Sweet overcomes scary crash and cashes in at Beaver Dam Raceway
By NICHOLAS DETTMANN
Twelve hours before qualifying was to take place June 28 at Beaver Dam Raceway for the World of Outlaw STP Sprint Car Jim Boyd Memorial, Brad Sweet had a cast on his left foot.
Albeit it was a soft cast. It was a cast nonetheless.
At 6 a.m. the morning of the race, Sweet was leaving the hospital after surviving a scary crash the night before at 34 Raceway in Burlington, Iowa, where his car split into two pieces. Some wondered if he was going to survive, let alone make it to a race track and compete the next night.
“You go through times where you get reminded of the dangers of our sport,” said Cody Darrah, Sweet’s teammate with Kasey Kahne Racing. “(June 27) was one of those that hit close to home,” Darrah said.
But Sweet had something that can’t be taught: heart.
“I didn’t want to give up on the guys,” Sweet said.
Just hours before the annual visit by the World of Outlaws Series was to commence, Sweet bought an athletic brace to put onto his foot because the cast was too big to fit into his shoe. It was just to hold him over.
Still sore from the wicked crash, Sweet arrived at Beaver Dam Raceway ready to go.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bill Balog said. “I can’t believe he’s here.”
Likely, the competitors wish he hadn’t shown up.
Sweet won the 40-lap “A” main for his fifth victory of the season in a gutsy and flattering performance by the 28-year-old Grass Valley, California, native.
“I’m pretty surprised,” Sweet said about his accomplishment, adding it is the gutsiest victory of his career.
The accomplishment was just as jaw-dropping for his competitors.
“It’s awesome to see Brad in victory lane and not upside down,” said Darrah, who helped complete a 1-2 finish for KKR. Donny Schatz was third, followed by Daryn Pittman and Kerry Madsen to round-out the top five. Pittman’s performance gave another KKR car in the top four.
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 Outlaws Series career-best third-place finish June 27. 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 know 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 Outlaws 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 World of Outlaws’ fast qualifier was Joey Saldana, 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.
All night, Sweet was fast. He was the second fastest in qualifying and was third in the top-eight dash. But it wasn’t easy.
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.
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 broken 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 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 it needed to be done 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. That thought never even crossed his mind. 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.”
He also circled Beaver Dam on his calendar as a race track he was looking forward to competing on. That was another motivator.
“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? Commitment.
“It’s a long season,” Sweet said. “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.”
Follow Nicholas on Twitter: @dettmann_wbdn
(This article first appeared in the July 2014 issue of Full Throttle magazine.)