Slow start in World of Outlaws Sprint Cars for Brad Sweet turns around with Vado win

Brad Sweet slow start
World of Outlaws

A slow start for Brad Sweet ended at Vado (New Mexico) Speedway Park this past Tuesday with the first 2022 win for the defending World of Outlaws champion. With this victory, Sweet snapped a 26-race winless streak dating back to the 2021 Labor Day weekend at Skagit Speedway in Alger, Washington.

“It has felt like forever,” Sweet said after going winless for the first 10 races of the season. “We just got stuck points racing last year and didn’t take those risks you need to win against these guys. As far as this year though, we’ve been fast all season and knocking on the door of getting this win. … This is the time to be getting better.”

It must have felt like forever for Vado to get their first race in the books also, after their inaugural race was canceled due to COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021.

Leading the points can be a double-edged sword. Winning his third consecutive title last year, Sweet wrapped up the points’ championship with two races remaining. His 2019 honor was not earned until the final race of that season in a tight head-to-head battle with Donny Schatz and Sweet wrapped up 2020’s championship with one night remaining.

But the title came with a cost.

Protecting his lead, Sweet focused on solid finishes at the end of 2021 and could not afford to take too many risks. He failed to win in the final 16 races, but had seven top-fives in that span and finished the season with five top-10s.

Sweet’s 2022 start was in stark contrast to 2021 when he won the February 5th opener at Volusia Speedway Park in Barberville, Florida and became the first repeat winner of the season at Cotton Bowl Speedway in Round 8 in Paige, Texas. After that win, Sweet rattled off three more victories so that by this time last year he had a firm grip of the points with four wins under his belt.

With victories evenly distributed among seven drivers in the first 11 weeks of 2022, Sweet has a notable lead over three drivers with two wins apiece. Second in the standings, David Gravel is 32 points back with Carson Macedo 34 points out of the lead and Sheldon Haudenschild 50 points behind.

Sweet led all 30 laps of the Main in Vado.

“These are honestly some of the hardest ones to win,” Sweet said. “Track position is just so key and lap traffic is tough when the track gets like this. It was hard to time the runs, and there was one time when Sheldon came across but luckily enough I was ready.

“I really didn’t want to catch any lappers, I just wanted clean air to control my own mistakes. You have to use your mind as much as you possibly can out there.”

While the need to protect points last year may have taken some of the edge off Sweet’s performance, it underscored the need for consistency – and that has been the saving grace of 2022. A 16th-place finish in the season opener momentarily put Sweet on the back foot, but he responded by finishing third and fifth in the next two races at Volusia. Since then, he has not finished worse than seventh.

Now that Sweet has won, he sets his sight on the Outlaw Sprints all-time top-10 list. His win in Vado was the 75th of his career and if he wins nine more times this season, he will tie Stevie Smith for 10th on the list. Sweet has double-digit wins in two of the three previous seasons with 16 each in 2019 and last year.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing

To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

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“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.

Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”