Sweet Wins and Takes High Point Honors at Knoxville National to Earn Saturday Pole – DTD Exclusive

By MIKE MALLETT

KNOXVILLE, IA – The good times kept rolling on Thursday night for ‘the big cat’ Brad Sweet as he put on a clinic during his heat race and feature to lock himself into the pole position for Saturday night’s $150,000 to win Knoxville Nationals.

Sweet easily transferred out of his heat race after starting eighth. In the feature, he started sixth and took the lead on the very first lap through turns three and four. Needless to say, starts were key for the Grass Valley, Calif., driver.

“Rob Cappetta hit on a little bit of something,” stated Sweet when asked about his starts. “We run a brand new engine. It’s not necessarily making a ton of extra power. I don’t feel like I’m out there out qualifying everyone by two or three tenths. The one thing that it does really, really exceptional is it makes a good first lap. You saw that in the pole shuffle. Obviously we had a good handling race car. They work hand and hand together.”

Other than Carson Macedo, Sweet has been the hottest driver in Knoxville since arriving Sunday for the Capitani Classic. Sweet blasted to the Capitani win before finishing second to Kyle Larson in the Front Row Challenge.

“We come here to run those races just to get prepared for these races,” mentioned Sweet. “I thought the Capitani gave us a lot of confidence coming into tonight. We tried a few things at Oskaloosa. Honestly, where we hit on it the best was in that pole shuffle. We kind of ran our car like the pole shuffle all night long tonight. That is kind of right where we need to be.”

Sweet used the Capitani as a test session as he said. The pole shuffle he was referring to was a head-to-head, one-on-one match race with other competitors. He defeated seven different drivers to earn the pole position for that event. The setup he used that night has been spot on for him. He has been able to roll the bottom a lot better than anyone else to this point.

In Thursday night’s feature the only thing that slowed him down was traffic. He got boxed in a few times and just couldn’t make the time he wanted to make. That allowed Rico Abreu and David Gravel close the gap on him in the closing laps.  They never got close enough to work him over for the lead.

“I actually made a few mistakes,” stated Sweet. “I was really struggling to get by Sam Hafertepe. He was running the line I wanted to be running. I think it was just balled up in front me. I got by first few pretty easy. I think that the track really slowed down on the bottom of three and four.

“I needed to probably commit a little more to the top. In my head I was thinking ‘why can’t I run the bottom of three and four?’ I was trying to figure out how to get better for Saturday night. I felt like I made a lot of good moves in lapped traffic. Sometimes you feel like you have a pretty good lead. I was really trying to push too hard. I think some of the lapped traffic late was pretty tough.”

As a result of the confidence, hard work and just solid night, Sweet is the high point man going into Saturday night’s finale. It is the first time in his career that he’ll start on the pole for the main-event.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been high point guy,” said Sweet. “I’ve started on the front row. This year I have a lot more confidence coming here. I definitely wanted to be ahead of the other favorites. I think it’s harder to pass those guys. You see Donny (Schatz) do it in years past where he can control the race. It’s basically two 25 lap races. You got to get to the end of the first 25, then you get to put new tires on and fuel it. Then you get to do another 25. We are great position.  We just got to do our job on Saturday night. It obviously feels pretty good.”

Schatz will is still the favorite, but Sweet has put himself in the best position possible. He’s on the pole and he may prove to the be the dragon slayer on Saturday night.

Final Combined Points

A main

1 49 Brad Sweet 491
2 10H Chad Kemenah 479
3 57 Kyle Larson 475
4 15 Donny Schatz 474
5 87 Aaron Reutzel 473
6 2M Kerry Madsen 473
7 49X Tim Shaffer 471
8 41 Carson Macedo 469
9 71 Gio Scelzi 468
10 3 Tim Kaeding 467
11 18 Ian Madsen 467
12 1A Jacob Allen 465
13 24R Rico Abreu 463
14 27 Greg Hodnett 462
15 2 Shane Stewart 458
16 24 Terry McCarl 455

B main

17 71P Parker Price-Miller 454
18 24W Lucas Wolfe 453
19 9 Daryn Pittman 452
20 4 Brock Zearfoss 444
21 83 Cory Eliason 440
22 13 Mark Dobmeier 437
23 5 David Gravel 431
24 5H Sammy Walsh 431
25 2KS Austin McCarl 429
26 11K Kraig Kinser 426

Friday Competitors

27 7C John Carney II 425
28 39 Spencer Bayston 424
29 09 Matt Juhl 423
30 11 Roger Crockett 421
31 28 Scott Bogucki 420
32 15H Sam Hafertepe Jr. 416
33 41S Dominic Scelzi 416
34 35 Jamie Veal 415
35 29 Willie Croft 411
36 13X Paul McMahan 405
37 99 Brady Bacon 404
38 0 Lynton Jeffrey 404
39 40 Clint Garner 403
40 4K Kasey Kahne 401
41 1 Sammy Swindell 400
42 3H James McFadden 400
43 1S Logan Schuchart 400
44 2C Wayne Johnson 399
45 71X Kevin Thomas Jr. 398
46 17W Harli White 396
47 91T Cale Thomas 395
48 70 Dave Blaney 394
49 5J Jamie Ball 392
50 44M Chris Martin 390
51 10 Clyde Knipp 390
52 49J Josh Schneiderman 390
53 17X Josh Baughman 390
54 1X Don Droud Jr. 389
55 85 Chase Wanner 388
56 99G Skylar Gee 384
57 48 Danny Dietrich 383
58 19P Paige Polyak 383
59 44 Trey Starks 383
60 15M Bobby Mincer 382
61 17 Sheldon Haudenschild 382
62 G1 Gary Taylor 378
63 7 Carson McCarl 376
64 56N Davey Heskin 371
65 7S Jason Sides 368
66 19 Brent Marks 367
67 55 Brooke Tatnell 367
68 17B Bill Balog 362
69 12N Cole Duncan 361
70 9R Rager Phillips 352
71 3P Sawyer Phillips 351
72 21AU Jordyn Brazier 348
73 97G Hunter Schuerenberg 347
74 26 Joey Saldana 344
75 17WX Shane Golobic 342
76 W20 Greg Wilson 333
77 28P Brian Paulus 319
78 95 Matt Covington 316
79 9X Jake Bubak 314
80 28AU Allan Woods 313
81 68 Chase Johnson 312
82 81 Lee Jacobs 310
83 71A RJ Johnson 310
84 25 Bobby McMahan 304
85 2K Kevin Ingle 302
86 3X Jac Haudenschild 301
87 70S Jeff Swindell 298
88 20 AJ Moeller 294
89 35P Skylar Prochaska 286
90 21 Brian Brown 283
91 21K Thomas Kennedy 281
92 7W Tasker Phillips 280
93 91 Kyle Reinhardt 268
94 84 Tom Harris 265
95 18J Jenna Frazier 259
96 2MM Matt Moro 230

Friday Speed Sport World Challenge Lineup (20 laps)

1. James McFadden, 400
2. Lynton Jeffrey, 404
3. Jamie Veal, 415
4. Dominic Scelzi, 416
5. Scott Bogucki, 420
6. Austin McCarl, 429
7. Sammy Walsh, 431
8. Cory Eliason, 440
9. Parker Price-Miller, 454
10. Terry McCarl, 455
11. Tim Kaeding, 467
12. Ian Madsen, 467
13. Carson Macedo, 469
14. Kerry Madsen, 473
15. Skylar Gee, 384
16. Brooke Tatnell, 367
17. Jordyn Brazier, 348
18. Allan Woods, 313
19. Thomas Kennedy, 281
20. Tom Harris, 265