had knocked Abreu’s lead under two tenths of a second as the two went side by side.
“I think it takes two different setups. You’re either set up to run the top and go real fast, or you’re set up to go real slow around the bottom,” Sweet said. “I just felt like we needed to be on the bottom there with everything we had going. I feel like you can keep your tires under you and keep them cool down there, and it seems to pay off. It seems like passing lapped cars is even harder on the top when the guy is real patient on the bottom. So, I just tried to be patient.”
Ultimately, patience paid off for Sweet. Coming out of Turn 4 on Lap 23, Abreu didn’t hit the top as smoothly as he had been, and Sweet capitalized by completing the pass on the front straightaway.
With the lead in his possession, only two more laps stood between him and closing out his title campaign with a trip to Victory Lane. He wheeled the Napa Auto Parts #49 smoothly around the 4/10-mile two more times to claim the checkered flag.
“It’s just really neat to cap it off with a win like this, and it’s basically like a walk-off homer,” Sweet said. “It just feels really good, and were going to celebrate… I’m just super happy. It’s just such a relief. These seasons are so long and so grueling and so hard. It’s just unbelievable that we’ve been able to accomplish what we’ve been able to accomplish.”
For the second time in three nights, Abreu brought home the runner-up spot, marking his 17th World of Outlaws podium of the year – by far the most for any competitor not running the full schedule. Despite losing out on a potential win late, Abreu kept his head up and looked at the result as an opportunity to absorb a lesson.
“I think you learn more losing these races than you do winning them,” Abreu said. “You’re racing the best in the country, so your margin for error is so minimal. You have lapped traffic running side-by-side in front of you eight laps into the race. You’re just trying to manipulate and pick and choose which lanes to run. My car was set up to run the top, and I committed up there. You win and lose those races. It’s just part of it.”
Rounding out the final podium of the 2023 World of Outlaws season was Logan Schuchart aboard the Shark Racing #1S. The result helped him lock up the fifth spot in points as he entered the night in a close battle with Donny Schatz for the spot. The Hanover, PA native found speed on the top and stuck to it throughout the race.
“When I was racing with Carson a little earlier in the race, he kind of went to the bottom and that’s why I got by him. It looked like he slipped off the bottom a little bit,” Schuchart explained. “So, I didn’t want that to happen to me, and I didn’t know what it felt like. I didn’t want to go somewhere I didn’t want to go. So, I just kind of stuck to pounding the top of the racetrack and seeing what I could make happen up there. Once the tires started going away the last couple laps, I couldn’t run it in there as hard as I wanted to anymore. But all in all, a great end to our season to finish on the podium.”
Brent Marks and Tyler Courtney completed the top five.
David Gravel drove from 21st to seventh to earn the KSE Racing Hard Charger. Gravel’s result made the final margin between himself and Sweet 60 points, which is the fifth straight year it has been within 100 and the eighth closest ever.
Giovanni Scelzi completed his Kevin Gobrecht Rookie of the Year campaign with a fourth place finish in points, equaling both Jeff Swindell (1981) and Brad Doty (1982) for the best debut season in Series history.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Rico Abreu. NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Brent Marks, Tyler Courtney, and Brad Sweet.
David Gravel won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
Brian Brown claimed the Toyota Racing Dash.
UP NEXT: The 2024 World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car campaign will begin on with the Federated Auto Parts DIRTcar Nationals on Feb. 8-10 at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, FL.
RESULTS:NOS Energy Drink Feature (25 Laps): 1. 49-Brad Sweet; 2. 24-Rico Abreu; 3. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 4. 19-Brent Marks; 5. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 6. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 7. 2-David Gravel; 8. 41-Carson Macedo; 9. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg; 10. 21-Brian Brown; 11. 5-Spencer Bayston; 12. 1A-Jacob Allen; 13. 15-Donny Schatz; 14. 13-Justin Peck; 15. 83-James McFadden; 16. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 17. 2MD-Cap Henry; 18. 69K-Justin Henderson; 19. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 20. 8-Cory Eliason; 21. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr; 22. 1T-Tanner Holmes; 23. 99-Skylar Gee; 24. 9-Kasey Kahne; 25. 7S-Robbie Price; 26. 42-Sye Lynch; 27. (DNS) 20G-Noah Gass
CHARLOTTE SWEEP: Marks Outlasts Peck, Courtney for Thrilling Charlotte World Finals Victory
Marks, Peck, and Courtney trade the lead multiple times before Marks secures his second win of the year
CONCORD, NC (Nov. 3, 2023) - The World of Outlaws World Finals means only a few chances remain to pick up a World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car win this year. And that also means the intensity rises each and every lap.
That heightened intensity was on complete display Friday night at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. An all-out war erupted between Brent Marks, Justin Peck, and Tyler Courtney for a $15,000 payday and a trip to Victory Lane.
Sliders. Crossovers. More sliders and crossovers. Cars using multiple grooves. Endless action led to a thrilling 25-lap main event on the penultimate night of the 2023 campaign for The Greatest Show on Dirt.
When the dust settled, Brent Marks claimed the checkered flag narrowly ahead of Peck to snag a win for the Pennsylvania Posse. As Marks rose atop his wing in Victory Lane, the massive crowd on hand erupted in appreciation for the show he and his fellow competitors had delivered.
“It feels amazing,” Marks said. “To win in front of this crowd is an amazing moment. Standing up here on this stage at this racetrack means a lot to me. To get another World of Outlaws victory also means a lot to me. That was a really fun race.”
The win was Marks’ second of the season, marking the third consecutive year he’s notched multiple World of Outlaws wins. Adding to his 2021 Charlotte victory, Marks became the 12th driver to own multiple Series triumphs at the 4/10-mile. His win also completed a clean sweep of the program as he set QuickTime, won his Heat, topped the Dash, and finished it off with the Feature victory.
