Beaver Dam Raceway Report: June 28, 2014
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN
BEAVER DAM, Wis. - For Brad Sweet to be even at a race track and competing was a miracle.
A feature victory for the 28-year-old Grass Valley, California, native at the World of Outlaw STP Sprint Car Series Jim Boyd Memorial on Saturday at Beaver Dam Raceway was unheard of.
That's what Sweet did.
In a gutsy and flattering performance, Sweet led the final 16 laps of the 40-lap "A" main, holding off two teammates in the process, to pick up his fifth victory of the 2014 season and eighth of his young career.
The victory came just hours after a scary crash the night before, which left his left foot in a cast.
"I'm pretty surprised," Sweet said about his accomplishment, adding it is the most gutsy victory of his career.
The accomplishment was jaw-dropping for his competitors.
"It's unbelievable," Bill Balog said. "I can't believe he's here."
Likely, the competitors wish he hadn't shown up. All night, Sweet was fast. He was the second fastest in qualifying and was third in the top-eight dash.
Sweet, who is in his first full season with the World of Outlaw Series, and Cody Darrah completed a 1-2 finish for Kasey Kahne Racing. Donny Schatz was third, followed by Daryn Pittman and Kerry Madsen. Pittman also races for Kasey Kahne Racing.
"It's awesome to see Brad in victory lane and not upside down," Darrah said. "You go through times where you get reminded of the dangers of our sport. Last night was one of those that hit close to home."
Darrah's second was a bit bittersweet because he believed he had a car good enough to win the race. However, second was OK on this night.
"Brad's a tough guy," Darrah said. "They've got a fire in their stomach and it's cool to be able to race with them."
The top non-World of Outlaw regular was Balog, who finished ninth. However, Balog, the six-time defending Bumper to Bumper IRA Outlaw Sprint Car Series champion, was coming off a World of Outlaw Series career-best third-place finish Friday night at 34 Raceway in Burlington, Iowa. Balog was fourth fastest in qualifying and won the eight-lap dash to earn the pole position for the "A" main.
Balog also led 20 laps in the "A" main, including the first 13.
"I don't if I used up my stuff too early," Balog said. "We just weren't any good at the end. But I'm happy."
The World of Outlaw Series was joined by the Wisconsin-Illinois Mini Sprints and the Wisconsin Dirt Legends.
Nick Petska, the two-time defending series champion, won the Mini Sprints "A" main, and Chris Flick won his second straight and second career Legends feature.
The series' fast qualifier was Joey Saldana. It was his 15th fast time this season. Saldana's best lap time was 11.745 seconds. Saldana went on to finish 12th in the "A" main.
The previous 12-18 hours were quite painful for Sweet, who had a noticeable limp in victory lane and in the pit area as he greeted fans.
On Friday night, Sweet was injured in a horrific crash at 34 Raceway, where his car severed into two pieces and left Sweet's feet dangling out of the car. It was almost a mirror image of Stan Fox's crash on the first lap of the 1995 Indianapolis 500.
Sweet was at the hospital until about 6 a.m., 12 hours before qualifying was to start at Beaver Dam.
"I knew it was probably broke or really badly bruised," he said.
He suffered a fracture with his left ankle and was placed in a soft cast to hold the ankle in place. The cast was too bulky to try and put a race shoe on, so he ditched the cast and bought an athletic ankle brace, small enough to fit over his ankle and still able to get his foot inside his shoe, just to hold him over.
The car, on the other hand, was lost. Thankfully, a backup car was in the hauler. However, there was work that needed to be done to get the backup car ready and do so in a hurry.
Sweet said his crew worked through the night to get the backup car ready.
As one would expect, the expectation for Sweet was low. One couldn't fault him if he got to a point in the evening and said he was in too much pain.
He wasn't going to be denied. In addition, he eventually found the perfect medicine for a fractured foot: winning an improbable feature.
"It means a lot," Sweet said. "After everything this team's been through the last couple of nights, last night especially, to come back out here and win is pretty unbelievable to be honest.
"I didn't think we'd be standing here if you would've bet me money just because how bad our car was last night and how bad of shape I was in. It's pretty neat to get the win."
Sweet never even thought about holding off for a night to let his ankle rest, especially with another event coming up the next night. At the same time, never in his wildest dreams could he or even his crew even fathomed a backup car would turn out to better than the car he had the night before, which wasn't that bad to begin with.
That's what happened.
He also circled Beaver Dam on his calendar as a race track he was looking forward to competing on.
"I didn't know we were going to come here with a broken ankle and the car torn in half the night before," Sweet said. "If you would've asked me yesterday, I would've said no, just because with how bad I felt and how hard we were working just to try and be here at the track.
"It's just a testament of my guys. They worked their butts off."
So determination was one motivator to get back in the car, less than 24 hours after going through a crash that could've had a far worse outcome. The other? Heart.
"I didn't want to give up on the guys," Sweet said. "It's a long season. You're going to have to fight through some ups and downs. ... We showed up and gave it our best effort, won the race, and made it worthwhile."
Sweet is chasing a championship and knew a night off was something he couldn't do.
"We want to do the whole season'; no matter what we have to do," he said. "I was going to give it an effort either way.
"Once I got in the car, it doesn't hurt that bad. (Adrenaline) just takes over."
For the Mini Sprints, Adam Schroeder and Kyle Daywalt won the series' heat races. For the World of Outlaw Series, Kerry Madsen, Steve Kinser and Daryn Pittman won the series' heat races. The legends heat races were won by Mike Mueller, Vince Bartolotta and Tim Vargo.
It was Vargo's first career heat victory.
Mark Heinert and Ion Stear lead the sprints to the field for its 15-lap "A" main. Heinert led the first 11 laps before Petska took the lead, using lap traffic to his advantage. As Heinart went high to get around traffic, Petska went low and got out front for the lead.
Daywalt, Ron Brannam and Schroeder rounded out the top five.
For the legends, Jason Moser and Vargo made up the front row for the division's 15-lap "A" main.
Vargo had the early edge, leading the first three laps. Flick took the lead on lap four and led the rest of the way.
Brian Peterson challenged Fick late, but was just short. Flick beat Peterson to the line by 0.209 seconds.
Johnny Kringas was third, giving him back-to-back top-five finishes after having none in 10 starts last season. Mueller was fourth and Joel Wyttenbach was fifth.
Next week is Miller Night at the Races, with the modifieds, sport modifieds, grand nationals, street stocks and legends. Gate opens at 4:30 p.m., racing at 6:30 p.m.