Brad Sweet ready to celebrate third consecutive World of Outlaws crown

Brad Sweet Outlaws
Photo: World of Outlaws

Brad Sweet will become only the third driver in World of Outlaws history to win three consecutive championships when he does so Thursday.

Sweet, who drives for Kasey Kahne Racing, will seal the title when he qualifies Thursday at the NGK/NTK World Finals at The Dirt Track at Charlotte. He’ll join Steve Kinser and Donny Schatz as the only drivers to win three series titles in a row.

This will be easiest Sweet has had it entering the final weekend of the season. Sweet beat Schatz by four points – the closest championship race in series history – to claim his first crown in 2019. Sweet clinched his second title in the season’s next-to-last race in 2020. This title comes with two nights of racing left in the season for the World of Outlaws NOS Energy Drink sprint cars.

“The first one seemed like it was the hardest,” Sweet told NBC Sports. “It’s one of those things that if you haven’t won it, you don’t know what it takes. We were building a team. It takes a while to gain the experience and build a team capable of winning a championship.

“Donny Schatz was kind of the guy to beat in the World of Outlaws for a long time. We kind of looked at what they did and tried to copy their mold … try to keep the team together. … Last year with COVID, I think it threw things off. It was hard to get into a rhythm with a lot of schedule changes. It was a lot less racing for us.

“This year felt like a normal year. Felt like we got off to a great start, had a lot of great things going with the NAPA Auto Parts car. Felt like there was a lot of competition this year, very stout teams. Some of our main competition had switched teams, so there was definitely some transitions, some learning on that side of things. Donny Schatz didn’t have a Donny Schatz type of year.

“We were able to separate ourselves kind from everybody and never have gone into Charlotte and clinched it and never had that good of a point lead that late in the season. Little more relaxed.”

Sweet has a series-best 16 wins in 78 races. He’s also led the series in laps led in features (333), podium finishes (34), top-10 finishes (47) and average finish (5.37). He’s also the only driver to complete all 2,505 laps this season. 

The World of Outlaws sprint cars will have qualifying Thursday for Friday night’s racing and Saturday night’s racing at the 4/10-mile dirt oval.

The closest points battle in the series is for third place in the season standings. Carson Macedo holds a four-point lead on Schatz, a 10-time series champion, for that spot. Also competing this weekend will be Kasey Kahne.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed its new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with Ford Motor Co. in an event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and team principal Christian Horner.

It’s the first Formula 1 team to launch in the United States for 2023, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin, Texas, for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen already had wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts inevitably will turn to establishing a dynasty, and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his chief rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.