Brad Sweet wins at Lernerville, takes step in quest for World of Outlaws title
Brad Sweet and Donny Schatz brought their tight points battle in the World of Outlaws standings to Lernerville Speedway on Saturday night, and for a while, it looked like they would have a tight battle from start to finish in the A-Main.
But while chasing down Sweet, Schatz was slowed by mechanical issues with 15 laps to go, and Sweet took advantage.
Sweet, a Grass Valley, Calif. native, led the rest of the way to earn the victory in the $10,000-to-win Commonwealth Clash and took a big step forward in his quest for his first World of Outlaws points championship.
It was his second consecutive win in the Commonwealth Clash and his 16th victory on tour this season.
Sweet came into Saturday with a four-point lead in the standings and left Lernerville with a 40-point advantage after Schatz was scored with an 18th-place finish.
For Sweet, this season has been years in the making, and he is hopeful he and his Kasey Kahne Racing team can complete the journey with 10 races remaining on the schedule.
“We set a goal at the beginning of the year to win the points, and to be the best, you have to beat the best,” Sweet said. “We were able to win a Knoxville Nationals (last year) and a Kings Royal (this year). A championship is like a war. It’s longevity and consistency, and Donny has really set the bar at such a high level.
“Every year that I’ve been out here, he’s won the championship. That means every banquet that I’ve been to has been about Donny Schatz. I want to be on that top pedestal. Winning 16 races this year, we think we’re perfectly capable of doing it. Now it’s up to us to finish the job.”
Sweet and Schatz started on the front row, and Sweet jumped out to the lead early. Schatz, a 10-time series champion, stayed in tow and looked to the inside of Sweet on several occasions but slowed to a halt on Lap 20 coming down the front stretch.
Schatz’s crew worked on the car under caution with the help of several other teams, and he joined the tail of the field. But on the restart, the car didn’t get up to speed, and he exited to the infield.
Schatz declined comment after the race.
On the final restart, Sweet pulled away from Shane Stewart and cruised to a 2-second victory. David Gravel, the 2019 Knoxville Nationals and Don Martin Memorial Silver Cup winner, placed third. Ian Madsen was fourth, and Daryn Pittman rounded out the top five.
“You never know who is coming,” Sweet said about the final restart. “I saw Gravel got up to third, and he dominated here (in July). I just drove as hard as I could the last 15 laps. You get better at winning the more you win. It gets easier, and you know the things to look for. It helps me stay calmer in those situations and make sure that I don’t leave any doors open.”
Stewart finished in the top five for the 13th time this season.
“We talked about a few things that we could’ve changed to be better, but it was a good solid night,” Stewart said. “We have had some good strong finishes lately. It’s been a slow year for making progress, but we’re starting to finally make some.”
Gravel was fast qualifier with at time of 12.972 but got a bad draw in the dash and had to start seventh. From there, he worked his way through the field but finished two spots short of repeating his July win at the Buffalo Township speedway.
“We needed to be running third when Donny broke, so we could have restarted second and try to take advantage from there,” Gravel said. “We’ll take a podium tonight. We’ve just been missing a little bit in the A-Main. We can’t quite get there. Clean air helps a bunch. If we drew the pole and had clean air, it may have been different. But when you have a bad pill draw, you have to overcome it. We somewhat were able to do that tonight.”
Local drivers Dan Shetler (Johnstown), Sye Lynch (Apollo), A.J. Flick (Apollo) and Clay Riney (Wellsburg, Wva.) transferred to the A-Main out of their respective heat races. Carl Bowser (Buffalo Township), Brandon Spithaler (Evans City) and Brandon Matus (Wampum) qualified to the main event out of the Last Chance Showdown.
Shetler was the top local finisher in the A-main, placing 16th. Flick had a soft rollover in Turn 1 on Lap 2 that brought out a red flag.
Gravel, Madsen, Schatz and Brian Brown were heat race winners. Sweet won the dash, and Jason Sides took the checkered flag in the Last Chance Showdown.
Randy Sterling won the Allegheny Sprint Tour 305 main event for his first career sprint car victory.
The race was delayed for an hour during time trials because of rain.