By BOBBY SWEENEY
The 2019 edition of the World Finals saw a dramatic season-long battle between Donny Schatz and Brad Sweet come to a close, with Schatz coming into the season finale trailing Sweet by just two points. Entering the last A-Main, Schatz had to beat Sweet by two or more positions to score his 11th title, while Sweet had to beat or finish one spot behind Schatz to win his first. Sweet started third, and Schatz eighth.
Schatz wasted no time moving forward, quickly filing into the fourth spot, right behind Sweet. While David Gravel motored away in the lead, Sweet and Schatz moved into second and third as the race neared halfway. At one point, Schatz got by Sweet, but a big slider from Sweet got him back to second.
Once Sweet got back in front of Schatz, Sweet never gave up the spot. Gravel went on to win uncontested, but Sweet’s second place finish netted him his first World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series championship.
“Every time I felt like I had a good cushion in the points, I’d screw up and Donny would catch us,” Sweet said. “A ten-time champion doesn’t go down easy, and we knew we’d have to be perfect down the stretch to beat him. As much as I hated racing against him at times because he’s so good, it definitely made me a better driver over the years.”
According to Sweet, reaching the pinnacle of Sprint Car racing did not come easy. Years of trying to get better in every aspect of a driver ultimately netted Sweet the biggest trophy in the division.
“I feel like Kasey Kahne saw me improving over the years and kept me in the seat, knowing I could do it,” noted Sweet. “I work hard at getting better, I don’t have that Kyle Larson natural ability to jump in anything and instantly win. I work hard and study all I can to be the best. I tried to get better at every track, and this year we finally put a full season together.”
Now Sweet truly knows what it takes to win a championship, having done it himself. A $150,000 Knoxville Nationals win in 2018, and a $175,000 Kings Royal win this season gave Sweet the shots in the arms needed to get his team to the top.
“You can’t fall out of races, you have to be perfect every lap,” Sweet stated. “It’s unbelievable how good you have to be consistently to win these championships, and that shows how good this whole team is. Winning Knoxville last year boosted our confidence, but it took six years on the road, 80 races a year, to get good enough to get to this point to contend for a championship.”
And quickly, attention at Kasey Kahne Racing will switch to 2020, when Sweet will enter Volusia as defending champion, ready to fight for another 90-race season.