Marks earned the pole of the Feature after topping the Toyota Racing Dash. Courtney slid ahead of “The Myerstown Missile” in Turns 3 and 4, but Marks dipped under him to lead the opening lap by a hair and slide back in front in Turns 1 and 2.
As the early laps unfolded, Marks couldn’t shake Courtney as Marks opted for the cushion while “Sunshine” tiptoed the bottom. Courtney pulled alongside Marks multiple times within the first handful of laps but couldn’t quite make the move.
But then on the 10th lap, Marks tripped up in traffic as he went through the slick in Turns 3 and 4, allowing Courtney to sneak by on the bottom and claim the top spot aboard the Clauson Marshall Racing/NOS Energy Drink #7BC.
Quickly changing track conditions allowed Peck to surprise both Marks and Courtney. While the lead duo committed to the bottom, Peck ripped the top in the Buch Motorsports #13 and went around Marks on Lap 12. One lap later, Peck blasted by Courtney for the lead.
Two laps later, Marks surged back into contention as he rolled the bottom to pass Courtney coming to the line and pull alongside Peck, In Turns 1 and 2, Marks pulled the trigger on a slide job to reclaim the lead. Peck returned the favor the next time around in the same set of corners. Marks crossed over out of Turn 2 and aimed for the top in Turn 3, so Peck threw another slider. Marks again dipped under Peck and then fended off his next move in Turn 1.
“I was running the top there in the beginning and saw Tyler down on the bottom there a couple times,” Marks recalled. “So, I switched my line up and felt pretty good. And then I think I slipped up and he got by me and fell back to second. I just tried to work that in down there a little more, and Justin railed around both of us on the top, so I fell back to third. I just started moving around just trying to figure out what was going to work best for my car. I felt like I could go anywhere but was definitely better up top. I just knew we needed to stick to that, and that’s what we did and ended up racing our way back up through there.”
Following the intense battle with Peck, Marks built a decent lead as the laps faded late in the going. But suddenly lapped traffic became an issue again.
Marks stared down cars using both his preferred high line and the low line. Peck chipped away at the gap, and when the white flag flew he found himself within striking distance. Marks thought the lapped car ahead would go low in the final set of corners but guessed wrong, causing him to drift through the slick in Turns 3 and 4. Peck closed fast and looked under Marks coming to the checkered flag but came up slightly short as Marks grabbed the win.
“I felt like the track crew did an amazing job there at getting the track two lanes of racing and getting it pretty tricky around the top,” Marks said. “Man, I just got to lapped traffic there and wanted to make sure I didn’t get off the top. I just felt like my pace slowed up too much. I was getting a little worried about Justin behind me closing in on us. Then I had a run on Logan (Schuchart) going down the backstretch on the last lap, and last minute he pulled off to go to the bottom, and I had already set up to try to slide him. That just kind of got me stuck in the middle a little bit. I knew he was going to have a head of steam. Fortunately, we hung on there at the end and won us this race.”
A second place run for Peck equaled his best World of Outlaws finish. While proud of he and the Buch team’s efforts, Peck couldn’t help but feel a little disappointed with coming so close to what’s become an elusive first Series victory.
“My guys gave me a really good race car,” Peck said. “Me, Brent, and Sunshine raced each other pretty hard there. It’s just one of those deals where it’s got to come sometime, right? It feels like we’ve run second quite a few times now and been on the podium but just can’t seem to pull off a win.”
Courtney rounded out the top three to post his sixth career World of Outlaws podium. The Indianapolis, IN native felt he was missing just a little speed to lock up his second Series win of the year.
“Once Brent cleared Justin there, we just got back around the top,” Courtney said. “We were running really fast laps up there. We’re set up a little bit more to run down off the top, so I was a little too tight to run around the top there.”
Brad Sweet and James McFadden completed the top five. Sweet’s result combined with David Gravel’s sixth place run pushed Sweet’s lead atop the standings to 46 points. Sweet now needs a finish of 22nd or better in the season finale to lock up his fifth straight championship with Kasey Kahne Racing.
Donny Schatz earned the KSE Racing Hard Charger with a 25th to 13th drive.
CASE No.1 Engine Oil Heat One went to Rico Abreu (48th Heat Race win of career). NOS Energy Drink Heats Two through Four were topped by Brian Brown (82nd of career), Brent Marks (29th of career), and Tyler Courtney (13th of career).
Hunter Schuerenberg won the Micro-Lite Last Chance Showdown.
UP NEXT: The World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Cars complete the 2023 season with a $25,000 to win finale at The Dirt Track at Charlotte's World Finals on Saturday, Nov. 4. 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 (25 Laps): 1. 19-Brent Marks; 2. 13-Justin Peck; 3. 7BC-Tyler Courtney; 4. 49-Brad Sweet; 5. 83-James McFadden; 6. 2-David Gravel; 7. 17-Sheldon Haudenschild; 8. 24-Rico Abreu; 9. 18-Giovanni Scelzi; 10. 69K-Justin Henderson; 11. 41-Carson Macedo; 12. 21-Brian Brown; 13. 15-Donny Schatz; 14. 5-Spencer Bayston; 15. 9R-Chase Randall; 16. 14-Cole Macedo; 17. 88-Austin McCarl; 18. 8-Cory Eliason; 19. 39M-Anthony Macri; 20. 71-Parker Price Miller; 21. 2MD-Cap Henry; 22. 9-Kasey Kahne; 23. 1S-Logan Schuchart; 24. 7S-Robbie Price; 25. 20G-Noah Gass; 26. 55-Hunter Schuerenberg; 27. 3Z-Brock Zearfoss; 28. 99-Skylar Gee